Team Snazzy Goat
A Vermont Pulling Team
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Team Snazzy Goat is owned by Mika Ingerman in Vermont. Mika has been working with equine pulling teams for many years, training mostly other people’s horses. When she was ready for her own team, Mika went to the research books. There, she came across old pictures of goats being used as pulling teams and thought, “Well, why not?” Goat pulling teams are awesomely different.
In 2011 Mika found twin male Cashmere goat babies. They are North American Cashmere Goats born in upstate New York. She acquired Harry and David as three-month-old kids and immediately began training them. This began with halter-breaking. The stores don’t usually make halters that small, so she had to fashion them from some rope. As they aged a little, they were able to transition to Pygmy goat halters and then full size. Mika waited until they were at least four months old before wethering them, allowing more growth to happen first. Once they were comfortable walking on a lead, Mika began teaching Harry and David commands for things such as stopping and different speeds. They had even begun “ground driving” with ropes clipped to both sides of their halters, and Mika walking behind, before two years of age. Once they were two, they were large enough to begin pulling weight.
Mika uses tack made for miniature horses. The nearby Amish make a lot of pulling equipment such as wagons. Because goats have a gap in their teeth much like horses, they can actually use a bridle with a bit as horses do. Mika’s bridle of choice utilizes a French-link snaffle bit. The two joints allow it to lay flat in the goat’s mouth while being gentler. Pulls from the reins only affect one side of the bit instead of the whole. Team Snazzy Goat also uses boots on the goats themselves. These boots act like sneakers for the goats: absorbing shock, preventing strains, and keeping them from accidentally kicking themselves with their back hooves.
Harry and David of Team Snazzy Goat love pulling. Mika has a wagon that she sits in as they pull her to explore her area. While Harry is always cool and confident, learning quickly, David is more nervous, preferring to follow his brother. Yet, David is actually the slightly bigger goat because he loves to eat. Even though he is usually timider, he can get pushy around food. According to Mika, goats act more like mules and ponies than pulling horses in many instances. They are more likely to challenge you and second-guess your commands. However, they genuinely love the mental and physical challenge of pulling. The exploration of the area gives the goats good mental stimulation as they are getting excellent exercise. Harry and David reside in a stable of mostly horses when they aren’t out pulling, so exercise is very important. In the summer, they go out pulling the wagon twice per week. With the harsh Vermont winters, they have to follow the weather and sometimes need to skip a couple of weeks because of storms. Mika knows that her team loves the challenge of pulling because of how excited they get whenever she starts getting out the wagon and other tack. Even more so, whenever the wagon gets a little stuck and Mika tells them to pull hard, they bear down and give it their all. The challenge seems exciting to them.
Team Snazzy Goat makes appearances at various events such as their town’s 4th of July parade and the Washington County Fiber Tour. While Mika is collecting their cashmere for yarn, it is a slow process with only two goats producing. She has yet to make anything with the fiber but hopes to someday knit with their hair.
While goats being used as a pulling team seems different and perhaps a bit quaint to us, history is rife with goats pulling. The oldest known record of pulling goats comes from a Greek vase on which is painted a goat-pulled chariot. This vase dates back to 400 BCE (Before Common Era). In Norse mythology, Thor’s chariot is pulled by his two goats: Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr.
Goats were often utilized when teaching children to drive a team because they are smaller and can’t run away as well or cause as much damage. Goats were used to pull plows even through the Great Depression, after which they dwindled in use. They were truly the “poor man’s cow.” The last time that we commonly saw pulling goats was in the 1960s with mining. There have been a few notable goat pulling teams such as when Captain Vivian Edwards famously made his way across the United States pulled by a team of goats. He decided to make this journey after losing the use of his lower limbs. He went from San Diego, California all the way to New York City with two companions who traveled on foot and several pack burros.
Mika advises that while any goat can learn to pull a cart and love it, the larger breeds such as meat and all-purpose breeds have a lot more strength for pulling weight. With a bit of training, perhaps your goats could also learn to pull.
Originally published in the July/August 2020 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.