On a frosty morning in November, 14 Clydesdales left the comfort of a warm barn to brave an arctic chill, treacherous footing and hundreds of screaming humans. On this day, as on any other, they were simply doing their jobs, obeying the wishes of their owner. Today this meant that an eight-horse hitch, a four-horse hitch and a team endured the minus 30-degree cold of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, in full show rig, to perform as the top equine participants in the 2013 Grey Cup Parade.
Besides being Canada's largest annual sports and television event, the Grey Cup is both the name of the championship of the Canadian Football League (CFL) and the name of the trophy awarded to the victorious team (named after Albert Grey, the Governor General of Canada from 1904 until 1911).
The week-long Grey Cup Festival, including the parade and the climactic game itself, has been described as a marriage of football and Mardi Gras, all rolled into one. Time magazine, when explaining the event to its American readers in a November 26, 1973 article, entitled "Canada’s Super Cup," reported: “The Grey Cup, to be sure, is no ordinary contest. It is both the Super Bowl of Canadian football and the occasion for a weekend of national celebration.” The influx of people from across the country is estimated to have an economic impact of over $120 million for the region hosting the championship game.
To honor this tradition, each year, the host city organizes numerous events as part of the annual festival which include gala concerts, parties, fan festivals and CFL awards presentations during the days leading up to the championship game. This being only the third time the event was held in Regina, this small city in Canada’s heartland was determined to show their best, starting with the all-important parade–the temperature be damned.
The Sanguine Clydes, owned by legendary teamster, Harvey MacFarlane, are old hands at this type of event. The eight-horse hitch makes numerous appearances across Western Canada, including the Calgary Stampede Parade and as a feature performer at Saskatchewan’s Equine Expo. MacFarlane, who made his name as a pony chuck wagon driver before he got into Clydes, is renowned as a trainer, clinician and maker of magic with horses and people. Horses and owner are based in Summerberry, a tiny hamlet in southern Saskatchewan. McFarlane operates on a veritable shoestring, constantly juggling the demands of shows, parades, sponsorships, demonstrations and Christmas sleigh rides to keep the show on the road.
Conventional draft horse wisdom would say that these activities ruin good show horses and it is possible that deeper pockets might make for more success in competitions. On the other hand, a MacFarlane-trained team and driver won the Team Driven by a Junior title at the 2007 World Clydesdale Show in Madison, Wisconsin. That team learned its business doing everything from haying and parades, to beginner driver training clinics and Santa rides.
MacFarlane has won eight-horse driving competitions across Western Canada against the best drivers with the best horses from as far away as California and eastern Canada. Horses branded as outlaws have come through MacFarlane’s hands and are now the most honest and solid in the hitch, safely handled by his pre-teen grandchildren and petted by admiring crowds. Doing the impossible is a regular part of life in the Sanguine Clydes' camp where MacFarlane’s response to a challenge is: “We’ll do something, even if it is wrong.”
This “never-say-die” attitude is what made Sanguine Clydes and Regina’s Grey Cup Festival such a perfect match. Regina is the smallest city in the CFL, yet it's acknowledged by all to have the best fans in the league. Years as a have-not province, city and franchise made it important to show their pride. For the Sanguine Clydes hitch and its team of friends and volunteers, doing what can’t be done is also a matter of showing pride. So here we all were, freezing in a cold Saskatchewan winter morning, doing what few would attempt, to celebrate these wonderful horses and the great success of our team, our city and our province.
What made this such a triumph for the city and for Sanguine Clydes is also what makes this event important for draft horse lovers everywhere. In the words of Mike Cassano, the Festival organizer who worked so hard to make sure the horses had their place in the parade, “For days after, no conversation was complete without praising the Clydes and the big hitch. No other entry made such an impression.” Thank you Regina!
Question: What do dog breeders, cattle ranchers, deer hunters and draft horse enthusiasts all have in common? (Cue game-show waiting music while we contemplate.)
Answer: They are all under attack by animal rights groups–as is anyone who owns, works with, exhibits, researches, eats, or otherwise uses animals in any way.
Answers have a way of leading to more questions, and this is no exception. When under attack, it is essential to know our enemy, so we must understand exactly what is meant by the term “animal rights” as compared to “animal welfare.” Although the two terms are often used interchangeably in casual conversation, they have dramatically different and distinct definitions.
The principles of animal welfare are: Animals are entitled to humane treatment, including proper housing, nutrition, disease prevention/treatment, responsible care/handling and humane euthanasia or slaughter. They can rightly be used for human purposes as long as sufficient efforts are made to keep discomfort to a minimum. This is a broadly supported concept in contemporary American culture, with legal ramifications for those judged to violate those standards.
The campaign waged by the animal rights movement is global, prolonged, continuous and all-inclusive. During the last 50 years the movement has made significant inroads into American life and culture, bringing “Meatless Mondays” and “Humane Education” into our school systems, ensuring that 80-90% of our pets are now sterilized before they reach sexual maturity, influencing the steady decline of participation in hunting, bringing significant pressure to bear on scientists conducting life-saving medical research and successfully hampering animal agriculture by targeting sound, broadly-accepted, expert-endorsed animal husbandry practices via the legislative process. Animal rights specialties and concentrations are now routinely offered in schools of veterinary medicine and law, and attempts have been made to confer upon animals legal status fully equal to that of humans.
Whether we personally see these developments as good or bad, there is no denying the impact on our lives. Each of the examples given illustrates a dramatically altered reality, for all of us–whether we are looking for our next purebred dog, buying meat, eggs or dairy to feed our families, praying for a cure for a loved one’s devastating medical condition or discovering that our favorite hunting spots are now fenced and posted.
When it comes to draft horses (whether defined by breed or function), perhaps the most obvious example of animal rights-driven impact is the campaign pledge made by New York City’s newly-inaugurated mayor to enact a city-wide ban of the iconic carriage horses that have clip-clopped residents and visitors from around the globe through Central Park ever since the park opened more than 150 years ago. While the mayor did miss his self-imposed goal of instituting a ban during the first week of his term in office, efforts continue unabated.
How did this happen? How, in so short a time frame, did a small group of ideologues with goals supported by so few Americans manage to come this close to ending a beloved institution in what has been called the world’s capital city? It's a story fit for a blockbuster movie, featuring greedy, callow corporate big-shots, publicity-hungry celebrities, bought-and-paid-for politicians whose promised favors are coming due, and a group of hard-working, salt-of-the-earth, small business owners clinging precariously to a life and a livelihood that put them squarely in the crosshairs of privileged classists and radical animal rights groups. It’s an odd alliance, with city power brokers and radical activists collaborating to steamroll the little guys, regardless of any suffering inflicted or injustice done.
To understand what's happening and accurately assess what's at stake for horsemen everywhere, we must first realize that the overarching “holy grail” of the animal rights movement is the eventual end of all ownership and use of "sentient non-human animals" by humankind. Such ownership and use is routinely condemned by animal rights believers as cruelty and exploitation in the worst sense of the word. Many go so far as to make direct comparisons to slavery, genocide, human sex trafficking and child labor.
Horse owners of every stripe are, right now, caught in the undertow of this ideology, whether they realize it or not. All activities that we enjoy in partnership with our horses have been targeted. A recent read of a handful of blogs and pages netted mention of future campaigns against urban riding stables, equine police units, several additional cities with urban carriage operations and blithe assurances by animal rights groups that they will be placing the NYC carriage horses in adoptive homes as soon as the ban goes through–this despite the fact that between 150,000 to 200,000 horses a year have no place to go, so are shipped out of the country to slaughter–Not to mention the incidental little detail that the carriage horses are all privately owned. Animal rights groups planning to rehome owned animals should make the blood of every horse owner in the nation run cold.
The only ideologically-acceptable exemption to the animal rights goal of removing horses from the horror of human oppression is the one granted to those who are willing to view themselves as "guardians" (not owners) of horses rescued from cruelty, abuse, neglect or slaughter. Horse rescue groups often will only place horses in the care of such guardians, who are contractually obligated to keep their charges solely as "pasture pets", bearing every expense and doing all the work involved, but not riding, driving or otherwise "exploiting" or interfering with the animals' own free will, as long as the horse shall live. Sounds like such a compassionate perfect plan to those who don’t know horses and who would rather not have to work, themselves. How does it sound to you, readers of The Draft Horse Journal?
Tactically, in every animal use context (medical research, recreational hunting and fishing, circuses and zoos, food production, etc.), the animal rights movement seeks to identify an effective wedge issue or group–a “foot in the door” if you will. They look for an easily demonized activity or setting. Those who earn a living in partnership with their animals are often singled out, as profit is easily shamed–especially profit made "on the backs of poor, helpless animals" until they are “worn out, used up and discarded.” We’ve all heard it.
Any subset of the larger group that has relatively few participants involved, in an activity or discipline about which there is little public knowledge, may serve as a wedge. Activists and followers are able to propagandize against the target group with little to no push-back. In the dog world, an example would be those who run sled dogs. In zoo-keeping, the keeping of primates in captivity is a wedge issue. For hunters, it’s bear hunting using hounds or bait. Such activities and issues are relatively easily marginalized, even amongst close peers–all other canine sports enthusiasts, hunters that don’t hunt bear, those who enjoy zoos in general, but won’t enter the primate house.
Members of the larger peer groups, somewhat understandably, prefer to believe that those "other" people and pursuits really are a bit suspect, rather than consider that they themselves could suffer the same arbitrary and baseless attacks, simply in different "clothing." Animal rights activism’s leaders look for these weaknesses to exploit, much as any predator goes after the vulnerable, knowing that the rest of the herd will opt for self-preservation and flee.
Basically, as regards horses, the most exposed, the smallest, and therefore the most vulnerable group in the eyes of animal rights battle planners turned out to be the urban commercial carriage community. Rather than stretch limited resources in an effort to target all urban carriage operations simultaneously, a plan evolved to focus on one geographic location. One city first, and any legal precedent set there could then become the foundation for further action elsewhere. In 2006, the perfect “wedge” was identified. The point of the animal rights spear when it came to horses would be the fight to ban the horse-drawn carriage operators in the Big Apple: New York City (NYC).
