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Archive for the ‘Horses’ Category

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Tonight, the September full moon, the harvest moon, is lighting the sky. We’ve been enjoying a few days of perfect weather, with cool nights followed by sunny days that still hold the warmth of summer. The cold nights have finally freed us from swarms of mosquitos and flies and the horses, instead of huddling in their shelter all day, trying to avoid the heat and biting insects, have been enjoying life. Enjoying being horses, wandering deep into their field, feeling free. Content.

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When I went out to check on my little herd this evening, I found that an evening mist was rising from puddled water as the night air cooled. That’s Diva on the left, then Czarina and the two donkeys, Teddy and Louis. When Teddy first joined us, he was the same size as Louis, but he kept on growing and growing… Now he’s quite a bit bigger. But that hasn’t detracted at all from their deep friendship. They’re always together. Can you see Louis’ ears?

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They followed me up the field and into the barn for their evening grain. When they had finished, I opened their stall doors and they hurried back to their field, returning to being wild horses, breathing in the night air under the harvest moon.

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Diva and Ponygirl

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On the long weekend, we had some rain on Saturday and Monday, but Sunday was a beautiful day, and we took advantage of the good weather to attend the Perth Fair. Over the years, we have been to most of the fairs in the area, but this was the first time we made it out to the Perth Fair.

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There’s always lots to see at a country fair. Most feature classes for various farm animals, sheep and cows and sometimes poultry and pets. There are classes for the best vegetables, the biggest pumpkin, the tallest sunflower, the best hay.

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There are displays of handiwork and I like to look at the quilts. The skill and creativity always amazes me. All the quilts were beautiful, but I especially liked this fishy design, a bit out of the ordinary as patterns go.

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And of course there is a midway, with rides and games and lots and lots of booths featuring hot dogs and cotton candy. I like to check out the horses on the merry-go-round. These were well-maintained and pretty, but rather unimaginatively painted, with all the horses white.

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But it is the horse show that I enjoy the most. On Sunday, there were three separate events underway. The Team Penning is held in a pair of circular rings joined by a gate. A herd of eight cows waits in one of the pens and each cow is numbered. Pairs of riders wait at the gate and when the judge calls out the number of a cow, the team must separate that cow from its mates and move it into the empty pen.

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Additional cows must then be cut out and moved, in successive order from the first number called, with the goal of moving as many cows as possible in the correct order in 60 seconds. If a cow with a wrong number slips into the second pen, the team is disqualified.

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In another ring, an Obstacle Race attracted a lot of competitors. Each horse and rider is judged as they tackle a course of obstacles and tests. Above, a horse and rider walk through a screen of streamers.

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Horses have a very sensible aversion to stepping into or onto surfaces that might be dangerous, so crossing a hollow bridge can be scary.

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Horses had to back through a U-shaped pathway without dislodging the barriers.

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The horse is required to stand still and wait while his rider moves a wheelbarrow between two points. It’s fun to watch each horse’s reaction to each of the tests. Many did very well. Others clearly thought that their riders showed a distinct lack of judgement.

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And then there was the harness show, that featured heavy draft horses, lighter commercial drafts, and miniature horses! The mix of classes allows competitors time between events to harness their teams. Here is a four-horse team of heavy draft horses.

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Here is an eye-catching four-horse entry in the commercial class for lighter draft horses.

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And here are the four-horse minis!

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It really was a pleasant day of horse-watching. I’ll leave you with a couple of photos of the six-horse hitches, a very impressive sight indeed.

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pasture pals

Pasture Pals: Waiting for Summer Grass

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Here’s my little gang, standing at the barn door, waiting for me to let them in for their supper. In summer, they stay outside day and night, but in winter, they enjoy the night in their comfortable stalls where they are protected from the worst winter has to offer.

Usually, when I go out to the barn to let them in as dusk falls, they are waiting for me at the door. Some nights, though, they are hanging out down the field, and I have to go fetch them. When that happens, I catch the leader of the pack and the others follow us back to the barn. Who do you think I catch?

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Not Czarina. Although she is senior mare, she has not mellowed in old age. She is crotchety and defiant and not a leader of horses.

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Not Diva. As junior mare, she is cowed by Czarina’s aggressive behaviour and hangs back when Czarina is about.

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Not Teddy. Although Teddy loves his supper ration and is anxious to eat, he is young and frisky and not inclined to be led.

That just leaves Louis. That’s right, little Louis is the Boss. When I go out to bring the herd in, I loop my arm over Louis’s neck and he comes along sweetly. The others quickly fall into line, first Louis’s pal Teddy, and then Czarina and finally Diva, bringing up the rear. They all follow Louis’s lead and march quietly into their own stalls for supper.

