Friday 5 October, I took a break from the computer. Sue and I went to the Norfolk County fair. I am glad we did, we spent most of the day watching heavy horses being judged. From foals to mature mares then pairs in harness pulling immaculately prepared wagons.
We saw very few heavy horses in Southern Africa, none that I can remember in Rhodesia or later Zimbabwe. I do recall a beer brewer in South Africa had a team of draft horses and wagon for promotions at one time.
The reason for the absence of working horses was the dreaded Horse Sickness virus which was fatal to unvaccinated horses or those that had not built up some degree of immunity. Before vaccines were developed, oxen were used as draft animals. Teams of sixteen oxen pulling wagons provided the transport for the early pioneers who opened up the interior of the sub-continent much like the horse-drawn wagon trains did in North America. By the time vaccines became effective and widely used early in the 20th century, commercial animal drawn transport had already been consigned to the history books
For Sue and I, it was a huge thrill to see nine teams and wagons in the arena at the same time. I will put the video on You Tube when I have edited out the mistakes!
With a lifetime of being around horses, I know how difficult it can be to train riding horses to cooperate and perform at their best. I can only imagine how much more difficult it could be to do the same with these huge Belgians, Percherons and Clydesdales. Drivers often control teams of 4 or 6 horses.
That leads me out of the nostalgia part and into the real subject of this post.
The most memorable sight at the fair for me was what I captured in the photo below. Four young children from 7 to 10 years old leading massive Belgian draft horses of 17 hands or more and weighing close to 2000 lbs. Obviously, the horses were well-trained and almost certainly the quietest in the parents’ barns but it is still a heart-warming sight.
Children learning to work with animals from an early age. No anxious parents hovering over them. Yes there were adults close by but there was still an element of risk. Earlier in the day an adult had been stepped on accidentally by a horse he was leading and had to be helped out of the arena.
No politically correct government officials standing by with rule books telling the kids what they were not permitted to do. No insistence on protective clothing. No clamouring for new legislation to ban yet one more important lesson for life.
Is it any wonder that many farm children go on to be successful in different fields? They learn to think for themselves and assess risks from an early age. The learn the responsibility of caring for animals. They learn that there is no limit to what they can achieve if they are not constrained by petty rules and the nanny state. They learn that carelessness and inattention can have painful consequences.
What a breath of fresh air to see children learning the real facts of life instead of being molly coddled in the false comfort of a schooling system that rewards failure and mediocrity. That has football “festivals” instead of tournaments where the organisers try to hide the fact that one team beats the other but the kids themselves know and celebrate the real winners. A system that does not have adequate consequences for failure and unacceptable behaviour, that ties teachers’ hands to reduce discipline to the severity of being slapped with wet tissue paper and then anguishes over the disintegration of society.
What else are those youngsters in the photo learning? How about, confidence, belief, basic values, compassion for other living beings, concentration and being aware of their surroundings for a start.
They were learning a lot more than if they spent all their time playing video games or watching TV.
Just watching that gave me hope that our society might still survive in spite of the nanny state movement’s attempts to squash every glimmer of initiative, risk taking and enjoyment of life.
What about you? Are you as bold as these children? Do you take on a metaphorical 2000 lb horse in your life and your business? Or do you play it safe and, stay in your comfort zone, use political correctness and excessive caution as excuses for being less than the best you could be?
Wishing you success.