BSDC April Newsletter

By Fred Thompson

  Well everyone April is finally here and so is spring.  I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and it has a horse and buggy in it.  Since I am not a weather forecaster, I don't know what the weather is like right now, since I'm writing this at the beginning of March.  If April is anything like the first part of March, I'm all for it.  I couldn't believe how early my rag-a-muffin ponies started shedding.  I think I have gotten enough horse hair up my nose already to make a couple of four-inch paint brushes.  Come to think about it, I can't say I like the taste of horse hair either.  PHOOEY-YUCK.  OK, so horse hair tickles and tastes funny, it's all well worth it to see how much better they look. 

  You know what I like about spring?  That is when all the "horsy"activities start to go on.   In April alone we have the Equine Affair down at Columbus.  That is always a biggy.  I'm going to try to make it a couple of days.   The Topeka carriage auction, the CAA meeting for the members that belong and the Harrisburg carriage parade.  You can
check the dates in the upcoming event later in the article.  These are all fine and dandy, but now lets slip into the first part of May for a moment.  The next big event is (drum roll, please)---OUR FIRST DRIVE OF THE YEAR.  That's right folk Harvey and Doris Fairchild are hosting the Spencerville drive once again this year.  Mark your calendar for May 7th.  The directions are: Take State Route 18 to Hicksville.  Where 49 and 2 split pick up Spencerville St.  Take it into Indiana, it will now be Rt.64.  Once in Indiana go to the 2nd stop sign.  Turn left on St. Rt. 1 and go into Spencerville.  At the intersection of Rt. 1 and Rt. 68 turn right and you can see the Community building.  You can't miss it.
It will be the building with all the horse trailers parked near it. Dinner will be held at the community building at 1:00 Ohio time.  The drive will follow.

  That takes care of the future for now, let's take a look at what happen in March.  March 12th was our safety clinic.   Approximately 43 people showed up for the event.  Being a safety clinic, President Mike Cook started off by introducing Sue Murray.  Sue is our
Secrtary-Tresurer.   She explained the present Equine Liability Law. She broke it down step by step and put into term even I could understand.  She went over how the law is now helping to protecting the horse owner against lawsuit, how our insurance protects the club and reminded everyone to check there own insurance.

  Next Mike introduced Charlie Poppe. You combine Charlie's knowledge of horses, harness and carriage driving and the fact that he is just fun to listen to.  It wasn't hard for him to keep everyone's attention. Charlie started by going over different types of harness that was on display.  How and when they are used.  Next came the harnessing of the horses.  Mike Cooks Norwegian Fjords were used for this part of the demonstration.   Charlie asked if anyone have not harnessed a horse. The people that raised their hands were then asked to help.  Nothing teaches better than hand on experience.  Everyone else was able to ask questions when ever they had one.  Once harnessed they were hitched to
Angie Hohenbrink's wagonette and drove as a team.  Charlie first gave a short driving demonstration then once again asked for volunteers to drive.  Again the hands went up and away they went.  Finally the Fjord were unhitched and unharnessed.  The pole was removed from the wagonette and a set of shafts was put on.  Angie Hohenbrink brought in her Tennessee Walking horse and he was harnessed and hitched single.  Angie took over as driving instructor as Charlie gave a demonstration on how to hold the lines when driving single, double and 4-in-hand.  Remaining questions were asked and that finished up a very good day.

  I would like to give a big thanks to Charlie Poppe, Mike Cook, Angie Hohenbrink, Roger and Sue Murray and anyone else that helped make this clinic a success.  Big thanks to Tom Roberts for letting us use his arena.

  Our March 19th meeting brought out 31 members and guest to enjoy snack
and quite interesting discussion on a number of topics.   Sue Murray started things out by giving her secretary-treasurer report.  Sue noted that we had fourteen new members at the first of the year with more joining all the time.

  Then came the never-ending topic of safety.  The main concern was how to handle horse and turnout inspection on our drive without taking too much time.  Which is better--driving in a parade style or in smaller groups.  Group discussion with pros and cons going both ways.  With time running out a vote was taken that we will have a voluntary inspection at all drives.  So for all drivers please ask for assistance if you have
any questions about any thing before a drive.

  The topic of holding more clinics in the future was brought up.  Some member was opposed to clinic that was more concerned on how you were dressed and the proper way to wear your driving apron.   A lot of members seem to like the clinics that taught good basic driving skill and safety.

  As with all good discussion better thing come out of it.  The club decided to start a mentoring group to help new or inexperienced driver. This will be a group of volunteer that are willing to be listed as mentors.  

  Last but not least was our guest Gay Anderson-Porter.  Gay came to invite anyone that would be interested in participating in their Licking County Civil War Reenactment June 24-25.  They are looking for anyone that would like to take their horse and turnout down to just drive basically at will.  Period dress is required.  If you are interested get hold of Gay by calling the Licking Park District.  (614) 587-2535

  There will be another meeting held April 9 at the Trinity Lutheran Church on W. Bigelow in Findlay, Oh.  It will be between 2pm and 4pm. Directions:  From 224, go west over I-75 to the first light which is Northridge Rd. (Cracker barrel Restaurant is on the corner), turn right and go to the end.  The church will be on your right.  Please bring snacks to share.