The NYC carriage operators meet all the requirements. They're a tiny group compared to other equine activities, and are not powerful or connected politically. As 68 small independent businesses, their attackers likely thought they’d lack the deep pockets and cohesiveness necessary to withstand a protracted battle. Their fans and supporters are mostly ordinary folks on a bucket-list trip and nervous boyfriends looking for the ultimate in romantic marriage proposal settings. They are humble, and appeal to humble people, as opposed to the upper-class, high-society set involved in Thoroughbred racing and three-day eventing–both of which have equine and human accident, injury and death rates far beyond those experienced by NYC horse-drawn carriage operations.
The carriages operate in a wealthy, exclusive part of the city, surrounding the southern end of Central Park, and populated by people who don't know much about horses. So chestnuts are mistaken for untreated tumors. A yawning horse is unhappy about or being hurt by the bit in its mouth. A napping horse is "depressed and sad." A horse with a cocked rear hip has a broken leg. And a horse standing at the hack line placidly munching its mid-day meal, despite three fire trucks passing by with sirens blaring, must be deaf, drugged or so traumatized by city life that it's catatonic.
Perhaps the biggest strike against these horsemen–many of them second or third-generation NYC carriage owners and drivers–is that they were, until very recently, overseen largely by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), though four other city government authorities have smaller oversight roles. The ASPCA is an animal-rights-leaning group that's broadly mistaken for an animal welfare group, despite their long-standing goal of getting the horses banned from the city and their questionable involvement with a local animal rights group called New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets (NYCLASS). NYCLASS is, in turn, aligned with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). ASPCA, HSUS and PETA are the nation's animal rights Goliaths, collectively bringing in upwards of $200 million per year in donations and employing a platoon of lobbyists and lawyers. The carriage horse folks don’t even have an official public relations person.
Lastly, the urban carriage community's peers–other horsemen–are of predominantly rural origin. It’s a pretty safe bet that the majority of those reading this article look out upon a landscape free of skyscrapers and traffic jams. Many dislike "the city" and cannot imagine man nor beast enjoying life there. It's difficult to feel a connection, a bond, with their urban brethren. Still, a surprising number of rural horse people from all across the country have avidly supported the rights of urban carriage horse owners to remain in their long-held, cherished place as ambassadors for the city they love.
Nonetheless, the deck is well stacked against this small group of urban horsemen. The odds seem overwhelming, given the flood of propaganda, angry protests, illegal campaign contributions, vicious million-dollar smear campaigns, attention-seeking vegan celebrities posing naked in protest against the horses, the rampant cronyism. More on all that, and a status report, in the next issue.
In the meantime, some links to information that will help answer your questions and bring you fully up to speed on the story so far are listed in a sidebar on the facing page. Nobody knows how it will end, but it is bound to be an exciting ride, with thrills, hairpin turns, action, suspense and a ripple effect that will ultimately touch us all.
Rising above the mist, The Kelpies seem comfortable in their new home alongside the Forth and Clyde Canal with the expansion and new sea lock on the River Carron, which weaves its way through the countryside connecting the inland waterways between Glasgow and Edinburgh in the central Lowlands of Scotland. It’s a fitting location for two giant horses named after ancient Celtic mythological characters called Kelpies–giant and powerful water horses in folklore that haunted the rivers and lochs in Scotland and Ireland.
These Kelpies have no intention of causing a stir or scaring children and maidens as legend has them doing; instead, it’s their intention to welcome people to The Helix Project, the newly transformed park and green space between the communities of Falkirk and Grangemouth. It’s a peaceful setting covering 700 acres that previously was a neglected and barren bit of land, but now has been transformed into a wildlife habitat with woodlands and meadows, and places for people of all ages to enjoy–sports and leisure activities, walking and cycling paths, hiking trails, ponds for paddling, canoeing and kayaking, new boating facilities on the canal and river, picnic areas, educational opportunities, facilities for meetings and community events. It’s also a place for beekeeping endeavors, and a community garden with space for 80 allotments (plots) to grow vegetables, flowers and herbs.
Towering 100 feet above the ground, the massive horses, constructed using a tubular steel skeleton clad with stainless steel panels, can be seen for miles away, giving them the distinct honor of being the largest equine sculptures in the world. Designing and creating The Kelpies has been a labor of love spanning eight years, involving hundreds of talented and dedicated individuals (For more on the construction process, see "Blueprint For Success–Design & Construction of The Kelpies", page 27).A Welder’s Torch Sparks the Imagination
“Bring ideas in and entertain them royally,for one of them may be the king.”
Like a proud parent standing off in the distance as a child receives a special honor on stage, Glasgow figurative sculptor, Andy Scott, often does the same when visiting The Kelpies. “So many emotions go through my mind when gazing up at these two horses," he admits, "thinking back on an unbelievable journey that began with a series of simple sketches at the kitchen table back in 2006. We’ve been through a lot together, and my heart swells with pride knowing they are ready to share their new home with so many people.
“I’m also touched with how this monumental project has unfolded so beautifully, thanks to our wonderful team of engineers, computer designers and construction crew. It’s been such a great learning experience, especially seeing how an idea on paper can be transformed into a three-dimensional computerized working model that outlines every twist and turn inside and outside The Kelpies. What an amazing road we’ve traveled together; the best part being the friendships that we’ve forged along the way. Everything about the project was colossal–the initial concept, the blueprints, the materials used in construction and the enthusiasm of the many people involved. This journey reminds me of a symphony orchestra, working in perfect harmony together. It may have been a complicated piece, but each section did their part brilliantly, creating something special for others to enjoy.”
Choosing Andy Scott for the project was the result of discussion and voting among the committee members of the Falkirk Council and Scottish Canals. They were well aware of his outstanding portfolio of over 70 figurative sculptures in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland, Australia and Spain. They also appreciated the fact that he lived nearby in Glasgow; having the ability to meet and work together in person was essential.
One of the sculptor's well-known pieces was very familiar to the committee–the "Heavy Horse", the 14-foot Clydesdale alongside the M8 motorway on the outskirts of Glasgow. This particular piece came about in 1997 as the result of Andy entering an open competition for a public artwork for the motorway between Edinburgh and Glasgow. The chosen site provided Andy with inspiration as he sees the horse–especially the Clydesdale, which originated in the nearby county of Lanarkshire–as a metaphor for the city.
The sculpture, made of intertwining galvanized steel rods (cross-hatch design) looks especially regal, dressed up for show with a mane roll and flowers. “Creating the horse in this stance comes from the similarity to Glasgow," Andy says. "From the beginning, it’s been a working city, but now it’s sometimes considered a ‘show’ city with a focus on culture and the arts. I feel the Clydesdale of today is the same–having the ability to work the fields and also dazzle a crowd. It’s a magnificent breed that brings our country such pride, and I relish any opportunity to honor its presence with my work. It’s been a thrill receiving the commission to create two more mighty Clydesdales with the completion of The Kelpies."
An appreciation for art and architecture began early for Andy when growing up in Springburn, an inner-city district of Glasgow. “My father was an architectural draftsman and Mom was a gifted artist. Fortunately, I inherited their artistic abilities and an interest in trying many different mediums with paints, pencils and ink," he recalls. "Both parents were very supportive and took the time to encourage and inspire me. I remember walking the streets of Glasgow with my father to the city center where there is a tremendous Victorian heritage, featuring architecture with lots of sculpture carved into the many buildings. He’d point in all directions, encouraging me to look up at the art and take in the beauty of the different designs with my eyes. Those moments together were a major influence in my decision to follow a path in sculpture.”
Years later when attending Glasgow School of Art, the aspiring young artist had an opportunity to try working with sculpture, picking up a welder’s torch with a realization that from the very beginning, it felt right. “It was like a duck to water," Andy recalls. "I found my niche and continued on the path, ultimately graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree with Honours (BA Hon) in 1986 and a Diploma in Postgraduate Studies in 1987.”
Glasgow School of Art is one of Europe’s leading higher educational institutions offering university level programs and research in architecture, fine art and design. It’s well known for famous alumnus Scottish architect, designer, watercolorist and artist, Charles Rennie Mackintosh–a major player in the Art Nouveau movement in the United Kingdom. It was there at the Sculpture and Environmental Art Department where Andy studied and developed his own sense of style that eventually evolved into large-scale realistic sculpture. He likes the welding process where the work transforms into a finished piece fairly quickly ... it’s put together, galvanized (applied with a protective zinc coating to steel or iron to prevent rusting), and ready to be transported to its location. This suits his interest more than other processes involving carving, casting and molding.
When he first heard about The Helix Project and The Kelpies, Andy was thrilled about the idea of two massive horses at the water’s edge and delighted that the committee gave him full artistic license to come up with his own interpretation. Fortunately, the committee’s design concept wasn’t set in stone; it was merely the beginning of the creative process.
“During the conceptual stages, I visualized the Kelpies as monuments to the horse–a paean to the lost industries of the Falkirk area and of Scotland,“ explains Andy. “The original concept of mythical water horses was a valid starting point for the artistic development of the structures, but something in me kept turning to heavy horses. In an early proposal I referred to Clydesdales, Shires and Percherons, of the fabled Equus Magnus (Latin for great horse) of the northern countries.
"An image of working horses kept mulling about in my brain, remembering their role in the progress of modern society, as the powerhouses of the early industrial revolution, the tractors of early agriculture and, of course, the first source of locomotion for barges on the Forth & Clyde Canal where the sculptures would take shape. Falkirk was my father’s hometown and that inherited association with the local landscape has been one of my driving inspirations. A sense of deep personal legacy has influenced my thinking, with old family connections anchoring me to the project.”
