My sister and I were talking to our mother about what life was like on the family farm - still just about around when we were small. I used to spend most of my school holidays there (and I am convinced that where I remember the hen's stable being is the right place and Mother has got it wrong, but that's by the bye....)

By the time my sister and I appeared in the early 1960s, the farm horses had gone. Mum was telling us about riding them to their stables after work. She was never allowed to have a pony, as my great-grandfather had a sternly practical view of animals. They were there to do a job or not at all, so her terrier was ok as he was a ratter. Cats were strictly outdoor and mousers. Horses worked, and troodling round the lanes wasn't work.

But, Mum was allowed to ride the work horses, and they were Suffolk Punches. On a quick diversion, there is an excellent organisation called The Suffolk Punch Trust, which is carrying on the excellent work done with Suffolks in rehabilitating prisoners.
There is somewhere in my house, and I wish I could find it, a picture of the work horses which I guess must have been taken in the 1950s, before the tractor swept them all away. I must have missed them by about 10 years, I suppose, which seems such a little time when I look at it now, and it's sad that that bit of family history only survives in a photograph. The Tithe Barn which used to be part of the farm here (before our time) had stables attached for the work horses, and before the place got too unsafe to go into I liked to stand in there and imagine what it used to be like. It had a quiet atmosphere to it: and the picture that would come into my mind as I stood there was of horses who would turn round, chewing, to look at you as they came in and then go back to their hay.

Just inside the door was a pile of huge and rusty horseshoes, one of which I liberated because the horses were part of the place's history and when the barn is developed none of them will remain. I don't suppose the new owners will think that where they live now, for hundreds of years, far beyond anything they'll ever achieve, horses were there.

I know things have to change. I know you can't hang on to the past, but I regret the passing of that calm, chewing quiet, I regret the history that will be trampled on, I mourn the fact that wanting something to be so is not enough. However much I might want it to be filled with horses again life is not like that, and I can't make it so.


Oh that we could fill these places with horses again!

My uncle has quite a collection of giant rusted horseshoes that he turns up when he is ploughing.

It always befuddles me why a shoe doesn't rust when it's on the foot but does when it comes off?
Jane said…
M&M - yes, I've wondered that. I wonder if it's the friction from the shoe on the ground that keeps the rust off (though even in the grooves there doesn't seem to be any). Odd, though. Maybe it's something in horses' hooves?
Gillian said…
I would guess shoes don't go rusty largely because they're not on the horse's hoofs long enough. The contact with ground will wear away early patches of rust, and I believe shoes are usually made of steel, which takes longer to rust than iron.
The shoe will wear down and have to be melted and remade before it has time to get rusty. That's my guess.

And I love Suffolks - how nice to learn of someone with a family connection.

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