Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Marc's Belgians

Originally uploaded by rtfax
We've been talking about doing this for many months. But it never seemed to work out. Busy schedules, other priorities, forgetting that times to just stop and smell the manure can be important too!

So it was fun to take one of the only sunny mornings of one of the bleakest months of the year to visit two farms and three Belgian mares owned by my friend. Marc has been raising, harnessing, and showing large breed horses for about twenty years now. Sweet Sherry, Barb, and Classy Babe are all related. Three generations with only nine years between the eldest and the youngest. Beautiful, big, Belgians.

Most of the fun, of course, was simply telling each other stories. Mine were meager, given the context of horses and farms. In fact, the last time I spent any appreciable time on a farm was when I was sixteen and working as a carpenters helper with a Dutch couple and living with them on their hobby farm for the summer. We did haying, fixing up the barn foundation, taking the pig in to the abattoir - all the typical hobby farm duties which a kid from the city found totally bizarre.

Marc had spent time as a youngster at his uncle and aunt's farm helping with chores and becoming enamored with the horses they used to pull wagons and some farm machinery. Then, after moving to this region in the late 70s, Marc was exposed to the Mennonite community, to large breed horses used for sleigh and wagon rides, and given an opportunity to learn about handling and training horses. It became a passion for him and one which he now gladly shares with his friends.

It wouldn't be my choice for a hobby. There's simply too much work involved. The horses demand constant attention and care. Veterinary bills can be unexpected and expensive. And then there are harnesses, wagons, feed, medicine, manure, hay, oats, carrots, and so on.

Still, the animals are simply beautiful, once you acknowledge the respect they deserve - 2,000 pounds or so of raw power and strength.

We fed the horses, talked to them, brushed them, took them out into the field, took some hay out to the field for them, gave them carrots from outside the fences, took lots of photographs, visited the veterinary clinic, talked to the host farm owners, chatted about the various ailments afflicting the horses, how to pull "wolf" teeth while the horse was under anesthetic, how friendships are formed among "horse friends", and even made plans for a wagon ride when I might get a chance to drive the team.

Thanks, Marc. This morning was a reminder of how we are still fascinated by horses and how the world be a poorer place without them.

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