Andy also remembered his father sharing a story passed down from one generation to another about one very special Clydesdale named Carnera. This well-known drafter pulled wagons back in the 1930s for A.G. Barr and Company, the largest manufacturer of soft drinks in Britain that began with humble beginning in 1870 in the town of Falkirk. The company is known for its world famous carbonated soft drink, IRN-BRU, a fizzy orange-colored beverage first introduced in 1901. The recipe is still top secret; only two members of the company know the ingredients. It was originally called Iron Brew, (often nicknamed "Scotland’s other drink"–after Scotch whisky) but in 1946 the law required that the word "brew" be removed, as the drink is not brewed. A clever manager came up with the idea of using initials so consumers could recognize their favorite soda.
Nearly as famous as the Barr products were the heavy horses that hauled the flat-top lorries (trucks) piled high with crates of soda weighing thousands of pounds. Barr’s fleet of horses was a common sight around the district and many of the animals had their own following, receiving treats and fanfare along the route, but Carnera took the cake, creating quite the sensation wherever he went.
One of the company owners, Robert Barr, purchased Carnera from a Perth farmer in 1930. Reputed to weigh a ton, he was said to be the largest working horse in the world, according to his fan club in Falkirk. He stood 19.1½ hh, and it took 24 inches of iron bar to make a single shoe for him. People adored him, not only because of his towering height and imposing presence, but he was such a sweet-natured horse and a top contender at local agricultural shows, winning dozens of ribbons and trophies.
Tragedy struck in January 1937 when Carnera slipped on an icy road in town. All efforts to get him back on his feet failed. Worried bystanders fed him buns and one fellow ran home, dragging a mattress for him to lie on, but he couldn’t move. A large crowd watched as the drama unfolded, gathering during the course of the day, causing a bottleneck in the neighborhood; three police officers were dispatched to keep the road clear for traffic.
Children and even grownups cried and prayed during the ordeal, quietly standing guard by their friend until Dr. Bell, the local veterinarian arrived, mercifully putting the unfortunate animal down. No one moved until Carnera’s body was finally hoisted onto a lorry and transported to Glasgow at seven o’clock that evening. His passing was heartfelt by many for years to come, and even today, people in Falkirk remember Carnera.Baron & Duke
As a figurative sculptor, a realistic approach to each project is essential for Andy, so it made sense to spend some time with real horses to learn more about their anatomy and size. It would also be a wonderful opportunity to simply have some fun getting outside and being in the presence of the animals he so revered.
As luck would have it, there were some Clydesdales not far from home at the Pollok Country Park, a rambling 361-acre haven just three miles from the city center of Glasgow where beautiful flower and woodland gardens, and paths and trails for cycling, walking dogs and hiking loop through the landscape, providing a quiet sanctuary for both visitors and wildlife. The park was originally part of the Old Pollok Estate, which was the ancestral home of the Stirling-Maxwell family for over 700 years. Today the estate, gardens and meadows are a delight to see, along with the park’s Clydesdales and famous fold of Highland cattle.
“The sight of heavy horses used to be commonplace here in Glasgow, with literally thousands of animals stabled in the City,” explains Lorraine Clark, the park’s head carter. “They were used to pull carts and drays to transport goods and people, deliver milk, uplift rubbish and they were essential to the parks, carrying out all the tasks associated with the work of tractors today. In 1990, the Glasgow City Council decided to turn back the clock with the introduction of Clydesdales so our visitors could learn more about the breed and discover just how versatile they are.”
Andy remembers his first encounter with the horses. “I was meandering alongside a tall hedge in the park and all of a sudden, the sound of horse hooves came from around a corner, followed by giggles and the happy chatter of children. I picked up my pace and soon discovered two magnificent Clydesdales pulling a wagon headed in my direction.”
The Clydesdales standing patiently during the presentation that day were Baron and Duke, two very popular horses with faithful fans from the UK and other countries. Baron, the larger of the team, came to live at the park when he was two years old in 2000 through an adoption with the World Horse Welfare at their sanctuary at Belwade Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre in Aboyne, Aberdeenshire, in northern Scotland. This is one of three of the organization’s centers in the UK–(Blackpool, Norfolk and Somerset), that work internationally across Europe, Cambodia, Guatemala, Honduras, Lesotho, Mexico, Nicaragua, Senegal and South Africa.
Baron didn’t come from an abused or neglected situation, but instead his owners were elderly and not able to work their farm anymore. He and his mate, another Clydesdale, Mac, originally moved to a smaller rescue organization that soon afterwards closed down due to financial difficulties, so along with 31 other horses, the pair found refuge at Belwade Farm. “Right from the start we could see that these two youngsters were a great pair with a bright future ahead of them,” explains Eileen Gillen, Centre Manager, Belwade Farm/World Horse Welfare. “We could tell they’d make a great team, so it didn’t take long for word to spread through the heavy horse grapevine; we soon heard from the Glasgow City Council that they were more than happy to provide a good home for these boys.”
Gillen was delighted to hear how well Baron and Mac did, working side-by-side at the park and winning many events at the Royal Highland Show, the country’s premier rural event, organized by the Royal Highland Agricultural Society of Scotland. She was also pleased to hear how the horses delighted so many visitors on a daily basis, especially interacting with inner city children and their families, giving many an opportunity to meet a heavy horse face-to-face. They’re both great ambassadors and help raise money for other animals at World Horse Welfare.
When Mac succumbed to bone cancer a few years later, a locally-bred horse named "Duke" was selected from a handful of young horses to fill his void. Baron and Duke work well together, sharing the stable with five other Clydes at the park: three-year olds, Arthur, Harry and Clyde; and Dan, age six and Spencer, seven.Life is Good in Glasgow
Remembering the two Clydesdales, Andy returned to the park in hopes of using Baron and Duke as models for the Kelpies sculptures. Permission was granted with a generous offer to transport the horses to his studio for an uninterrupted session to take sketches and snap some photos. “Both horses were perfect gentlemen, very patient and so accommodating," recalls Andy. "It was a thrill being in their presence and to have the honor of paying them tribute with my work.”
The experience is etched forever in Andy’s mind, conjuring up memories of all the stories his father shared about the heavy horses of Scotland and embracing life with one’s appreciation of art. How proud he would be seeing the completion of sculptures and watching Baron and Duke join his son for a walkabout glancing up to take in the grandeur of the towering Kelpies. What a legacy!
Above photo: Silver Lining on wedding duty with Catherin driving.
Like the magical horses prancing through the pages of childhood fairy tales, a mighty white Percheron is captivating the hearts of people from near and far along an avenue in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.
Conversation stops at sidewalk cafes as the clip-clop of hooves turns the corner, followed by smiles and surprise when glancing up to discover a beautiful horse and carriage passing by. Who can resist snapping a photo and waving hello? Horses have a way of bringing out the kid in us, whether we’re nine or 90.
Imagine my delight with an invitation to ride up on the box seat with the owner of Asheville Horse & Carriage Tours, Catherine Hunter. It was like Christmas morning and a birthday party all wrapped as one. It might seem like old hat for those in the draft horse world, but for this kid-at-heart, an opportunity to spend time with a Percheron is pure joy, especially on a lovely September evening in my hometown.
Catherine and her stately steed fit into the eclectic mix of individuals enjoying the sights and sounds of downtown Asheville on any given evening. There’s a spirit about this town that draws people in with its art deco architecture, enchanting cafés and independent restaurants, decadent chocolate shops, crafted beer from dozens of breweries, great music and the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains in every direction.
Downtown Asheville is an easy and pleasant city to explore, whether it’s a leisurely stroll on foot or jumping onto a variety of fun-filled modes of transportation like the bright yellow bicycle taxi for two, the two-wheeled motorized Segway tours, and the brand new Pubcycle, a ten-seat orange and silver contraption where energetic souls sit sideways behind the driver, providing their own pedal power.
There are the traditional trolley tours that transport visitors around the area, plus the zany purple LaZoom Comedy Party Bus that sometimes has more locals joining in on the fun in colorful costumes with knapsacks full of snacks and brew. It’s a moving theatrical extravaganza, especially at night on the haunted ghost tour that promises plenty of thrills and chills. Introducing horse-drawn carriage rides in town was a well thought-out business decision that took months of careful planning and meticulous research. “I’ve been involved with horses, mostly
Thoroughbreds, for 52 years,” Catherine explained. “Since childhood when first seeing a team of sturdy Belgians plowing a field, I’ve been intrigued and captivated with the bigger breeds because of their stature, pleasing personalities and willingness to work. Things fell into place this time in my life with having a draft horse of my own, where we could work and enjoy good times together.” Thanks to Silver Lining, Catherine realized that dreams do come true. She knew she wanted to work with draft horses, but didn’t necessarily see herself farming or competing in competitions and shows around the country. Driving a wagon was something she knew, so it made sense to investigate the carriage business. Like everything she does, the horsewoman studied hard, met with other operators and researched all the logistics involved. Once her business plan was in order, she met with the City of Asheville, reporting that the experience was a positive one in getting approval, licensing and encouragement from every department.
Earlier in the year, a referral from friends with draft horses led the way in finding Silver Lining. He had recently been retired from pulling carriages due to a foot problem that had his previous owners mystified: they thought it was a permanent injury that couldn’t be helped. They simply wanted to see the animal find a good home where he could enjoy green pastures and a happy retirement. Right from the start when first meeting Silver Lining, Catherine was impressed with his disposition and handsome presence. While observing him with her eyes and hands, she had a gut feeling the problem with the foot could be rectified, so she brought her farrier, John Banks from nearby Black Mountain, North Carolina, to check out the situation. Sure enough, the mystery was solved after a thorough examination; it was a deep subsolar abscess locked behind the wall of the hoof. John prescribed draining the abscess, followed by a regimen of antibiotics and rest.
