Sunday, October 17, 2010
Gentle giants that can exceed six feet at the withers and weigh more than a ton, Belgians are more popular in the U.S. than all other draft breeds combined. They can pull prodigious weights; a team of Belgians whose combined weight was 4,200 pounds pulled 17,000 pounds for 7.2 feet. Yikes.
Pulling an antique cultivator (?) and a man is nothing to these enormous animals. The antique equipment looks so frail and spidery; I look at the potential for getting it all stomped on and twisted and it scares me. But Belgians are steady animals, not the stomping kind.
Another team, these with natural, not docked, tails. I've got to guess that the suspension on this old machinery makes for a bone-rattling ride. We are so spoiled with our hydraulic shocks and air-conditioned tractor cabs, sitting high above the dust. Imagine how sore you'd be after a day of riding this.
I knew a Belgian mare named Victoria when I was a college student living in the wilds outside the Harvard Forest in Petersham, Massachusetts. Her owner, an opera singer and woodswoman, used Victoria to haul the wood with which she heated her cottage in the winter. Yes, it was romantic as it sounds, drowning in climbing roses and backed by sugar maples. Susan used to let me ride Victoria into the town square of Petersham, where I would tie her and go get an ice cream cone at the general store.
When I turned Victoria for home, she'd finally break into a canter in a slow-motion, Belgiany kind of way. It was like riding an overstuffed sofa, absolutely glorious and exhilarating, to have the ground shaking beneath her great hooves and me bareback astride. I loved that horse.
And so it was pure pleasure to watch this gentleman ready his team (two experienced horses with wide blazes, and a young mare on the left) for the exhibition.
Tucking the forelocks.
Despite the blinders, they keep an ear cocked back to keep track of where he is so they won't step on him.
We thanked him, and apologized for being such paparazzi. He didn't mind. He thinks they're beautiful, too.
Belgians snoozing, scratching
Champing their bits, waiting for the next request.