Draft Horses

Yule                                                                                     Stock Show Moon

More Tai Chi for arthritis. Second class yesterday. Our group of 5 shrank to 3 Kate, me, and another woman about our age, maybe a bit younger. But all of us with arthritis of one sort or another. In other words, people of a certain age.

This is a chi gong style, different from the work I did with Great River Tai Chi in Minneapolis. Arthritis makes tai chi more difficult so the creator of this style modified the moves and the attitude. Both are important. The moves are less crisp, more fluid, less dramatic. The attitude is not perfection but persistence. Keeping people moving is the prime goal of this style, so adjusting the moves to what your body allows is the key.

20160123_130029After tai chi, we went back the National Western Stock Show, this time just Kate and me for one of the draft horse events. Our interest in basic agriculture/horticulture and our interest in Irish Wolfhounds, plus our Midwest rural roots, made seeing these giants of the horse world interesting.

It was a long show, almost four hours. These horses, though, whether pulling buckboards or traps, in two hitch or four hitch combinations, were a pleasure to watch. True horsepower in its original form. Their muscles rippled. Their eyes were intense and their individuality was on full display for those who could see it.

20160123_135636Mules were part of this show, too, though I found them much less interesting, at least visually, than the draft horses. While making sure what a mule was, horse + donkey, I discovered that male donkey, a jack, almost always covers a mare. The result of that union is a mule, usually sterile. On occasion a stallion will cover a female donkey and the result of that union is called a hinny.

The last, and best, part of this four hour show was the weight pull. These horses, in two horse pairs, were attached to a metal sled (no wheels) filled with sand bags. They started at seven thousand pounds or so and ended at fourteen thousand, gradually increasing the load until none of the pairs could pull it beyond twenty feet. (my video)

The heart of these pairs was on display as they dug, pulled easily on the lighter loads, or put shoulders and haunches to bulging as the loads got heavier. With the exception of one pair all the rest put all they had into each pull. It was clear they enjoyed the challenge.

Getting a team connected to the sled, accomplished by putting the sled’s hook ended chain  through a metal coupler on the horse’s pole and bar, was often the most interesting part of the pull. Why? Because the horses pull when they think they’re attached to the load, often dragging those trying to hitch them up away from the hook.

Always interested in draft horses. Now even more so.

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