Trusting her farrier sealed the deal, so Catherine wrote a check and gingerly led her new horse into the trailer for the journey home. It didn’t take Silver Lining long to recover; soon he was frolicking about the pasture with his newfound Thoroughbred stablemates. A new adventure was about to start.A Life with Horses A love and respect of animals, especially horses, is as natural as breathing for Catherine, thanks to her mother, a trainer and riding instructor from their hometown of Huntsville, Alabama. At age 15, the enthusiastic equestrienne had saved her babysitting money to buy a horse of her very own. What a thrill to venture north for the January yearling sale at historic Keeneland Thoroughbred Racing and Sales in Lexington, Kentucky. It was all Catherine could do to contain herself, walking into the iconic auction pavilion with its richly paneled walls where magnificent Thoroughbreds have dazzled people the world over since the first yearling sale in 1943.
Several of the horses sell for millions of dollars, but Catherine heard there are bargains to be found, so she sat patiently, waiting for one particular filly to step out on the carpet. The horse’s name was Swaps Fair Countes, the granddaughter of the famous racehorse, Swaps, a descendant of Man o’ War through his dam, Iron Reward, a granddaughter of the Triple Crown winner, War Admiral. Swaps won the Kentucky Derby in 1955 ridden by popular jockey, Bill Shoemaker, and went on to win many races and beat all sorts of records. He was named “Horse of the Year” in 1955.
One would think a fine filly with such an admirable bloodline would command top dollar, but fortunately nobody gave her a second look, except for Catherine out in the paddock before the sale began. Countes was a beauty, but she was high-strung and temperamental. The two-year-old had never been trained, broke or even handled.
It was love-at-first-sight for Catherine; she knew with her mother’s help, this spirited animal could change. It would take plenty of time and persistence, with a good measure of love and devotion. She was ready for the challenge. Once back in the pavilion, the young woman raised her hand and the gavel came down with a fair price. She had her horse.
For 31 years, Catherine and Countes shared many an adventure together, cementing a bond from the beginning as the young horsewoman lavished her newfound friend with plenty of attention, kindness and bagfuls of carrots. Countes was instrumental in helping pave the way to a lifetime devoted to the care and training of horses. “Thanks to Countes, I’ve learned so much about the equine world," admits Catherine. "Beneath that rough exterior at Keeneland that morning, was a giving and most amazing animal. She just needed to be appreciated and given time to show her true colors. I’ll always be grateful for the gifts she gave me, especially her legacy in producing a very special foal, Count of War, born in 1985.”
Thoroughbreds are known for their vigorous and high-spirited personalities. Not only are they fast on their feet, but they are extremely alert and quick thinkers. Count of War is all that, but he’s also easy-going and unflappable much like a typical draft horse. Nothing seems to rattle him; he’s calm as a cucumber even if a sudden loud noise or unexpected movement comes along.
This was especially true during the production of the 2005 movie about the American Civil War, "The Last Confederate: the Story of Robert Adams," on location in Wilmington, North Carolina;Columbia, South Carolina; and Atlanta, Georgia. Count of War had a starring role in the film based on the true and tumultuous love story between Captain Robert Adams, a man of honor dedicated to the south and his love for Eveline McCord, his sweetheart from the north.
This story is close to the heart of a young and aspiring actor, Julian Adams from Columbia, South Carolina, the great-great-grandson of Captain Adams. Since childhood, he relished hearing each tale of adventure that members of his family shared, jotting down notes that eventually turned into a manuscript written together with his father, Weston Adams, founder and partner of Solar Filmworks, former United States Ambassador and Mayor General in the South Carolina Military Department.
The project took on a life of its own, as father and son watched it evolve into a major motion picture, collaborating with screenwriters, Joshua Lindsey and Gwendolyn Edwards. Julian took on another role as co-director, working tirelessly with A. Blaine Miller, a writer and director with the same values and goals in sharing American history with moviegoers today.
Taking on the role of Robert Adams was an honor and very special time for Julian, who felt even closer to his great-great-grandfather getting into costume and holding onto his antique gold pocket watch that survived the war. It’s an heirloom that’s been passed down from father to son throughout the years, bringing authenticity and a sense of pride to the project.On Location Catherine was the lead wrangler and logistics coordinator for all the horses and riders in the production. She was responsible for transportation to and from the set, feeding, stabling, grooming, saddling, hot walking, safety, health and well being of each animal.
She was also the head re-enactor coordinator, making sure all individuals showed up on time at the right location, in proper attire with the right equipment. As the authenticity consultant, she made sure everything was correct with costumes, camp scenes, props, equipment and horse tack. It was a big job, but thanks to fellow actor and assistant re-enactor coordinator, Henry McMillian, each scene came to life as if time-traveling back in history.
His quick thinking and creativity saved the day one morning when the script was changed, adding a camp scene to the filming schedule. The re-enactors hadn’t expected to set up a camp and didn’t have their tents and other paraphernalia. Catherine credits Henry with producing an authentic looking late-war Confederate camp, complete with shelter halves (simple pup-tents), shebangs (temporary shelter made from tree branches), bedrolls and more. The producer and directors were amazed and very pleased. So was Catherine. Working with professionals who care deeply about authenticity and doing things right makes such a difference.
It was also great fun for Catherine, who relishes any opportunity to join a group of American Civil War re-enactors, fulfilling her love of history and getting to playact in costume out in the field. During the filming, she worked as an extra, riding with the re-enactors during camp and battle scenes and getting to dress up in a fancy gown during a party. This certainly kept her on her toes–one moment concentrating on a particular scene in character, while anticipating the next camera shot, lining up horses and actors to be ready when the director called “action.”
Having Count of War in the production made things easy for Catherine. “He’s a natural, working well with both seasoned riders and those who have never been near a barn or pasture. I remember one actor who claimed to be an experienced rider, describing with great gusto his many feats of agility and talent on horseback over the years. The first clue that something was amiss was watching him approach the mare we had ready for a battle scene from the right side, struggling to hoist himself up in the saddle. Holding the reins seemed foreign to him and getting the mare to move even more of a struggle. She simply stood there, refusing to budge.”
Time is money in the film business, so Catherine had to act fast, switching the actor from the mare to Count, knowing her horse could take direction well. “Sure enough, as soon as the actor was situated and ready in the saddle, Count cantered up to the mark, stopped, giving the fellow his moment to say his lines, and continued on as planned. As soon as the director said 'cut,' Count dropped his head and bucked the actor off–exactly as written in the script,” she recalls.
Catherine’s faithful horse has plenty of experience working in films and commercials, with an intuitive ability to understand verbal directions such as “roll sound,” “rolling” (being ready to react) and “action.” Together the duo have credits with many productions, including "The Tempest," starring Peter Fonda, "The Class of ’61," produced for TV by Steven Spielberg, "Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All," with Diane Lane and Donald Sutherland, and "Gone for a Soldier," a New York University documentary.
Count is a favorite steed that directors and actors appreciate, remarking enthusiastically about his intelligence and professionalism. They praise his stature, talent and patience, especially when it comes to standing quietly on his mark when lights, cameras, loud music, pyrotechnics, people, other horses, dogs, mules, chickens and more make a racket around him. He’s a pro.
This philosophy has blossomed into a 35-year career working with horses and helping individuals develop their own skills and talents in the arena and out in the field. Her experience includes working as a trainer for the Atlanta Police Mounted Patrol, developing and teaching an equine-based curriculum for technical schools and colleges, film and commercial credits, judging horse shows, and as a host and consultant for the cable TV show “Horse Talk” in Atlanta, Georgia.
She has studied with international experts in the field of equine osteopathy, the science and system of healing that uses physical techniques to remove tension and restrictions in the body, encouraging structural and physiological harmony in the joints and muscles, improving blood flow and regulating nerve supply. She’s also interested and continues research in cranio-sacral therapy, a gentle hands-on approach that releases tension deep within the body to relieve pain and dysfunction, improving whole-body health and performance.
Catherine is certified in Axiatonal Alignment Therapy, a treatment that reestablishes the connection of the primary/secondary chakras (energy centers in the body) through the meridian system, using all the acupuncture, acupressure and shiatsu points in the body, allowing one to feel whole, balanced and focused. She’s also a pioneer in the field of equine energetics, the relationship between body weight and energy and expenditure requirements in horses.
She owns and operates Whole Horse Journeys, a beautiful horseback riding and training facility tucked in a pastoral valley north of Asheville, providing lessons, training, holistic retreats, workshops and boarding services to riders of all ages. Her Divine Riding System creates a foundation of non-interference with the animal’s natural movement, balance and rhythm, giving the rider and horse an opportunity to build trust, self-confidence, a safe environment together and an enlightened sense of communication.
Reaching out to others is something Catherine relishes, especially observing a timid rider gain confidence with a new-found relationship with an animal. She takes pride in helping horses and mules grow into healthy and happy animals, especially those coming from a situation of neglect or abuse, believing wholeheartedly that all creatures deserve an opportunity to blossom and be all that they can be.
“Working outdoors and getting to spend the day with animals warms the heart like nothing else for those of us in the equine world,” explains Catherine. “I’m delighted that I can provide a livelihood for others with the same passion. Presently, we’re just three individuals keeping both Whole Horse Journeys and Asheville Horse and Carriage Tours going. Hannah Borababy, my assistant, wears many hats, working directly with the horses, driving a carriage, coordinating marketing and public relations, and keeping me on schedule. She’s a gem.
"I’ve just hired a new driver, Austin Corley, an experienced horseman with great people skills. The carriage business is thriving, growing steadily since beginning in April of this year. We’ve added another horse, Gypsy Gold, a sweet-natured Standardbred-Percheron cross, and in August we bought another carriage to meet our busy schedule downtown Thursday through Sunday evenings and for special events."
Every carriage ride is an adventure, especially seeing what joy Silver Lining and Gypsy Gold bring to folks along the way, and a wonderful opportunity for each driver to share information and the history of draft horses with children and grownups. Catherine smiles, recalling three marriage proposals that have taken place on the ride so far. “It’s so romantic knowing the groom-to-be is about to present his intended with flowers and a ring. What a happy place to be, driving the carriage and sharing all this with the horses and our guests. It’s a fairytale come true!"
