By Sheila McCoy, Staff Writer
When Walter Ressemann of Upsala hitches his team of Norwegian Fjords, he remembers the “good ol’ days.”
Growing up on a dairy farm near Cold Spring, Ressemann said the Belgian horses his parents had were used for nearly all the farm work.
“We did all of our farming with horses. We cut the hay, stacked it in the fields and then hauled it home with the horses,” he said.
The hay stayed in the field until it was needed for feeding the animals. That was just one example of how the horses on the farm were used throughout the year, he said.
Reminiscing about a time long since gone, Ressemann said he wishes he could somehow go back in time.
“Life seemed a whole lot simpler then. Now everything is in the fast lane. It’s a whole different pace now,” he said.
Ressemann recently saw a tractor in Iowa, which didn’t even require a driver.
“It’s computer run. We’re sure moving away from where we came from,” he said.
Since Ressemann left his parents’ farm, he’s continued the tradition of keeping a team of work horses.
“There was only one year I went without having any horses. I was being bullheaded,” he said.
Ressemann had gotten into an argument with his dad, Tony, and in rebellion sold all the horses and the equipment he had. The two reconciled eventually and the two farmed together until his dad died in 2005.
“He was a good dad,” he said.
Ressemann uses a team of horses at his farm to cut hay on 6.5 acres two to three times a year, moving manure and many others tasks, the horses earn their own keep, he said.
Ressemann hitches three horses when he cuts hay. Since they are not driven daily, they don’t have the same kind of endurance and stamina as a horse used by the Amish, he said.
When working the horses, Ressemann also lets his mare Trixie’s foal, Dusty, tag along.
“It gives him experience. He learns the noise the rack and equipment make,” he said. “It also gets him used to being handled by people.”
Running with the team helps Dusty keep the same body temperature as Trixie, as well. That way he is able to nurse right away.
“If he was just penned up and would nurse when Trixie’s temperature is hotter than his, he could end up with a colic,” Ressemann said.
Sometimes Ressemann drives his two mares in local parades. When Dusty comes along, he learns not to be skittish.
In the past, Ressemann rode his adopted Mustang stallion, Nevada, in various parades. He was trained not to interfere with mares in those kind of settings.
Since his dad broke horses, Ressemann learned a lot from him about horse training.
“I learned a few other tricks along the way, as well,” he said.
When training, Ressemann places a green horse in a harness when he or she is 2 years old. He also has the horse run alongside a more experienced horse before he hitches the horse to a single cart. The experienced horse has a calming effect and the green horse also learns a thing or two, too.
Working as a truck driver, Ressemann said he used to work in the North Dakota oil fields. It was tough being away from home and being away 21 days at a time and only home for 10. Since some men can get quite rowdy, he stayed to himself and lived in his truck.
“It’s a dog’s life being up there,” he said.
The tough work schedule required a lot of sacrifice for the whole family.
“It was a good experience, but I am glad that is done,” he said. “My family means too much to me. It takes a strong family to survive those kind of working conditions.”
Now Ressemann drives for Michels Livestock Trucking. It is a job he loves.
“They’re great,” he said.
Ressemann said he enjoys working hard to support his family and put aside money for camping. While he is not too fond of camping, the rest of the family likes it. He also enjoys spending time with his wife, Nancy, their children and grandchildren.
The 20-acre farm is also home to about 10 beef cows, four dogs and several cats.
“I’m living the dream,” he said.