Soon, says Farmer Rob, the oxen will start training for the Howell Farm obstacle course, held the same day as the annual plowing match. This year it’s September 1.
As step 1 of their training, Farmer Rob deposited a few orange traffic cones into the pasture where the oxen graze. In past years, Howell Farm ox teams has received significant time penalties in the competition for knocking over too many of the tennis balls that are set on top of the cones. The problem is not, for the most part, that the oxen are running into the cones. Rather, they get so curious about the cones that they knock over the tennis balls with their noses while investigating. Farmer Rob hopes that some pre-exposure to the cones will help satiate their curiosity.
A team of oxen has never won the obstacle course -- their pace is generally slower than horses -- but one year Farmer Rob's ox team had the only perfect run in which no tennis balls were knocked to the ground.