Happy Birthdays to:

April 8 Renee Franz
April 16 Carl Englehart
April 17 Ann Leightey
April 19 Cheryl Evans
April 19 Harvey Fairchild
April 26 Loretta Gschwind
May 5 Gene Darbyshire
May 14 JoAnn Davis
May 12 Gary Gillfillan
May 16 John Tschantz
May 21 Vicky Englehart
May 29 Marla Newman
May 31 Mike Cook

Member Profile: Jim and Denise Ruffing


Pictured from the left: Jim riding with Anita Alden driving blind Morgan Snap. Denise

And Jim Ruffing.  Denise driving Shetland pony, Beau at Heritage Festival 1999.  

Hello we are Jim and Denise Ruffing and weíre from Michigan. We joined Black Swamp in 1999. A blind date for Denise to groom at a spring driving show for Henry zumFelde, was the first introduction to the warm membership of Black Swamp Driving Club.  Since then, it has been a wonderful time of meeting the members, eating, driving, sharing information, eating, driving, and enjoying the adventures.

 It was also a fateful blind date for us back in 1988 that sealed our future as husband and wife. Our second date was at the boarding stables, where Denise was keeping her Appaloosa mare Snow Angel.  After an afternoon of trail riding, Snow Angel decided she had enough of us riding double and promptly sat down, leaving us both laughing hysterically on the ground. To most guys this would have been a good excuse for a last date. We have been married since September 14, 1991, and the mare is currently a healthy 21 years old. All our current children in the family are four legged: with two cats, a Shetland driving pony Beau, and the equine queen Snow Angel.

 My grandfatherís farm used draft horses to work 100 + acres daily.  I grew up listening to the stories my father told of the big draft horses that worked the land. Although I was raised in the city, my heart has always been in the country with the horses. I started ketch riding at age six.  My first introduction to driving did not come until age 13 when I started working for a public livery stable and got a chance to hitch and drive a team of drafts.  I have worked with many different breeds over the years in many different disciplines. From racetracks, to boarding stables, rental liveries, show barns, and breed farms.  My driving credentials are growing as my love of this hobby increases. So far, I have driven ponies, horses, and drafts in single and pairs. I was fortunate to assist Mr. Holly Thompson (a former trainer for the Queen of England) at the Equine Affair in 1999.

 Currently I work full time for Excelda Manufacturing in Brighton, MI as a Sales Service Representative. I have been in the customer service field for over 12 years. I also apprentice weekly with Pleasure Carriage trainer Anita Alden. My dream drive would be a Four in Hand of Morgan, Hackney Horses, or Friesians put to a Roof Seat Break. My future goals include learning to drive a Tandem, Random, and Unicorn hitches. In my somewhat spare time I also enjoy reading, photography, gardening, quilting, researching everything carriage driving related, studying interior design, and I love to entertain family and friends.  Recently I have been elected as the Black Swamp photographer, videographer, and archives maintainer.   My goals are to get at least one photograph of each member for our 2000 archives.

 Some of the love of driving has rubbed off on Jim. He now hops on the hitch wagon in the driverís seat to drive a friendís team of Belgians. Jim enjoys the nature of the draft breeds and has a great respect for their power. He prefers recreational driving and really enjoys the Black Swamp Club drives to meet new members and view the different turnouts. He has also taken an interest in the mechanical function of carriages, which comes in handy. His dream drive would be a well-turned out pair of Halflingers or Drafts put to a nice hitch wagon

 Slowly he is taking more rein time at home with Beau, and lately he has jumped in the sulky seat to take lessons under the watchful eye of Anita Alden. The amazing part for us is we both drive for lessons, a 17 year old Morgan that is completely blind. Snap is a former Park horse and can go along at a quiet walk for Jim till he gets more confidence, or I can wind him up and work on my rein handling, gait changes, and proper form. Jim is a great ground crew and is always willing to lend a hand to help someone.

 Jim works for a printing company that does government forms and foreign currency.  He operates a printing press, is learning press maintenance and the art of making plates. He got lucky with getting into this job, as the plant is only a mile from our home.  Many do not know that he is also a skilled machinist, mechanic and welder. His skills come in handy with owning horses and carriage driving. His favorite ways to relax are golfing, dirt bike racing, working on scaled train layouts, deer hunting, computer games with intrigue, researching military history of W.W.II, and tinkering with anything mechanical

 Together we are supporters of Therapeutic Riding of Ann Arbor and look forward to the fall fundraiser Ride & Drive every year. We are also active members of the Lutheran Church, Michigan Horse Drawn Vehicle Association, American Driving Society, Carriage Association of America, and The Carriage Museum of America Library.  We also devote time to Horseís Haven and equine rescue facility.  Haven has a special place in our heart as our Beau came from an abusive past.

 Though we are a young couple starting out on a new adventure, the membership of Black Swamp has made us feel welcome like a family. We hope to meet more of you as we travel along our journey. 


Black Swamp Driving Club