We’re two-thirds of the way through two weeks of March Break and have had loads of fun, minimal catastrophes…and lots of laughs.
We’ve been to Casa Loma with children and Grandma, for a tour of the grand house and an encounter with enough pirates to shiver yer timbers. Incidentally…what’s a pirate's favorite letter of the alphabet? ARRRRGH!
There have been friends to play with and today an unexpected blessing.
Our dear friend Claire, from Writer’s Nest has a farm, on which she keeps about 35 horses, 1 pony, 1 donkey, 1 sheep, 4 chickens, 1 bunny, a few cats, and a dog.
Joyful Fox and I offered to bring the children down to help with the chores, as Claire’s son Craig is in rehab after a stroke and unable to keep the farm. Various people have been pitching in over the months to help out.
However, the journey today was not work for us, but a time of blessing.
We arrived at 10:30am on the dot. The fields were full of horses, one paddock with the heavy, blonde, Belgian horses, and farther off another paddock with smaller, lighter pleasure horses, resting, pulling hay from the large round bales stuffed in the racks.
Claire met us outside, greeting us with her gentle smile and warm hug, then led us into the barn, warm with the musty, rich smell of horse manure, dust and hay.
Our first stop was to watch the blacksmith, as he trimmed and filed great horse feet. His helpers were Amanda, who boards her horse Maxie there, and Joan, Claire’s daughter, as gentle and welcoming as her mother.
We saw horses in their stalls, a bay, then a small, fine boned chestnut, flighty and nervous as he circled round his stall. Then the little appaloosa mare next door, heavy with foal and feeling ornery, ears flattening against her head every time the chestnut approached on the other side of the bars. “Why are you so grouchy?” I whispered in at her, and Ellen laughed “Because she’s 9 months pregnant Ang, remember how that feels”. We chuckled.
Then Amanda was leading us up steep wooden stairs through a trap door into the loft of the old barn. There, rectangular hay bales were piled high, and gigantic round straw bales lay like great balls of string on the plank floor.
Climbing heaven! The children clambered and jumped over bales, scrambled up and down ladders that rose to the ceiling, then climbed down and swung on a rope slung over one of the great beams reaching from end to end in the old structure. The smell was like August in the fields, when the giant mowers and balers form the clover filled grass into twine wrapped bales.
Then it was time to go outside. The children descended the stairs carefully, adults after them, passing Button the sheep on their way outside to meet two young horses, not yet a year old.
Amanda haltered them in their paddock and lead them to us. Sweet faced, baby eyed, weanlings. They were cautious only for a few moments and then pressed in, sniffing and snuffing at the children hanging over the fence. They were Monkey and Timbit, accurately named as Monkey nibbled and shoved at small child faces and mittens. Michael, my 5 year old was enamored, wanted to take a Monkey home with him.
We strolled over to the field where the Belgians were kept. These gentle giants were a study in classic beauty, as they lumbered over to the fence, hesitant at first, yet curious to sniff and say hello. As long as the children were still and held out their hands quietly, the horses would stay. If anyone made an abrupt move, they would shy away.
There were young and old, stallions and mares in the group, some expectantly round of belly. And they were hankering for attention, standing in a row of magnificent, horsey beauty, gazing out of gentle, cautious, brown eyes.
As our group left the fence, the scene remaining was Joan, in the field, surrounded by large, blonde horses, sniffing, communing, visiting, enjoying, and her resting in the grace of the moment. Such a gift!
Next Amanda led us into the barn to groom Maxie, her sweet paint horse, and then blessed each of us with a ride. The children each chose a brush or curry comb from the bin and were instructed on how to groom correctly, scrubbing off dirt, then brushing firmly, following Maxie’s fur in the right direction. Then on went the saddle blanket and finally the tan coloured western saddle. Joan told the children to watch Maxie’s ears as the girth was done up around her middle to hold on the saddle. With each tug to tighten it, Maxie’s ears went flat back and she swung her head at Amanda as if to say “Ease up, you know I don’t like this part”. But then it was on and she was fine.
Joshua was up first, and for his first time on a horse, he sat like a knight, learning how to hold the reins correctly and direct the horse where he wanted her to go.
Each child had a turn, full of smiles, excited voices and satisfaction as Amanda gave them a little instruction. And nobody fell off.
While the children waited their turn, Joan took them in turns to Teddy, another horse in the arena, and taught them how to pick out his hooves. They were occupied and loved. We were so blessed.
After the riding was done, Amanda gave a little riding demonstration, showing how Maxie could go over a jump. Even though she hesitated at first, Amanda’s patience and coaching paid off and soon, to the tune of cheering children, Maxie was sailing over the crossbar.
Then it was time to go.
After taking photos together, Joan led the children to the chicken coop where they were allowed to find eggs and say goodbye to the bunny. Then the eggs were added to a dozen for each family from the farm house.
Such a day, of welcome, gentleness and kindness.
Thank you Claire, Joan and Amanda! You blessed us more than you can know.
May God bless you with a double portion … “a good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” Luke 6:38