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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Introducing Ashley & Misty, our 2 Belgian blondes!


The Farmer and I had been talking about horses for some time. I wanted a horse that I could ride through the trails and forests of our 200-acre farm. He wanted a heavy horse, as they are reputed to be the “gentle giants” of the species.
And then came the fateful email. A friend of mine, knowing that my dream was to add a horse or two to the menagerie at the Fisher Farm, just happened to mention that the man down the road was ready to give up his beloved Belgian mares.
Imagine my surprise when the Farmer said, “Call him”. I thought my husband had been bluffing about his equine enthusiasm.
The horseman, Ron Cooke, sounded a little uncertain as I asked him one dumb question after another, revealing my ignorance of all things equestrian. Then he mentioned that the horses were purebred.
Oh well, I thought. It was worth the call, but they are no doubt too dear for our budget.
“Purebred?” the Farmer’s ears perked up. “Belgian heavy horses? Tell him we’ll be right over.”
As we neared the Cooke residence, I could see the two blonde beauties in the distance.
“Look! There they are!” I squealed, nearly worrying the poor Farmer right off the road.
We met Ron at the barn, and he called the horses over for us. They seemed a little shy, and I wondered if maybe they weren’t used to having many visitors.
As they picked their way over the ice toward us, I began to assess the full impact of their size. Wowza. These are some big girls. At seventeen and a half hands, they tower over the Farmer (who is 6 ft 2 himself).
The first thing I noticed about the horses, as they gently nudged Ron’s hands and pockets with their noses, looking for treats, was their calm. They didn’t appear to be nervous at all. Ashley, the older one (almost 9) allowed me to pet and stroke her hide as much as I wanted to. Misty, the 7-year-old, decided she would reserve judgment for another day, hiding behind her larger sister.
I don’t have much experience with horses, and the Farmer always says he has been “on three and off two”. But I am looking forward to learning everything that we need to know to make this new relationship as mutually beneficial as possible.
My sister and I grew up on Johnston Road outside Kemptville, just down from the Williams’ farm. Occasionally Deb and Karen would invite us to go trail riding with them, but we certainly were not experts on horseback.
It was a good childhood memory (free of injury), however, so when I had children of my own I took them to the Williams’ farm again, now a full-fledged riding school, for summer day camp riding lessons.
The girls loved the introduction to the world of horses, and I was happy that they had something to do that involved them being out-of-doors and active.
Over the years, I would occasionally be invited to ride with friends, but I never took them up on it. I probably haven’t been on a horse in about 25 years. Hopefully, it’s like riding a bicycle, and you never forget the technique.
Of course, these new horses of ours may not be very easy to ride. First of all, they’ve never been ridden. They are “green broke”, meaning that they have been trained to pull wagons and sleighs, etc., but they haven’t had to work very hard in their reasonably bucolic existence thus far.
I don’t want to change that, either. I just want to ride them.
The other factor that might be a deterrent to riding is the sheer size of these babies. I imagine it will be something like straddling a couch. It’s a good thing the Farmer and I are tall people, with long legs.
Someone I met on the weekend (a jealous person, I figure) had the nerve to say to me, “you can’t ride a heavy horse, silly. They are just work horses.”
So I looked them up on the Internet. And I spoke to other heavy horse owners. And I would like to correct that naysayer. You can, in fact, ride a heavy horse. You just have to convince the horse.
After Ashley and Misty have settled in on the Fisher Farm, the Farmer and I will have to see about finding a horse whisperer. If anyone out there has experience breaking heavy horses, send me an email, will you?
Another experience that the two girls from Belgium have never had is foaling. Neither one of them has ever given birth. I can just imagine how cute one of their foals would be, with its gangly legs and huge feet. That is something we will probably look into in the near future, before the girls get too long in the tooth, so to speak.
Belgian horses have a life expectancy of 20 to 25 years, I’m told. So we have a good 15 years or so to get to know each other. I’m really looking forward to it.
Of course, there is just one other small issue where I’m concerned: I have a stubborn, irritating allergy to horses. I will have to leave my barn clothes in the basement and wear gloves when riding or I’ll end up puffy-eyed, coughing and sneezing.
If you’re looking for me, I’m at the drugstore, stocking up on Claritin Extra.

-30-

1 comment:

Pearl said...

I grew up around horses of all sorts. I've never heard of riding a Belgian. They tend to be gentle dispositions and if you can teach Lipizzaner to dance sideway, guess you can teach heavy horses to ride.

Planning to ride bareback? Do they make saddles that big? You must have to have long legs.