Above photo: An aerial view of the show ring featuring 25 six-horse hitches (150 horses)!
Since 1863 on the fourth Saturday of September, the residents of the townships of Huntley, Torbolton, Fitzroy and March have congregated in this little rural village on the western outskirts of Ottawa, Ontario, to showcase all things agriculture. The Carp Agricultural Society hosts the Carp Fair which is known throughout the Ottawa Valley as “The Best Little Fair in Canada.” Archives refer to the formation of an agricultural society as early as 1855. The original 20 members of the agricultural society remained in place through 1870 under president Richard Kidd. The early fairs were held on the site of the current day Diefenbunker (a shelter built from 1959 to '61 to house Canadian leaders during a possible nuclear attack, but now serves as Canada's Cold War Museum), and moved to its current location in 1880 when two acres of the land were purchased for $200.
This being the 150th anniversary, many special activities were planned for this year’s Carp Fair. The dignitaries arrived in McLaughlin’s Clydesdales' magnificent antique coach, drawn by four beautiful Clydes with Ray McLaughlin on the lines. However, the highlight of the celebrations was assembling 25 six-horse hitches, totaling 150 horses, in the show ring all at one time. Exhibitors worked very hard to help achieve this spectacle, which was extremely well received, and may have achieved a world record. Over 55,000 people attended the three-day fair.
Every year Carp Fair offers extensive line and hitch competitions which attract over 300 heavy horses. The winner of the
While the faces, the names, the grounds and the buildings have changed over the past century-and-a-half, one thing has remained a constant: the Carp Fair's commitment to promoting the great agriculture in this community. Along with the heavy horses, over 250 light horses, 250 beef cattle, 150 dairy cows and 150 sheep annually compete for prizes. Sponsorship is obviously essential for such a large endeavour, and Carp Fair is very grateful for their major sponsors, including: Waste Management of Canada Corporation; Karson Group; Thomas Cavanagh Construction Ltd.; and Molson Canada. Of equal importance, a significant number of individual class sponsorship across the agricultural and home craft divisions help to bear the burden. Local support, involvement and volunteers makes such a great fair in a small community such as Carp possible.
Many fairs have been forced to focus on entertainment, motor sports or the latest trends to keep up with societal interests and financial concerns. While you won’t see a demolition derby or the latest and greatest celebrity reality show in Carp, what you will see is barns and exhibit halls FULL of horses, cattle, sheep, swine, crops and home crafts.
The Carp Fair 150th anniversary will be remembered as a wonderful success, fostered in a supportive community dedicated to showcasing the best in agriculture.
From the smallest details of proper harness fitting to the overall management of a complex forest system, horse logger Carl Russell puts careful thought into everything he does. “For me, putting a lot of thought and purpose into my work and into my life is a personal objective,” he says. That mindfulness reaches its full expression at Earthwise Farm & Forest, his draft-powered organic farm and timber stand near Bethel, Vermont.
Russell and his wife, Lisa McCrory, manage the farm with the goal of keeping it ecologically healthy and self-sustaining. The forest, which covers 75% of the 150-acre property, helps to support the farm by generating revenue to cover expenses and to purchase items not grown or made on it. “We sell timber as a source of income,” Russell says. “That’s part of the sustainability.” Russell also does some logging for other people as well as sharing his knowledge of horse-powered forestry by hosting workshops and offering consulting services.
Russell is continuing a long family tradition of forest stewardship, but there is one important way in which his practices differ from those of his elders. “My father was a product of World War II, and he liked to use pesticides to kill things,” he says. “I wanted to use practices that enhanced ecological function and didn’t break it down.” With that in mind, Earthwise is a certified organic farm where all the work is done with draft animals. Russell and McCrory raise and sell organic onions, garlic, potatoes, flowers, milk, poultry and GMO-free natural pork and eggs, along with fuel wood and lumber.
From the time Russell bought his first horse in 1986, the logging at Earthwise Farm has been done solely with horses or oxen. Working with draft animals is an important part of his philosophy of living in harmony with nature and remaining self-sufficient. “I found that using natural power was of great ecological benefit and also allows me to support my individual sovereignty and independence,” he says.SUSTAINABLE LOGGING Working in harmony with the natural ecology is the guiding force in Russell’s logging enterprise. “Trees don’t grow in the forest,” he says. “The forest is the community of organisms that forms within the environment that the trees have created. When we log, we affect the ecology of that community. The horses provide a subtle tool to work within that environment. Using horses minimizes the impact on that broad community.”
Besides his concern for the environment, Russell enjoys logging with horses for its own sake. “There’s an overarching personal reward in that it’s a very creative process. It’s very much of an art form. The attention to detail and workmanship are superior with horses.” He has worked with machines on logging sites and prefers horses by far for their low-impact effect. Another benefit of horses is their ability to be used successfully for small-scale logging. With machines, loggers must work on a much larger scale to remain profitable. “One of the reasons for using animals is efficiency,” he says. “With logging I have extreme flexibility and capability with limited financial input.”
Logging at Earthwise Farm is a year-round endeavor. When the snow is deep, Russell uses a bulldozer to clear roads in the forest in order to keep working. In fact, he prefers working in the winter for many reasons. “I really enjoy working in the woods in the wintertime,” he says. “I don’t sweat too much, the bugs are really light, the horses stay comfortable and the logs slide really nice and they stay clean.”
Good roads are a necessity to provide horses with shorter skids and to allow year-round access to the forest, Russell says. He notes that a well-made road can be a permanent improvement to a productive, sustainable woodlot. “With good access I can harvest smaller amounts over a longer period of time,” he says. For the past ten years Russell’s logging efforts have been concentrated on his own farm, but recently he began preparing to do more logging off the farm. He plans to stay within a 30-mile radius of home, since travel beyond that distance becomes prohibitively expensive. He also joined Jason Rutledge’s Healing Harvest Forest Foundation (HHFF) and became a Draftwood practitioner (see the sidebar). In addition to participating in other community-building activities, he is working with HHFF to organize a Northeast Draftwood Producers Association.HORSES AT EARTHWISE Russell currently works with two mares and a gelding, all of which happen to be 13-years-old. One mare is a Belgian, while the other two are crossbreds, most likely with Belgian and Percheron parentage. He has no preferences for breed or gender, but he does prefer a specific type. “Mostly I’m concerned with having a horse that’s responsive and healthy,” he admits. “I am looking for a certain size and conformation, not the real tall leggy horses.” He looks for horses in the 16.2-17 hh range, about 1,700 pounds, and keeps two or three horses at a time.
Once he finds a suitable horse, Russell begins his training program with the goal of having the horse learn to trust him. “It’s all about communication,” he explains. “I work on sensitizing the animals to my guidance through pressure and release: ‘I have an initiative, here’s my pressure, when you respond, here’s your reward.’ I don’t focus very much on conditioning or desensitizing. I want to be able to lead my animals into new and challenging situations. I want them to have the trust to follow me. I’ve practiced over the years not giving much responsibility to the horses other than following my commands.”
All of this results in a horse that responds willingly and with confidence when faced with a new or difficult task, simply because its trust in Russell’s leadership is so strong. “Don’t put your thought processes into developing a horse you can trust,” he says. “Put more effort into developing a horse that can trust you.”
The trust that Russell’s horses develop in him was recently highlighted when he noticed that his Belgian mare, a horse that he had started when she was four, didn’t seem to be seeing things as well as she used to. When he had a vet look at the horse, it turned out the mare had uveitis and was completely blind. Russell couldn’t tell that the horse was losing her sight because she was still completely responsive to his commands. “It was really validating to me when I realized how much she was responding to my initiatives,” he says. “I’m working her single to this day, and she’s one of the best horses I’ve ever worked with.”
Besides logging, his horses do utility work around the farm, including plowing and cultivating the gardens, spreading manure, mowing and raking hay, hauling water on sleds in the winter and hauling firewood. He also takes them to field days, but doesn’t do shows or parades. He did one parade once and will not do any more. “I realized it was an incredibly unfair thing to do to my horses,” he says, explaining that the thousands of people pressed close along the parade route created an unduly stressful situation for the animals.
This concern for the horses’ well-being is reflected in Russell’s practice of the “dignified” use of draft animals. He explains that this means “to bring a sense of pride, to hold the animals in high regard, but hold them in regard as horses, and not anthropomorphizing them. This includes keeping them healthy and well-groomed and well-shod, and keeping the harnesses well-fit. It’s demonstrating that you hold them in high regard by treating them with dignity. Treat them with respect to the fact that you’re domesticating them and using them in a level of work that they wouldn’t do naturally.”
This philosophy of respect came in part from Russell’s long-time mentor Les Barden, of Farmington, New Hampshire. Barden teaches a list of principles that his mentee has taken to heart. “[Les] is a well-known horseman, woodsman, and farmer, whom I have known my whole life,” Russell says. “His list of priorities includes: Do a good job. Emphasize the details. Produce a quality product. Do a good job. Work hard. Treat animals and tools with respect. Be safe. Take care of the land. Do a good job.”WORKSHOPS & FIELD DAYS Just as others have helped Russell along in his journey as a horse logger, he returns the favor by hosting workshops, speaking at conferences and participating in field days. He does two or three workshops per year, teaching everything from basic forestry and horsemanship skills up to higher levels of harvesting with horses in the woods. He has developed a series of four workshops to take participants through an increasingly detailed and challenging series of subjects.
The on-farm logging workshops are one-day seminars for five-to-ten students. The focus is on first-hand experience with the basics of logging with horses, including care and preparation of the horses, how to hitch up and use the equipment safely, and how to plan the work efficiently. As always, Russell’s emphasis is on the “safe and dignified use of work horses.”
With an eye toward leaving a legacy for future generations, Russell’s goals extend beyond his own farm to those who share the environment around him. “I can help other horse loggers in our region have a more practical role in modern forestry,” he says. “And I’d like my farm to be an increasingly vital and sustainable resource for my family and the community that farms around it. I want to lead a life that’s the best example I can put together of my philosophy.”
