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Tuesday March 31, 2015 Edition
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Restoration Of Horse Drawn Vehicles Meet Charles And Dawn Shepard

For carpenter Jeff Straley and Charlie Shepard the process of renovating horse drawn carriages and wagons is a labor of love.
photo by Cookie Steponaitis
For carpenter Jeff Straley and Charlie Shepard the process of renovating horse drawn carriages and wagons is a labor of love.
What started off rough and basic, emerged as a project that will shine in the upcoming parades.
photo by Cookie Steponaitis
What started off rough and basic, emerged as a project that will shine in the upcoming parades.

Tuesday March 31, 2015

By Cookie Steponaitis

Horses have been part of the lives of Charlie and Dawn Shepard since early childhood. When the couple began to think about partial retirement eight years ago, Dawn took her love of horses and turned her retirement years into her horse farm years. Dawn has always been fond of equines and fell in love with the world of miniature horses and created a goal of raising miniature horses for her use and for others who enjoy the beautiful variety in the breeds. “Minis are used for many things; they are like large dogs,” shared Dawn. “They can be shown in hand or driven. Many are used in therapy for children or for visiting schools and events and nursing homes. Minis are also being used for Seeing Eye animals. They live longer then dogs and their peripheral vision is better than Seeing Eye dogs.”  In fact, the Shepard’s have become fairly well known in the county and other parts of the region for their well-mannered miniature horses who come into the retirement homes, attend birthday parties and even ride along in the backseat of the pickup truck sticking their heads out windows. Just this past weekend one of the Minis attended a special party with Miss Vermont and twelve princesses at American Legion Post #14 in Vergennes.  Stubby stands at a firm twenty-four inches and was the hit of the party posing for the camera with patience and grace. He was hugged a lot resulting in a mixture of awe and delight from the girls present. Even curious adults came over to see Stubby and were admiring his placid disposition and love of people.
    Charlie and Dawn in addition to owning and breeding miniatures have fallen in love with the restoration of horse driven vehicles. The couple spotted some interesting pony vehicles advertised at an auction along with a lot of farm items, drove over out of curiosity and came home with projects that are remarkable and memorable. “We drove over there and there they were,” explained Dawn. “There was a stage coach and a chuck wagon that was made by an older gentleman who was there at the auction. He had gotten rid of his ponies and no longer needed the stage coach and simple structured chuck wagons. This past winter my husband brought the stage coach into the garage and he took it completely off the running gear and contacted a carpenter who has worked with us before and asked him to give us a hand in the refurbishing of it. Jeff Straley and Charlie added a larger seat and a shelf on the bank so a trunk could be added as all stagecoaches had. They cut the widows bigger and framed them, removed the doors that did not fit well, rebuilt all new doors and put some fancy saw tooth trim around the top. It is now a beautiful blue trimmed in black and pearl. I am putting some interior face lists with upholstered seats and ceiling adding roll up curtains in the widows. This stagecoach will allow to adults (short) to sit inside or four small children and a couple of people in the driving area. This can be driven by a couple of minis or more. We intend to use this in some parades. The chuck wagon will be the next project.”
The Shepards live on a backroad in New Haven and take advantage of good weather and drive the minis throughout the summer and fall. People are always welcome to visit the farm, but the couple warns that the danger is you could incur a cost if you become addicted to these wonderful animals like they did. “My advice to people is if you have a passion don’t give up on it,” concluded Dawn. “I have loved horses for as long as I can remember and was never able to own my own horse until I was in my thirties. When I saw my first miniature horse which was owned by Phil O’Brien who is no longer with us, it was immediate love. Phil sold me a little miniature stallion named Murphy and that was the start of it. I named our farm Little Dreams Come True Miniature Horses and it did come true!” Charlie and Dawn are available to answer questions about the breeds on their farm and how the capabilities and personalities of miniature horses might surprise you. If you are in this area of the Champlain Valley, look them up or wait until parade season when a new coach and team will make its appearance miniature style in the annual parades. You may smile, you will clap and just maybe you may become the newest fan of a growing equine specialty on the land and in the hearts of Vermonters passionate about equines and their roles in our lives.

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