Tory the Shire mare harrows chickweed

Tory light harrow 2Yesterday I watched Simon work with Tory, the Shire mare.  She’s elderly, semi-retired, and all I’ve seen her do so far is stand patiently in the stable yard, her halter rope trailing, while small children are popped up on her back for a moment.  She didn’t move even when one regular small visitor embraced her foreleg, much as you might hug a tree.

But yesterday she was harnessed to a harrow, to do some light work ‘weeding’ between the flax crop and the potatoes.  She was a different horse, full of energy and far more highly strung than I expected.  I watched Simon manage her skillfully as she lunged at the job in hand, swinging off her line at a cracking pace.  He explained, as he stood her to calm down, how she throws herself too fiercely into the collar, and then, startled by the impact of the sudden weight, refuses.

Later I saw her do just that.  Simon took her back, set off again but with a lever lifted the harrow’s teeth so there was no friction. Tory pulled it successfully through the chickweed, he slowly turned her and just as swiftly dropped the teeth as she pulled it back.  As she was already moving steadily she had no problem towing it through the matted weeds.  “It’s just how she is,” he said, “Too late to teach her any different now”.

I have a poem developing, here’s the beginning –

sets off too fast, throws her weight too hard

into the collar and it’s no good.
The harrow yanks the chickweed and jams tight.
She stops, throws up her head.
Her forehooves brace.

He talks to her, she shines. I slap
a horse-fly on her crest and her red blood
runs in the palm of my hand.
At the back of the blinker her eye’s
a dark lake, and flickers.

Two Views from the Top of a Shire

Charlie & Joe at work CropToday I was so privileged to witness two very young children’s responses in words to the rare experience of being placed up on the back of Charlie, a Shire horse.  Charlie is on the left in this photo.

So here below is Huxley’s poem, and Huxley himself, 3 years old, who told me all about it.  I wrote down his words and made a poem for him and his family.  It was, and is, a delight.     Poem Charlie by Huxley


Poem Charlie &  Huxley

Huxley and his poem

Just a little later Lucy and her mum arrived in the Shepherd Poet’s Hut, and it was so lovely to hear her talk about Charlie too.  Her experience was so fresh in her memory she gave me some wonderful words:
They let me go under the chain.
The man lifted me
onto the Charlie horse.
I went as high as a kite…

Poem Lucy on steps

Lucy and her poem

Here’s Lucy, with her poem to take home with her, and her Mum, in the doorway of the Shepherd Poet’s Hut.