To contact Carl Russell:Earthwise Farm and Forest341 Macintosh Hill RoadRandolph, Vermont 05060Phone: 802-234-5524www.earthwisefarmandforest.com
Draft Animal Power Network contact information:509 Dutton Brook LaneBrownington, Vermont 05860802-763-0771www.draftanimalpower.org
"You just get out here and enjoy it. This is the best mental therapy I know of,” states longtime Gee Haw Horse and Wagon Club member Coy Stone of rural Viola, Arkansas. “You don’t worry about what’s at home, what you need to do.”
“I just like the comfort,” said Charley Prater of Paragould, Arkansas, who has six-year-old mules Rebel and Maud hooked to his wagon.
The two men are members of the Salem, Arkansas-based club, with a membership of 75, about half of which take part in at least some of the 15 or so wagon rides they organize each year. There are three and four-day rides, where participants start out at a club member’s home, return that evening and spend the night, then strike out from there again the next day.
At 64, Stone has been doing wagon rides for 21 years. “I’ve worked with four different teams,” he said. He presently uses a 14-year-old mule named Ike with a 2-year old named Bill. “Ike, I’ve had for 11 years," he says. "Bill, this is his first hurrah. I raised him from a foal. I worked him some last year. He’s in training.”
Stone and Prater took part in the first wagon ride of the season on Saturday, April 6, that started at club president Ken Felts' rural home, west of Viola. The ride consisted of five wagons, all pulled by mules, and joined by five outriders. They left at 8:30 in the morning, mostly drove down country roads, including about a dozen steep hills and returned at 3:30 p.m. after covering about 20 miles.
The small convoy of mule teams was led by Randall Barnett, a 15-year member from Warm Springs, Arkansas, who drove his 1,200-pound mules, Jack and Jude. “I like riding with friends. We see different views on different rides,” Barnett said.
Felts worked his young 2-year-old team Lady and Champ. She weighs 750 lbs. and he weighs 800 lbs. The two started out in the cool morning with plenty of energy. “They’re fired up for some reason,” Felts said. “These hills will take it out of them.” Felts added that this was his favorite ride out of all that the club takes each year. “There’s good scenery, good hills, creeks, no traffic,” he said.
The rear wagon was driven by Vernon Crow, also of rural Viola, with his splendid looking team of full-sister sorrel mules, Cheyenne and Sioux, and for the past ten years has ridden with his sidekick, Taco, a little Chihuahua dog. Back in the late 1970s Crow and a couple of friends started doing some wagon rides. These men had ridden horses for years, but got where they could no longer ride with any comfort, so they switched to driving wagons. Crow started with a small team of horses, but after a year switched to mules. “Mules are a little more steady, more dependable,” he said. Crow and his friends then started the club back in 1982.
Meanwhile back at the ride, Felts can be heard urging his young mules up the steep hills. “'Lady, come on. Let’s go. You have to stay after her more than Champ,” he says as he taps her lightly with a whip, while Champ squats down digging into the road gravel with his back hooves.
Felts, also 64, has been a club member since 1982. Initially he only participated in one or two rides a year using his team of Fox Trotter mares, while he lived and worked in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. After retiring he moved to rural Viola in 2007. He used the mares for three years, then switched to mules in 2010 as the mares never adjusted well to the slower-paced mules.
“My brother-in-law had two teams of mules that he wasn’t using,” Felts recalls. “He asked me which team do you want? I said, ‘The best ones.’ He said, ‘You’d better take the sorrels.’ And I’ve had them since.” The sorrels are small mules, weighing around 750 lbs. apiece, but they have been good wagon pullers. He alternates rides with the small team and the young team.
Last November the Club did a five-day 110-mile self-contained ride originating in Viola, then traveled to Calico Rock, Melbourne and Salem. This year they plan to do this same ride in reverse. “We carry our own necessities, we have ways to clean up. We take food for ourselves and our mules,” Felts said. “There are places we stop at and eat. We take tools to repair minor breakdowns and we take (horse) shoes along. If someone has a flat or harness problems, we fix it up the best we can.” Felts said there are generally six to ten wagons on the self-contained rides. Last year they did two other such rides–one from Viola to Gainesville, Missouri, and back; the other was a six-day ride to Mansfield, Missouri. Each of them were in excess of 100 miles.
Many of the members easily exceed 1,000 miles annually with their mule-drawn wagons. Mules are quiet creatures, so the most noise you hear on the wagon rides are the clip-clopping of their shoes hitting the rocky roads. Combine these peaceful sounds with the stunning beauty of the Ozark hill farms and woods, and Stone’s words quickly come to mind: "Best mental therapy I know of."For more information about the Gee Haw Horse & Wagon Club, contact Ken Felts at 573-429-8096.Lonny Thiele is the author of the mule book: That Son of a Gun Had Sense: Mule Stories from the Bootheel Area During the 1930s-1940s Era. To contact him, call 573-300-3085 or e-mail,
"A bunch of us were sitting around trying to figure out how we could get together–just for fun–before the show season started. Then someone mentioned 'maybe we could have a show' and we went from there." That, according to LeRoy Biren of Iona, Minnesota, is how the Murray County Classic Draft Horse Show came to be, seven years ago.
LeRoy and his wife, JoAnn, got their start in the draft horse business in 1969 when they purchased a pair of grade Belgian mares, both of which were bred. Two years later, they sold the mares along with the mares' offspring. LeRoy recalls, "We had enough money to purchase our first team of registered Belgians, from Walt Schaefer." They used their horses where they could on the family's farm, then started participating in wagon trains, plowing matches, threshing bees and other heavy horse events. Each activity led to another. As the whole family became involved, the urge to show a six-horse hitch was eventually realized ... which, of course, leads to organizing a show.
Nor does it hurt that it's a qualifying show for the North American Six-Horse Hitch Classic Series (NASHHCS), especially since the six hooks both days, providing for two sets of those coveted points. "Hooking [the six] twice is a definite plus for our mares this early in the season," says Dr. Chad Zubrod of Guthrie, Oklahoma. "Another perk is that everybody gets paid the same."
Getting back to that "bunch" LeRoy was referring to when the show was started, it included LeRoy's sons Joe, Pat and John, his daughters Sara and Kathy, in addition to Daryl Boots, Todd Knorr, Judy Samuelson (with a lot of support from her husband, Jerry), Scott Filzen, Gaylen Jensen, Jim and Barb Suprenant and Luther Tostengard (who stepped down after the first year). Since the first show, Travis Spartz and Mike Kirchner have joined the show committee.
"We are the parents of seven children," says LeRoy. "All of them help with the show–so do their friends–from updating our web site to making posters, sending out pre-show info, contacting hitches, transporting bleachers, setting up stalls, securing sponsors to hauling manure. They do it all–no job is too big or too small. If they are big enough to carry a sheet of plywood or push a broom, they help out–we also have 17 grandchildren. Some of our kids are able to get home more often than others and we are thankful for whatever they contribute. It takes many hands to make this work. I can't emphasize enough that it isn't just our family–the entire committee puts in a lot of time, effort and downright hard work to pull this off every year."
LeRoy's son, Joe Biren, who is a vo-ag instructor with the Murray County Central School District, recalls, "The first year was tough to get the hitches to commit. Five or six were interested, but very few wanted to gamble on a new show. I was getting exhibitors saying 'if so-and-so shows up, I will be there.' Then I'd call so-and-so and they would say the same. So I told one hitch that we had those hitches (even though we hadn't). They said 'yes.' Then I turned around and called the hitches I said we already had and told them I got commitments from the others and they said 'sign me up.' I got on the phone and in an afternoon, we filled up with hitches–kind of got lucky with that."
As everyone in this business knows, nothing with showing horses is certain. "We had 12 [hitches] signed up to come," he continues. "One had truck problems and couldn't make it, and another had horse health issues (from the heat), so we ended up with 10 in the ring our first year. After that we have had hitches calling trying to get in."
The show committee currently limits the number of six-up exhibitors to an even dozen. "We had 14," recalls LeRoy, "but it gets crowded in our stalling area. Two years ago we dropped down to 12, and it made it more show-friendly." Now that it's established, LeRoy concedes, "We have a waiting list of exhibitors who want to come. If we can come up with the room, it would be nice to go back to 14." Of course, more funding would have to be acquired for that to happen, too.
As a vo-ag teacher and FFA advisor, Joe has been involved in multiple fund-raisers, organizing annual FFA banquets, working with and directing groups. "As far as organizing this show," he recalls, "it was a lot like a teacher's first year. The second year was much easier." As an exhibitor himself, he says, "it was nice to be knowledgeable to say 'this works' or 'we could do without'."
Sponsorships are then used to pay each hitch travel money in lieu of premiums–everybody receives the same amount regardless of the placings. Everyone seems to like this convention, as it keeps the atmosphere relaxed, as does the treatment the exhibitors receive. Exhibitor Freeman Yoder clarifies: "When we go to any show, we go to compete, but it's just more fun when you go where the show management understands what you need and want. The people that run Slayton are great–you barely get parked and they come greet you and ask if you need anything. It's just a great atmosphere, super people and good facilities."
Miron Carney, Mayor of Slayton, who actually grew up using Belgian horses on a local farm, says the show is a favorite of his, along with many others. "Members of the community have shared with me their appreciation of the event, impressed a show of this caliber is held right here in Slayton.
"The ancillary efforts of the community have built a synergy that is a complement to the weekend," he continues. "As the event has evolved, so has the community support."
Further to the point of their community-mindedness, the show committee also designates a local honoree–something they felt strongly about doing from the very first show. "It started with Chris Samuelson, the son of Judy and Jerry, who lost his life in a car accident," recalls LeRoy. "He had helped Joe with his horses and he was also a football player for the local school. This was a way for the Samuelsons to give back to their community, and they liked the idea of honoring a young person, thus the winning junior driver receives a special award. I guess if we think someone has played a strong role in the horse community, we've tried to pay tribute to them–sometimes after the fact."