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Here I am, posing with the Great Pumpkin at The Royal. The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, that is. Now in its 90th year, every November The Royal brings a little bit of the country to the city of Toronto. I first attended the fair many years ago with my parents. Tickets to see the horse show were my birthday treat. Later, I took my own kids. And this year, my sister and I enjoyed a night out together at the fair.

The Royal is a bit more commercial, a bit less agricultural than it once was, but you can still see cattle and sheep and chickens and prize-winning pumpkins and many other great displays. This pumpkin from St. Thomas, Ontario took first place in the largest pumpkin contest, weighing in at 1414.6 pounds.

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This piggy on his scooter took first prize in the butter-carving contest.

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All the enteries were well-done. I particularly liked this goose.

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The third place entry presented an interesting juxtaposition of babies.

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After we had had a good look around the displays, we moved on to the horse show.

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The horse show offers a good assortment of classes. On the night we attended, we saw the six-horse percheron class. I was pleased that a team from my region, the Wilson’s of Vankleek Hill, took second place against stiff competition.

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The coach-and-four class is a spectacle you don’t have a chance to see most anywhere else.

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This year, there was an exhibition by the Lit Dressage Quadrille, who performed to James Bond theme music. You can watch the whole performance, complete with music, on Youtube, linked here.

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The 48th Highlanders were on hand for a brief Remembrance Day ceremony.

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The highlight of the horse show evening is always the international jumping class. On the evening we attended, the $50,000 Weston Canadian Open was featured. This is a timed event in which horses must jump a challenging course of huge fences. The best combination of low faults and time secures first place. The winner was young American rider Kent Farrington and his horse Voyeur, who had one of just 5 clear rounds in the field of 18 entries, and a blazing time. As the winners, Kent and Voyeur took home $16,500. You can read more about the class here.

I forgot to take my camera. Doh! Thanks to my sister for allowing me to use her photos and sharing a fun evening with me.

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Horses are social animals. They want to be with their own kind. Loners are few and far between among equines. In a pinch, they’ll make do with the company of other animals if that’s the only choice. I sometimes pass this field where a flock of sheep are joined by a single horse. He has a proprietorial aire, often standing slightly apart from his sheep, as if he were a sheep-horse keeping watch over his flock.

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In another area paddock, this pretty dappled draft horse has a llama for a companion.

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Right beside the Heavy Horse show ring, the Miniature Horse show was taking place. What a contrast! The four-horse hitch class attracted 3 entries. The little blacks came away with first prize.

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nicol belgians

Nicol Belgians, Copenhagen, NY

The six-horse hitch class was followed by the four-horse hitch class. The same 9 farms competed again, with the addition of an entry from Nicol Belgians from Copenhagen, New York.

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Nicol Belgians

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Steadholm Farm

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Allan Foster Belgians

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Allumettes Clydesdales

And the winner is…the Karvelton Clydesdales of Richmond.

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Karvelton Clydesdales

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Reid Acres, Mountain

Reid Acres Percherons, Mountain, ON

The Richmond Fair, which took place this weekend past, is my favorite. That’s partly because there is such a great Heavy Horse show. There’s nothing like seeing all these gorgeous, huge horses, all together, and no better display than the six-horse hitch class. This year, there were 9 entries, bringing together 54 horses in the show ring. What a spectacle!

Here is a selection of photographs of the competitors. I thought that every team should be awarded first prize! Every entry represents a huge investment of hours of work, dedication, knowledge and skill, a love and passion for horses, and of course, money. The judge had the unenviable job of having to choose just one entry to pin the red ribbon on. She chose the Maple Creek Belgians, of Stittsville, Ontario. Thank you to all the competitors for a fine show.

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Reid Acres Percherons

Trout Brook Belgians, Potsdam

Trout Brook Belgians, Potsdam, NY.

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Trout Brook Belgians

Stead Family

Steadholm Farm, Lanark, ON

Kelly Farm

Kelly Farm, Brockville, ON

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Kelly Farm

Maple Creek Belgians

Maple Creek Belgians, Stittsville, ON

Allumettes Clydes

Allumettes Clydesdales, Allard Family, Chapeau, PQ

Allan Foster Family North Gower

Allan Foster & Family, North Gower, ON

Bourbonnais Family

Bourbonnais Family, Metcalfe, ON

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Bourbonnais Percherons

Karvelton Clydesdales

Karvelton Clydesdales, Richmond, ON

Karlvelton Clydes

Karvelton Clydesdales, Richmond, ON

And the winners…

Maple Creek Belgians

Maple Creek Belgians, Stittsville, ON

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