Today I'll take a break from my human characters (sorry, Harry!) and write in praise of their horsey companions.
In 1911 there were over 400,000 horses in New Zealand—this at a time when the human population was only around one million.
Horses were absolutely vital to the running of farms during the years my books are set. They provided the main means of transportation between farm and town for both people and goods, whether that was on horseback or by buggy, gig or cart. On the farms themselves, in those pre-tractor days the horses hauled ploughs; mowers to cut hay and wagons to cart it to the stacks; logs from the bush; wagon loads of harvested crops. The heavy horses used in this work were mostly Clydesdales, while lighter breeds were used for riding and for pulling lighter loads.
Looking after the horses took a great deal of time,with feeding, grooming and harnessing. They also needed to be shod regularly; blacksmiths and farriers were kept busy.
Only a small number of New Zealand farms use horses today. Tractors take a good deal less looking after—though it's hard to see them providing the same sort of companionship.
|A man clearing the land using a horse drawn plough. Hargreaves, Frederick Ashby, 1854-1946 :Collection of photographic prints and negatives. Ref: 1/1-023290-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23143279|