These "extracurricular" activities have proven not just popular with participants (some coming great distances), but also with spectators. "We have lots of teamsters–from Wisconsin, Iowa, as well as here in Minnesota–that want to come, just because it's a unique opportunity for them to do their thing," notes Travis. "There's not a lot of places where you can participate in yesterday's farming practices." Consequently, both the farm classes and the demonstrations have grown each year. Eleven teamsters competed in the obstacle course this year. A feed team race, added three years ago, is a crowd favorite. It involved ten entries this year.
"I believe that the larger involvement of the farm classes has helped grow this show," concurs show announcer Keith Tongen of Brownton, Minnesota. A third generation horseman, Keith has been buying and selling horses since he was 12. Well-acquainted with what takes place in the ring, he has been announcing shows for the past quarter century.
KEY TO SUCCESS While the setting and the timing are important, it's obvious that the people are what makes this event stand out. "I have really come to enjoy the draft horse show and even more, the people involved," says Keith. "The Biren Family is a vital part of the success of this show, along with committee members, sponsors, exhibitors and spectators," he adds. "This committee is so selfless and truly committed to making this as good of an experience for ALL (exhibitors, spectators, vendors and sponsors) as they can."
Faithful exhibitor Travis Shaw has brought the Ames Percheron Hitch since the start in 2007. "It's a good warm-up for us before Jordan (the Scott County Fair), plus it brings good competition," he says. "It's just a great experience and we're treated very well here."
"It's just a lot more laid back and relaxing than most other shows," says judge Roy Miller, Hubbard, Iowa, who also showed here in 2010.
On the flip side, Joe Biren says the most rewarding aspect for him is the appreciation he receives from exhibitors and spectators. "It is the most sincere appreciation," he acknowledges.
For Travis Spartz, it's visiting and working with the farm teamsters, hearing about their equipment, where it came from and how much was required to get it ready to bring.
It obviously takes not only teamwork, but a team of go-getters with varying talents and interests.
For anyone considering organizing a show, LeRoy advises, "Choose your location wisely so you have a large pool of people–from workers to spectators–to draw from each year." And although he didn't say it out loud, never lose sight of the fact that there's nothing wrong with doing things "just for fun."
Having just hosted a historic 100th anniversary show in 2012, I don’t think anyone suspected that the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede of 2013 would end up being considered just as monumental. On June 20 of this year, Environment Canada issued a rainfall warning for southern Alberta. By the end of the day, almost four inches of rain had fallen. The situation went from bad to worse, and within the next 24 to 48 hours, Calgary and other regions in southern Alberta had experienced record flooding.
Stampede Park is located along the banks of the Elbow River, and much of the exhibition grounds were under water. The World Champion Six-Horse Hitch class, with background music provided by the Calgary
Bruce Roy, lifelong friend of the draft horse, has volunteered at the Stampede for over 50 years, and has announced the draft horse show for almost 40 of those years. Bruce attended a crisis meeting at the Blackfoot Inn a couple of days after the flood, where the announcement was made that the Calgary Stampede would go on. Considering the condition of Stampede Park at the time, Bruce couldn’t see how that was even a possibility.
One of the things Bruce was told early on was that the Haliburton Heavy Horse Show was considered to be one of the most popular attractions at the Stampede, and they were going to do everything possible to see that the show went ahead.
The exhibition’s adopted slogan of “Come Hell or High Water” held true, and almost unbelievably, Stampede Park opened its gates to the public on July 5, right on schedule. While the unicorn, four-horse hitch and breed divisions of the six-horse hitch classes were cancelled, the usual section of line classes, and a number of team classes were held in the tent known as The Big Top. Nine six-horse hitches competed in the interbreed World Champion Six-Horse Hitch class in front of the grandstand.
“Pulling Together” is the painting of a Belgian mare by Calgary artist Adeline Halvorson. Not only did the official poster feature a draft horse, but on July 11, the original painting was sold by auction for $125,000. I am very pleased to be able to pay tribute to Adeline, an unbelievably talented artist, who for the past 35 years has been an excellent ambassador for the heavy horse.A Bit of Background Adeline grew up near the little town of Kuroki, Saskatchewan, and from an early age possessed a keen interest in horses. She rode in parades in nearby Wadena and Kelvington, and also took part in the local fairs. The family's horses were used for hauling hay to the cattle, and for sleigh rides in the winter, and at the age of about 14, she was harnessing and driving the horses on her own.
Adeline began making a living as an artist following high school and has been painting ever since. She spent six years at the beginning of her career doing pastel portraits, live and from photographs, in shopping malls and at horse shows and dog shows. As time passed, she gradually phased out the pastels and began working more in acrylics or oils, and selling her work through galleries. Since 1994 she has marketed her work exclusively on her own, either at art shows or through her web site.
Adeline has done paintings as small as 2-3/4” x 3-3/4” and as large as 40” x 60”. She paints using a layered technique, sometimes using as many as 12 layers. This is a very time consuming process, and a painting can take anywhere from two weeks to three months to complete. Her main show of the year is the Calgary Stampede Western Art Show, and she paints all through the year in order to get ready for it.
Eighty percent of her paintings are acrylic on canvas, while the remainder are oil on canvas. Adeline says that, “Acrylics still fascinate and challenge me, even after more than 20 years of working with the medium. With a bit of practice, the paint happily translates into satin, leather, or the softest of fur. Horses are a passion of mine, but so is light, and so is texture. I love to combine the beauty and personality of an animal with the illusion of light and texture in a painting. My goal is to create a painting that not only captures the essence of my subject, but becomes a smorgasbord of textural surfaces for the viewer’s eye.
“When I was working in pastels, much of my work was from live models. Most animals will be surprisingly cooperative for an hour or so–often better models than people! In all my years of portraiture, I only had one horse that absolutely would not stand still. I moved the easel a bit, and as long as she could watch, she stood perfectly!”
Draft Horse Paintings
Adeline has gotten to know several draft horse breeders and owners over the years. One of the first owners was the late Ralph Loosmore of Three Hills, Alberta. I often tell the story of a draft horse newsletter I had printed a few years back. Adeline had kindly given me permission to use one of her paintings on the cover, and a few days after I had mailed the newsletter, I received a call from Ralph. I don’t think he even remembered to say hello. He was so happy to see that painting that his first words were, “that painting that you have of Adeline Halvorson’s on the cover of your newsletter, those are my horses!”
The mare which was the basis for the Calgary Stampede poster is owned by Joe Jeffray of Airdrie, Alberta. Fred McDiarmid of Veteran, Alberta, is featured in “Familiar Hands.”Awards & Notable Accomplishments Considering the quality of her work, it's no surprise that the list of awards which Adeline has won is a long and extensive one. Listed below are just a few select highlights:• At the 2009 and 2012 Calgary Stampede, Best of Show in the Flatwork category. Adeline also won the Artist’s Choice award at the 2009 Stampede Art Auction.• First place in the Acrylics category at the 2003 Draft Horse Classic Art Show in Grass Valley, California.• Awarded the 2001 Equine Artist of Distinction by the North American Horseman’s Association.• In 1997, “Willing and Able,” a painting of a Belgian team, was first place in the Animal Art category at the Artists Magazine Annual Art Competition–this in a field of over 11,000 international entries.
In addition to the awards mentioned above, Adeline has achieved a number of other accomplishments. Following are just a few of the most notable ones:• When Grant MacEwan’s book, Heavy Horses–Highlights of their History, was reprinted as a soft cover, Adeline’s painting, "Digging In," was used on the front cover.• In 2009, Ian Tyson, well known singer, published LaPrimera–The Story of Wild Mustangs. In addition to the cover, 13 of Adeline’s paintings appear throughout the book.•The 1998 Silver Dollar, commissioned by the Royal Canadian Mint, and commemorating the 125th anniversary of the founding of theNorth West Mounted Police (later the Royal Canadian Mounted Police), was designed by Adeline.• She was also chosen to paint the official Canadian Olympic Equestrian poster for the Los Angeles Summer Olympics in 1984.
Adeline has also painted a number of other topics, and has won a number of awards relating to them.Calgary Stampede Poster Adeline was approached about doing the commission for the 2014 Calgary Stampede poster this past November (2012). She started sketching it out in December, and by April the painting, which measures 42” x 56”, was completed. It was unveiled on July 3, and as mentioned earlier, was sold by auction on July 11 for $125,000. This is the seventh piece that was commissioned by the Stampede, and is the second highest selling one.
It will be printed in the form of 25,000 posters which will be used to advertise the 2014 edition of the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede.
We think very highly of all of the family for that matter, and since Peggy was a harness maker, we’ve always had common interests. In addition to making and repairing harness, Peggy has also built a few saddles, and is a talented seamstress, making everything from bridesmaids dresses to drapes. The Halvorson girls all seemed to inherit their Mom’s talent, being very handy at singing, painting, sewing or a combination of the three.
One of the first things you would notice when you visited Donald and Peggy’s house at that time was the six graduation pictures hanging above the kitchen table. These weren’t just your average pictures. Instead of the usual photographs, they had been painted by their daughter, Adeline.
Although the Halvorsons are quite modest in nature, Peggy was understandably pleased to show me a photo album with some of Adeline’s paintings. I became an instant fan. Although I haven’t gotten to know Adeline as well as some of the rest of her family, it is easy to see that she possesses those same characteristics, all of which make her an excellent person to present the draft horse to the public.
Draft horse owners and enthusiasts everywhere can find something to appreciate in Adeline’s paintings. Her work is available in a price to fit every budget, and includes prints, canvas transfers (framed or unframed), giclees, bookmarks, note cards and her book, Special Moments–A Collection of Paintings by Adeline Halvorson, which includes at least 10 draft horse paintings.
