- An Irish Draught called Rupert performs on stage at the Royal Opera House in London (simplymarvelous)
- Elizabeth I’s sidesaddle came up for auction in England. (Sidesaddle Girl)
- A British farmer working a 265-acre farm with a team of Percherons (simplymarvelous)
- Facebook is hot on the heels of a self-styled record breaker in the US who is “riding around the world” but seems to have already broken two horses doing it (Star Telegram)
- Recycling racehorses at Suffolk Downs (Boston.com)
- Canada and Mexico say no to slaughtering US horses. All I can say about this is MORE ANON (Fugly Horse of the Day)
- Living with an equine comedian (TheHorse.com)
Another day, another form of horse racing. This is Hokkaido, Japan, where the descendants of heavy European draught horses imported for agricultural work in the nineteenth century now fight it out in Ban-ei races. They drag an iron sled over a course of deep sand a couple of hundred yards long, and climb over ramps and bumps on their way. They are flogged by their jockeys in a fashion that would definitely see them hauled up before the stewards in the UK. Every now and then, one driver stands up and hauls back with all his weight on the horse’s head – perhaps to make it plunge forward when released and throw its weight into the collar.
They start competing as two-year-olds. More from this 2006 New York Times feature:
Draft-horse racing was officially established in 1946, and racetracks became self-contained worlds where stablemen and jockeys spent most of their lives.
Mr. Sakamoto, the 53-year-old jockey, came here when he was 18 and lived for 15 years in an apartment attached to the stables. When the horses kicked the stable walls, he felt the reverberations. “Horses and human beings become one — well, maybe it’s not that simple,” he said. “But that was the goal.”
“I’ve been here all these years,” he added. “I can’t make it out there. Horses are the only thing I know.”
Here’s an absolutely cracking story from The Spokesman Review about a young woman and an 18hh Percheron/Quarter Horse called Tonk who chased after a grizzly bear that was pursuing an eight-year-old boy on a terrified horse. They faced up to the bear and charged.
“… when you’re riding, the horse is your best protection, if you can stay on,” Erin Bolster said.
“Some of the horses I’ve ridden would have absolutely refused to do what Tonk did; others would have thrown me off in the process. Some horses can never overcome their flight-animal instinct to run away.”
In those minutes of crisis, the big lug of a mongrel mount proved his mettle in a test few trail horses will face in their careers.
Tonk’s mettle moved Bolster. She wasn’t about to send him back to Wyoming with the other leased horses.
“Two weeks ago, I closed the deal and bought him,” Bolster said as she was wrapping up her 2011 wrangling season.
“After what he did that day, he had to be mine.”
Jack Juby MBE, who died in 2004, was one of the last of his breed. “Groom” doesn’t begin to sum up his work. “Horseman” he certainly was, and a trainer and master of heavy horses in Norfolk – a service for which he received his MBE. He was employed by the Peacock family for most of his working life, and also kept his own ponies and a show jumper who was so successful in local shows that Alan Oliver tried to buy him.
He only had one holiday before his retirement, going to the Isle of Wight for a week before returning hotfoot to Norfolk and his beloved horses.
“When I got home and I turned in from Attleborough and come down by Paterson’s corner, as I come down to ‘the Laurels’ I saw the [Percheron] stallion up at the farm. I went indoors and was just making a cup of tea and I nearly jumped out of my skin when the telephone rang. It had been put in when we were away! It was Mrs Peacock and she said, ‘You’re home then, you’ve been home nearly twenty minutes, haven’t you?’
I say, ‘Yeah.’
‘We knew,’ she say, ‘we knew because that stallion has been shrieking his head off and the mares up on the meadow they are calling! I ran indoors and said to mother, “Jack is home, I bet he’s home,” and that’s when I called you.’
I’d been away a week and they knew I was home. As I turned into Waterloo Farm, Mrs Peacock came out and said:
‘For goodness sake go and see to Fen Admiral. We have been worried about him all week, he hasn’t eaten anything.’
My bales of hay still laid there. I went up to him and patted him on his neck. I gave him his usual mint and said:
‘You silly old bugger, you.’ He turned round and started tucking into his hay. Mrs Peacock wouldn’t believe it.”
From My Life with Horses, The Story of Jack Juby MBE, Master of the Heavy Horse, by Alison Downes and Alan Childs.