It was the first full day of our sole responsibility (along with Lifa). The alarm was set for a civilised 8am although I rose at 7 and enjoyed the peace of the early morning along with a cafetiere. During breakfast we allocated the tasks. I was on yard duties and feeding whilst Roger and Lifa would go out to the far pasture on foot to close up the forest horses and let the cows out for their water. On the way back they were going to do more fence repairs which had been identified the previous day.
I pottered around inefficiently but finally had everyone fed, watered, medicated and health checked as per the white board instructions in the porch. It will be much better in future now I know the ropes. By the time I’d cleared up in the house as well the others were back after a successful morning. We made a polenta pizza as Lifa is gluten-free as well and whilst it was cooking collected our mounts for the afternoon. Lifa was impressed at how easy it was as we didn’t have to chase to catch them! Not the first time we’ve heard that so perhaps we are doing something right.
After lunch we set off west. It is much easier to navigate by the 4 points of the compass when you only have 4 roads which happen to coincide. We crossed the road/track and headed up a side road/muddier track and decided to ride for 45 minutes before turning round to give us enough time to complete our evening jobs before going to a horse sale. The weather had stayed beautifully sunny although it was noticeable that the trees were beginning to adopt an autumnal yellow. We had left the conifers behind with the mountains so expect to enjoy a vibrant display amongst these deciduous trees. Kelly had suggested we ride up to the top of the hill which seemed a bit of an exaggeration but there was a definite rise. We entered a cut field at the top, walking the length of it to assess its evenness and then had a lovely controlled canter back. Back on the track the horses knew they were going home and upped the pace. I seem to have an affinity with horses who have to lead so decided to let Rocky go ahead as Lily was still ambling.
When we came back along the drive we planned to go straight on to the pastures to herd the cows back but the yard was to the left and Rocky was going that way, or so she thought. We had a little stand-off in the middle of the drive and I eventually managed to persuade her to go in the direction I wanted. We have quite a few battle of wills which I must win and do eventually. I was well practised from Sara. The cattle were on the early section of the route back so we had to actively encourage them along their way so we could close them in and open the gates for the forest horses. This was the best part of 3/4 mile through muddy bogs, over fallen trees and finally a grassy ‘lane’. This was real cowboy work! Thoroughly exhilarated, we felt that this was pinnacle of the experiences at the other ranches which enabled us to be fairly competent at the task and everything that we hoped for when we set off on our Canadian adventure. It was a similar process the following day when we moved them to a different pasture, no lassos required!
The horse sale was another story! We weren’t too bothered about going but ‘when in Rome…’ so we set off to the stockyard, arriving almost an hour before the sale started, deliberately so we could view our prospective purchases! We found our way, inadvertently, into the auction room but it was too early so we attempted to make our way around the stock lens but found ourselves completely outside. We returned and had to walk conspicuously across the sale floor, in front of all the locals, through the gate and down a dark muddy corridor. The pens were on either side, some occupied, some becoming occupied whilst we waited to pass. We ventured outside and viewed the forlorn specimens. Some looked reasonably healthy and even had little biographies of their stage in life, being sold due to lack of funds to feed them over winter. Others would have their owners be reported to the RSPCA, they were so emaciated, at least they’d be no good for dog food.
By the time we decided to return to the sale room many of the ‘lots’ were occupying the dark, dingey, defaecated corridor. Most were in a state of high anxiety and perpetual motion which impeded our progress somewhat. We ended up scaling a 6 foot gate and made our way, crab-like, along the side railings until we emerged at the door where we were released onto the brilliantly lit sale floor, like slaves at the Colosseum, gawped at by the onlookers. Trying to maintain an air of nonchalance we walked across and found some seats under a disinterested scrutiny.
The horses came though in ones and twos, anxious, dazed or even resigned to be assessed and condemned or, if really lucky, reprieved by someone who actually wanted them alive. Some sellers actually brought their’s onto the floor to promote their assets with limited success. The most expensive transaction was a lovely, healthy looking, thoroughly broken black horse who fetched $600, about £300! The cheapest we had spotted in the yards, an emaciated mare, the like of which I have never seen, managed to achieve £75, surely not for dog meat, she had no flesh, but yes.
It was a strange and somewhat depressing end to a fantastic day but realistic in terms of life in this unmaterialistic part of Canada where horse supply is plentiful and unsentimental. We wanted to buy them all, but couldn’t afford the shipping costs!