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Agriculture This Week: Admiration for the work horse

The early days of agriculture relied on the horse for power
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Horses, like this Brabrant team, were once an important part of farming on the Prairies.
RAMA - When you have been reporting for as long as I, now more than three decades, there are events that you find you enjoy covering more than most. 

For me, the PALS Draft Horse Field Day held in Rama would rate rather high on my list of favoured events. 

Granted the events are much the same year after year, and the photos might have a ‘sameness’ to them if you were to look at them side-by-side, but the atmosphere is still compelling. 

There is a sort of laid back element to the event, perhaps emanating from the big horses that provide the power for most of the antique farm equipment demonstrated over the weekend. 

Of course that was the pace of farming when the horse was used. A pair of horses pulling a six, or eight-foot disc across a field was not an operation of speed. 

Nor was four horses driven abreast on a binder, a piece of equipment that was part swather, as it cut the crop, and part baler as it tied bundles of crop into sheaves which were then set in groups in the field to cure dry before threshing. 

For the teamster sitting atop the equipment being used, it had to have been a very solitary work day. 

And, remember that was long before radios, air conditioner, cellphones and cabs which make driving today’s equipment a little less monotonous. 

I use the word monotonous, but I come from an era where the days of the horse were past even in my youth on the farm. 

I doubt the people demonstrating the equipment at Rama ever look at time spent working with their horses as anything but an activity of memories and joy. 

I certainly recall my father telling me how he quit school part way through Grade 9 so he could work horses in the field. 

I wonder how many farm youth today are eager to drive a tractor all day? 

While I never quite developed the love of horses my father had, he always dreamed of owning big horses again, but never did, I certainly appreciate what they meant to farming, and how gentle the powerful horses are. 

If I were to win that elusive lottery win, a big one, the small farm I still dream of would certainly include at least a team for wagon and cutter rides. 

So Rama was again a fun day of taking 900 photos of big horses doing what they were meant to do, worked by teamsters who clearly loved what they were doing. 

But the farm equipment is old, some of it going back 75-plus years, and the teamsters are generally grey-haired and many just as old as the equipment. 

What happens when the equipment breaks and no one remains who remembers how to repair it, or to operate the binders and threshing machines? 

That is a sombre thought as I reflect on the joy of another draft horse field day.