Titled “Draft Horses,” this piece show us the massive strength as well as the sensitive tenderness of these “gentle giants.”
Draft horses are not common in our Valley. I grew up with quarter horses and mules but there was a farm down the road with some draft horses. As a child I remember thinking that the drafts seemed gigantic. Their hooves were massive compared to a quarter horse. You definitely didn’t want to get kicked or stepped on by accident! They were much taller, wider, and stronger than typical ranch horses. Traditionally referred to as “work horses,” they are trained to pull the heavy carriages and plows to till the fields in the old days. Draft horses are basically built like natural machines. They are clearly the inspiration for the term “horse power” that we use to measure the power of modern day motor vehicle engines.
Natural and graceful, draft horses are a sight to admire. Their stature states grace and power. In my painting we see their power wrapped in sleek gold coats and with thick blonde and white manes draping the massive arching necks. Some drafts are all black, others all brown. To me, they all are wonderful examples of extreme natural beauty, immense natural strength and innate kindness.
Draft horses are often seen in small town parades. Dressed in a full regalia of artfully made leather reins and harnesses, pulling the fancy old time wagons, the draft horse is a throw-back to the days before automobiles and industrialism and materialism. The cinematic and now legendary Budweiser advertisements mesmerized me as a child. I remember vividly seeing the full-page photos of these magnificent, awe-inspiring beasts in Life Magazine- a magazine to which my parents subscribed.
As a young girl I looked at these draft horses like I looked at the big Brahma Bulls - as gorgeous gentle giants. To me they are like “gods that roam the Earth.” I’ve learned a lot about safety and tenderness and high sensitivity from the horses and cattle in my life.
Childhood side note:
When recalling the images in Life Magazine, I’m reminded how much time I spent soaking up those iconic full color double-page-spread cinematic photographs. It was a form of entertainment for me, which makes me think of our old T.V. At some point my family had a small black and white television with minimal reception, one or two semi-reliable channels at best. Writing this piece for my painting “Draft Horses” brings me back to the days when my brothers and I would venture outside on cold, dark nights, sometimes in pouring rain, and climb the barbed wire fence that had a wooden fence post that also had a tall, galvanized pipe to which the T.V. antennae was attached. I remember I’d have to use all my might (precariously perched on the barbed wire fencing, often times in my pink fluffy slippers or my brothers " too big for me" cowboy boots and bathrobe,) to crank the antennae one way or another in search of a better TV signal. The protocol was that one of us stood by the T.V. where we could see the screen reception in the living room and yelled from the house across the yard to the “antennae turner” to turn it one way or another, forward or backward, “turn it just a tiny bit more this way” or “no- no! – turn it back the other way -just a bit,” “now forward—no, no stop-- gone too far!” lol--- on and on it would go until we finally give up on ever getting any kind of “decent” signal and have to settle on accepting the best mediocre reception we could get on any given day or night. I laugh now thinking back how much time we devoted to trying to get that T.V. signal to come in! I remember we also used an awful lot of tin foil and old wire coat hangers to try to enhance the signal on the “rabbit ears” antennae on the actual T.V unit. What a sight it all was… us hillbilly kids-- we were so determined! Sometimes we were super lucky and would get a third station to come in-- and then we could watch Star Trek after school (if our mom was still at work) (Oh- I sure loved watching Star Trek on those lucky days!!)
But mostly I think about how I soaked up much of the real-life-full-color “movie scene” on a day-to-day basis just living in the country. Nature, animals, and the outdoor experience filled my eyes and nervous system and mind. Today I’m thankful that the T.V. reception was generally terrible and that our mother restricted TV time. I don’t miss the endless hours of having to help weed our mother’s garden and the endless chores of feeding animals and ranch life, but honestly,… without a T.V., my imagination soared.