Stories and tales I have picked up over the years,of farming in the Midlands of the United Kingdom,the house farm, and the village and all the characters that lived and worked here when I was growing up.
Monday, 19 March 2012
War Time Horses
I watched a program about War Horses the other night, only
to realise how many were taken from this country and North
America to work abroad during the First World War.
What an important role they played in the transportation of
supplies out to the front line in the most horrific conditions.
During the Second World War horses was still in short supply
but possibly for a very different reason, food shortage.
My own memories of the horses we had in the early 1940’s was
that we had two mares and a gelding, the mares stayed with us into old age when
tractors started to take all the hard work away from them, the gelding went to
a young farmer just starting up who needed the horse and his harness, and all this
as father had just bought his first Standard Fordson tractor.
The picture shows my father with Flower and Dolly mowing a
meadow by the brook at Brook House Farm Doxey.
It was quite a few years before the tractor took over the
job of mowing, because it would make it into a two man job. One to drive the
tractor the other to ride the mowing machine operating the lift and lowering
Ploughing and cultivating were the first heavy jobs taken
off the shire horses, with specifically designed two furrow ploughs and
cultivators the “trip” lifted and lowered into and out of work.
Around this time, and as it was years before, there came a
travelling Stallion came
round through the villages, with its handler both on foot.
He had a pack slung on the stallions back as he had farms were he was put up
for the night and his charge stabled.
As had happened in the First World War, horses were taken
for the war effort and mainly mares left to work on the farms where they could
be used to breed the next generation of work horses. A travelling stallion or a couple of stallions
in an area would be used to service the mares needed to be put in foal. The in
foal mares would work right up to foaling, and then often worked with the foals
following if the work allowed. That way they would be used to being handled and
the work environment they were brought up in.
So as the 1940’s progressed and tractors came in, there was
less and less need to breed more shire horses, and the travelling stallion had
further to travel between mares, and the practice stopped by the end of that
It was often pointed out by the old “wagoners” that horses
did not consume fuel while working, unlike the new tractors that were becoming
so popular. That was always countered by the tractor drivers by saying, ahaa
but the tractors don’t consume fuel while they are in the shed standing idle.
It was the young up and coming farm workers who took to the
tractors, and I can not recall any old wagoners ever changing over to using a
tractor. The change over came gradually, as the old men retired, so the old
shires were not replaced, and no more were bred on farms.
It was always a sad sight to see the shires being
transported to a knackers yard in the next village, they were brought in from a
wide area, their heads were above the top of the sides of the lorry and head
foreword over the cab with the wind blowing through their manes. Not all were
slaughtered, the fit and useful ones were grazed in an adjacent field where
anyone who still wanted a work horse could go and buy it off the field, and
this was often done.
In the Black Country there
was still a community who ate horse meat, and a butcher’s shop that sold
nothing else but horse meat, but as time went by that shop ceased to trade and
horse meat no longer available. That sort of trade then transferred to France,
and horse meat is now exported.
This was the
blacksmiths shop in the 1940's.
big cast iron circle out on the front was where the blacksmiths fastened down
the wooden cart wheels while hooping. The tall narrow door and lean too on the
right was the hoop oven where they heated the steel hoops, it has wooden
shutters on the widow holes but no glass, the double doors was where the horses
were taken in for shoeing, and the pile on the left hand side of the doors was
the pile of scrap horse shoes
I Remember Blacksmiths Shop
blacksmiths shop, all dingy dark and dusty,
Great big pile of
horse shoes outside, all a going rusty,
Tom Giles was smithies
name, all jolly strong and hot,
With shoeing father’s
horses, he did the blooming lot.
When setting off to
school one morn, the horses we would take,
To blacksmiths shop
for shoeing, would make us very late,
On going home for
dinner, these horses we would ride,
Pitched up high on
Flower, the others led with pride.
bending shaping, everything was there,
To make it new, or
fettle up, to make a good repair,
His stock of metal
had a rack, but most of it had missed,
It lay about in piles
around his forge, which was in its midst.
All day you’d hear
the hammer, a ringing out aloud,
Hitting out the red
hot metal, made him very proud,
The different shapes
and sizes, needed for a gate,
Lay around the
workshop floor, no need for him a mate.
Alone he worked all
day until; we kids came out of school,
Then he would be
invaded, his metal then would cool,
On his forge he put
his kettle, there to make some tea,
We kids tried out his
drilling tool, great flywheel turned by me,
With tongs we tried to
heat the metal, in the furnace hot,
To make and shape we
would try, to bend on anvil, but,
Not hot enough to
work it, so pump the bellows up,
It made the spark fly
every where, our school cloths covered us.
The water in the
blacksmiths shop, was warm to wash our hand,
With dowsing all the
things he’d made, red hot metal into bands,
With our cloths
soiled and singed, and not a hole in site, Mother knew where we
had been, she said it’s late it’s nearly night.
Old minds are like
old horses; you must exercise them if you wish to keep them in working order.
John Adams(1735 –