If you were to ask Jean-Pierre what he did for a living, I don’t know that he would tell you he is a skinner. Technically, a skinner is one who drives draft animals, which is what Jean-Pierre does. Rather, he would probably say, “Aye, I do a little of dis and a little of dat, and am privileged to do it with my family and friends.”
By “family” he would mean his dad, and by “friends” he would mean Ted and Bill, his two draft horses, who happen to be best friends.
I was honored to once again be in Lyndonville, Vermont, working with The Fold Family Ministries. Ted and Bill—with Jean-Pierre at the reins—had pulled The Fold staff on its annual sleigh ride along the Canadian border. We passed through the sugar maple forests, past bear’s dens, beside sugar shacks where the famous Vermont maple syrup is boiled and bottled, and safely back to the barn.
Pulling a sleigh of thirty people for an hour seemed all in a day’s work for Ted and Bill. But the steam poured off of their 2,300-pound bodies as they did their thing and showed us a wonderful side of New England that would have gone unnoticed otherwise.
While Ted and Bill were unhitched and taken to the barn, the staff retreated from the sleet mixed with snow into a split-wood warming house for cider, coffee, rolls, and samples of the various grades of maple syrup. Being fascinated by the horses, and enjoying the cold, inclement weather, I stayed outside to talk with Jean-Pierre as he tended to Ted and Bill.
The great horses were standing with their noses pressed tightly together and one each of their rear legs cocked in a resting position. As far as I could tell, they seemed oblivious to the worsening weather and impending storm.
As he unhitched their harnesses, Jean-Pierre talked about the teamwork-dynamic of draft horses. Deciphering Jean-Pierre’s French-Canadian-northern-Vermonter dialect into Texas drawl, here is what I learned: If Ted is hitched to a load by himself, the maximum weight he is capable of pulling can ultimately be determined. Let’s call that weight “x.”
Next, we do the same with Bill. Let’s call the maximum weight he is capable of pulling “y.”
After everybody has had time to rest and recuperate, Ted and Bill are hitched together where they work side-by-side as a team. Weight is added and they begin to pull. When all is said and done, the weight Ted and Bill pull together will be “x” plus “y,” doubled, plus half again more!
In other words, let’s say each horse is capable of pulling 4,000 pounds when pulling by himself. Together, they can pull 24,000 pounds. As my dad was fond of saying, “I don’t understand this; I’m just explaining it to you.”
Next thoughts are applications of what I learned from Ted and Bill…