The undeniable lure of draft horses and the people who work with them

There is something special about attending an event where people associated with draft horses gather.

In my own case I suppose there is something of a personal connection to the horses that contributes to the feeling I get when attending such events.

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Growing up on a farm we did not have horses, other than an obstinate-minded Shetland pony named Trixie that was never content to let a very young me ride, and as I grew a bit older my feet dragged on the ground, leaving Trixie as simply a hay burner on the farm.

But my father always spoke glowingly of draft horses, in particular Clydesdales. He loved their “feathered” fetlocks in spite of the effort to keep them mud-free when working in the field. He often related how he chose to quit school after Grade 8, in favour of staying home to work the fields with horses. I always had a feeling he half resented the fact he lived a few decades too late, the tractor taking over from his beloved horses.

When I attend events such as the draft horse pulls at the Grain Millers Harvest Showdown in Yorkton each November, the PALS horse field day at Rama, or the chore team competition held at Tail Winds stable, I recognize the look my father had when talking about draft horses in the eyes of those involved in the events.

There is something about the big horses, the calmness they exhibit, their desire to do what is asked of them, the power they can generate when called upon that endears the big horses to those who work with them. It is something you can feel when you move among them at such events.

The use of horses today of course is largely a hobby. The use of a team to work a field is a rarity indeed and one that really holds onto a long lost past, but one can appreciate the desire to hold onto the history of farming, in particular the skills of farming with horses.

For those using horses to do chores there is clearly something far more personal in the undertaking than there is in starting an inanimate tractor to do the work. There is a partnership of effort with the team, the daily work building on the bond of teamsters and their horses.

In our cellphone connected world of instant everything, and little time for the joys of life, harnessing a team for work around the yard connects to a simpler time when there was a joy in working with creatures happy to do their part in concert with the driver.

It is something of our past, but I understand why some hang on to that past so tightly when I walk among the big horses.