Hard working farm horse sails into retirement

By Rick Palsgrove
Southeast Editor

Messenger photos by Rick Palsgrove
Mike Huels of Metro Parks’ Slate Run Living Historical Farm leads Sailor the horse to the trailer that would take the hard working horse to his new retirement home on a Delaware County farm.

Sailor the horse earned his retirement after 10 years of pulling the plow and performing other heavy farm work.

On July 6, Sailor, an 18-year-old Percheron standard bred cross gelding who has worked closely with the public at Metro Parks’ Slate Run Living Historical Farm, officially retired. The approximately 1,500 pound horse, who stands about 16 hands tall, developed arthritis in his left shoulder and his veterinarian recommends he not work as much as he has been.

The working historical farm, where Sailor has lived for the past decade, portrays how farming was done in 1880s Ohio. It’s an era where horses played an important role performing the work a tractor now normally does on a modern farm.

Mike Huels of Metro Parks’ Slate Run Living Historical Farm and Sailor spend some time together in the barn as they await the arrival of the horse’s new owners.

“Sailor’s got an arthritic shoulder so he needs a place where heavy pulling is no longer necessary and where he can relax and live a long, healthy life,” said Herb Wasserstrom, one of the farmers at Slate Run Living Historical Farm. “He could still work, but there’s no point hurting the guy. He’s a sweet and gentle horse and an excellent worker. We’ve enjoyed working with him. He’s a nice guy and he’s good with people. He had 10 good years here and hopefully he can have another 10 more good years or so in retirement.”

With the help of Friends for Life Animal Haven, Sailor now has a new home on a Delaware County farm belonging to Susan and Scott Fisher.

Susan Fisher said they were looking for a horse after one of their draft horses passed away.

“When we learned about Sailor we thought he sounded great,” she said, adding that

Sailor will have easy, light duties, such as pulling small carts, on the Fisher farm.

“We’re delighted and happy to have him,”  she said.

Mary Lou Kunkler of Friends For Life Animal Haven said the organization has helped Slate Run Living Historical Farm find homes for its retiring horses before.

“Any time we can place any animal in a loving home we’re going to do it,” said Kunkler.

Ann Culek, director of Slate Run Living Historical Farm, said Metro Parks officially turned Sailor over to Friends for Life Animal Haven for placement so the horse was not sent to auction.

“Since Sailor is government property there are rules about how property is sold or placed,” said Culek. “That’s why he was donated to Friends for Life Animal Haven. Because of that, we at the farm stayed out of the adoption process. We just cared for him until a home could be found.”
Mike Huels, a farmer at Slate Run Living Historical Farm, said Sailor is a hard worker.

“Though he’s smaller than our other horses, Sailor always pulled his share of the work,” said Huels.

Sailor could also demonstrate his speed from time to time.

“We harnessed Sailor to a sleigh one winter and we got a real feel for his speed,” said Huels with a smile. “He likes traveling with the sleigh. He’s fast!”

With Sailor’s departure, Slate Run Living Historical Farm still has four working horses: Kate, who is 26 years old; Maude, age 25; Marcus, who is 14; and the youngest of the group, Bob, who is 6 years old.

A small crowd of park visitors and farm workers gathered at the barn to say goodbye to Sailor when the Fishers arrived with their trailer to pick him up.

At first Sailor was reluctant to enter the trailer as he had not been inside one for many years. But, with some gentle coaxing and kind words of encouragement from his old Slate Run Farm friends, as well as a handful of treats, Sailor stepped into the trailer for his journey to his new home where he will spend his retirement free from heavy work and among new friends.

For information on Friends for Life Animal Haven, visit fflah.rescuegroups.org.

For information on Slate Run Living Historical Farm, which is located at 1375 State Route 674 North, Canal Winchester, visit metroparks.net.

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