This magnificent creature is a Belgian horse. You may be used to seeing them in a chestnut colour. These two big boys were the only foals out of 13 born to their dam to come out black. They're a striking pair, and go by the names Jack and Joe.
Jude pays his respects to Jack.
Just around the bend from the cabin where we celebrated an early Christmas is Twin Wheels Farm, the home of our hosts, Joe and Carole Van Massenhoven. Joe (the man) is Belgian, too, and hitched these boys up to take us all on a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the woods.
"Jingle Bells" is one of the more over-played and schmaltzy of Christmas songs, but I'll admit, we were all charmed by the shush of the sleigh's runners on the snow, the muffled hoofbeats, and the silvery jingle of the sleighbells. The beauty of travelling without any impact on the environment or motor-noise, the pastoral setting and cold air on our cheeks, our hands warm under the blankets all conspired to create the most idyllic of winter moments.
The power of these animals is absolutely awesome. After we travelled down to the lake, they had to pull us up a rather long and steep hill. They dug in, haunches straining, and worked as reliably as any 4x4 to pull us up, encouraged by Joe's verbal prompts, including "Dig in, Joe!!" Once they reached the top, they took a short rest, chests heaving, breathing strained. I could only imagine the thundering of their large, powerful hearts. Incredible animals, are horses.
My niece, Meredith, found it all very calming!
My brother looked totally blissed out, whether from the sleigh ride or from being cozied up with his new fiancee, Ada, I don't know!
My sister Lana sat up front with Jude.
It is a beautiful thing to watch an experienced horseman with animals he has raised and trained; they communicate through sounds, words, and body language. These giant beasts obey Joe, and are willing to work for him. It is what they were born to do. It is extreme to imagine a world where horses are once again put into service as transportation and farm labour...but there's no harm in extreme imaginings, is there?
The sound of the runners on snow combined with the swaying of the sleigh put little Violet to sleep.
But she woke up in time to join us all in the farmhouse for homemade cookies, hot apple cider, and a visit with some newly-born Pomeranian puppies. No, I'm not kidding. Twin Wheels Farm is THE place for warm hospitality and a truly rural-Canadian experience.