For more information about this talented artist, visit her web site at www.adelinehalvorson.com or contact her toll free: 1-877-547-3450. E-mail:
Opportunities to show one’s appreciation can be as simple as sending a heartfelt thank you card, or it can be a knock on the door with a gift that keeps on growing year after year. For Bill Lincoln of Uncasville, Connecticut, gratitude came with an offer to create a community vegetable garden at Fairview Odd Fellows Home in the town of Groton, overlooking the Thames River and Gold Star Memorial Bridge that leads to the port city of New London across the way.
“Our family was so grateful to the staff at Fairview,” explains Bill, “for the loving care they gave my wife’s mother, Phyllis O’Rourke, during the three years she lived there. This was especially apparent as her life was coming to a close last April when we were gathered by her bedside day and night during that week she died. Everyone from the administrator to custodian stopped by to say their good-byes and sat with us, sharing stories and memories. It was so comforting, not only for the care and attention they gave my mother-in-law, but the genuine kindness for our family, bringing us coffee, food and providing a shoulder to lean on.
"Sally and I were so touched; we wanted to do something special to show our appreciation, like writing a nice check, but financially, we weren’t able to do that at the time. The idea of planting a garden came to me one morning the following week when outside feeding my Belgian, Charlie. We were about to start some springtime chores, plowing some additional rows of ground to put in some new tomato plants, when a light bulb lit up in my brain.”
Bill couldn’t wait to tell Sally. By lunchtime, a page filled with notes was on the kitchen table as the couple called Fairview’s recreational therapy director, Tomi Stanley, setting up an appointment to come by with a gift.
Tomi remembers Bill running up the steps the following day, “Like a child at Christmas, he literally skipped into the office with such glee, pointing to the window and asking what I thought about a community garden for the residents and staff. He explained his idea, pointing to the large span of open ground that was perfect with plenty of sun exposure for growing vegetables and herbs. After walking the area, I was completely captivated with the idea, knowing a garden would provide an abundance of food, but also a way to engage our residents in a variety of activities, such as get-togethers to discuss gardens they’ve had in the past, favorite plants and garden tips, what to plant now, exchanging recipes and serving ideas. It was exciting just thinking about the possibilities.”
But, this was obviously something for the administration to review and decide, so Bill and Tomi typed up a proposal and kept their fingers crossed that they’d get the green light to proceed. It didn’t take long for Fairview’s administrator, James Rosenman, to set up a meeting to discuss the plan. Right from the start, he and the board of directors, liked the idea. However, they did need to go over the logistics of how the garden would be dug, planted and maintained.
Bill was ready with the answers. He was familiar with community gardens from past work experience on the staff at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center in Montville where prisoners produce an average of 12,000 pounds of vegetables each year at the facility’s garden, including squash, zucchini, cucumbers, beans, cabbage, pumpkins and tomatoes. Half of that harvest goes to the prison kitchen, feeding the inmates and staff, with the other 6,000 pounds donated annually to local food pantries in the towns of Montville and Norwich. Herbs grown in the garden are used for food preparation and also as a teaching tool in the prison’s culinary arts classes. The project offsets food costs by approximately $6,000 a year, plus the facility also raises chickens for a supply of fresh eggs for meals and sandwich sales.
Besides tending to the garden at the facility, selected inmates volunteer their services in the community helping others harvest their crops. One neighbor, 88-year old John “Whit” Davis isn’t able to work the land anymore, but his mind is sharp and the inmates agree that it’s an honor to learn new skills from one of the legends of farming in the area.
The men also participate in helping to remove seaweed washed up on the shore and rocks in the area. The sea vegetation, high in mineral content, is hauled back to Montville to be used as compost in the prison’s three gardens, totaling an acre in size. This project is part of many volunteer activities that the inmates help with each week in various towns in the area. They’re handpicked based on good behavior and the seriousness of their crimes.
Being outdoors, working the land and giving back to the community are positive approaches to rehabilitation that offer new skills and build self-esteem for the inmates. While on staff at the prison, Bill was impressed with the program and how much the men enjoyed being part of the team. Perhaps the garden coordinator, Bill wondered, might like to participate at Fairview.
His request was met favorably, along with others in the area who wanted to help. After a few telephone calls, a team of enthusiastic volunteers were ready to get the project started, including good friend and horse trainer, Dave Bradham; Patrick Kelley with the Eastern Connecticut Community Garden Association; volunteers at the Connecticut Draft Horse Rescue located in the town of Haddam; and some able horses happy to be out in the field working. Two teams were set to go: Charlie, belonging to Bill, and Big Nick, a Belgian from the rescue organization, and Ruby and April, Suffolk-crosses, both retired logging horses on loan to Corrigan Correctional Center from Blue Star Equiculture, a draft horse sanctuary and organic farm in Palmer, Massachusetts.Ready–Set–Grow! The day for plowing was set for June 14, 2012. Little did Bill know, but the project had turned into a big event with great fanfare and excitement. A jovial crowd of residents and staff lined up with lawn chairs along the garden plot measuring 60 x 100 feet, waving to the horses and volunteers. Local dignitaries showed up, including Andrew Maynard, State Senator; Elisa Wright, State Representative; and Groton City Mayor, John Waller. In fact, Senator Maynard rolled up his sleeves and asked if he could try his hand at plowing.
It was definitely a festive atmosphere that brought such joy to Bill and Sally, remembering Phyllis and the reason for the project. When the plowing was just about completed, Bill noticed an elderly man, a resident at Fairview, walking his way. He was smiling from ear-to-ear with a gleam in his eye. Politely, he tapped Bill on the shoulder, asking if he could give it a try. It seems the gentleman farmed long ago with draft horses for many years, and he just wanted to be close to these amazing animals again.
Bill checked with the staff, getting a thumbs-up, so he accompanied the man over to the plow. There was no need to worry; Henry was in his element, striding along as if he was 40 again working the fields at home. The crowd cheered, showering their friend with hoots and hollers as he returned their waves with an even bigger smile than before. Others came up to Bill, thanking him and sharing their own stories with draft horses on the farm. The entire afternoon was filled with great emotion, lots of reminiscing and excitement about things to come.
There was still plenty of work to do, including removing a scattering of rocks in the soil, unloading a big truckload of seasoned cow and horse manure–a gift from Dave Bradham’s mother–and installing a fence and a crushed gravel pathway around the perimeter of the garden. The prison delivered over 50 tomato plants, Patrick returned with a pallet of plants donated from the community garden association and volunteers dropped a wonderful array of donated vegetable plants and tomato stakes from local nurseries.
It took Bill and Sally three days in the 90-degree sweltering heat to get all the plants into the ground. Maintenance duties with watering, pruning and harvesting are done by Fairview’s team of volunteers and recreation department. Many of the residents enjoy helping with sorting the vegetables, gathering herbs, snapping beans and thinking up tasty ways of serving the bumper crop of fresh produce at mealtime. They’re also delighted to be ambassadors of the garden, taking visitors on a tour of the grounds and reporting on the latest crop.
Bill is still involved with Fairview, returning many times during the year with Charlie and Dave Bradham’s black Percheron, Guinness. “We built a handicapped-accessible wagon that we take to many events and facilities in the state, including the fall festival at Fairview," says Bill. "The wagon is equipped with a lift for wheelchairs, so folks can enjoy a pleasant ride no matter what physical challenges they might have. We’ve got plans to build another wagon this year.
"It’s especially fun sharing stories and history of draft horses. My own experience is fairly new in the last few years. I never had been around the bigger breeds before adopting Charlie, a retired pulling horse. My wife is the one with equine experience, growing up with lighter breeds and riding like a pro. I was always in awe of the draft horses working the fields at the prison, so when Sally mentioned an ad about a sweet-natured draft, my ears perked up.” Charlie has been the perfect horse for a newcomer to the draft horse world. He’s mellow, very friendly, extremely intelligent and knows what to do in all situations. Bill explains that Charlie retired from pulling at 17 years of age. His previous owner, Mark Cherenzia, from Ashaway, Rhode Island, realized it wasn’t fun for Charlie anymore, so he placed him up for adoption at a local horse rescue where he could interview prospective new owners, making sure his good buddy would have a safe and happy home with lots of interaction, but no more competing in pulling contests.
It was a match made in heaven when Bill and Charlie met. Instantly, there was a rapport and sense of belonging for one another, which pleased Mark considerably. He took extra time in explaining everything about Charlie, includingpersonality traits and favorite treats. He also showed Bill the ropes with harnessing and working with draft horses, and gave him names of other teamsters in the area to help him hone his skills.
No need to worry as Mark waved good-bye. He could tell his horse was bound for greener pastures with lots of love, attention and activities that would keep him motivated and happy. For Bill, the adventure has been exhilarating, sharing his own retirement days with Charlie. Together they work the fields at home, travel the state providing wagon rides and savor the moments when they go wandering through the countryside with Bill on horseback and a sack lunch in the saddlebag.
Bills laughs and understands why the nickname, “Comfy Couch,” makes such sense. “Charlie is so easy and comfortable to ride," he admits. "He doesn’t care if you haven’t got a lot of experience or technique; he knows what to do and gets you safely through the meadows, fields and country roads. It’s an adventure that I love more than anything–just the two of us enjoying the day.
"I know others like to brag about their special horse, the same way folks show off photos of their kids and grandchildren, but for me being so new to the world of draft horses, it’s so easy chiming in about Charlie. He’s so funny and good-natured with everyone, including the family cats. It’s a hoot watching such a large animal weighing 1,900 pounds, let a purring ball of fur nuzzle him with such affection. It’s also hilarious watching Charlie diligently reach with curled lips for a single blade of grass through the fence. I’ve got to get the camera and snap these shots for sure!”
Learning and mastering his craft is something Bill believes in wholeheartedly, so every month is filled with driving lessons and visiting with seasoned teamsters, soaking up knowledge and experience. He recently heard from Mark that Charlie’s previous pulling partner, Don, is about to retire. One can only imagine what’s mulling over in Bill’s mind, thinking how great it would be bringing the duo back together again, especially with that second wagon on the drawing board. Surely he can convince Sally there’s plenty of room in the barn and definitely more community gardens to plow.
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