We made our goodbyes to a good horse this week. Jack was brother and teammate to Jay, the half Suffolk, half Belgian drafts we bought in 2006. He and Jay were very well matched in looks, but easy to tell apart in the pasture based on temperament.
Jay would lean in for a pat, while Jack would flinch at a touch, as though affection hurt him. That is, if you could get close enough to touch him. Some days, catching him was the hardest job on the list. But once at work, he was stoic and dutiful. As soon as he felt a lead rope slip over his neck he resigned himself to it, and became a different horse, all business, no resistance. He gave everything he had in harness, without being cajoled. He reminded me of an old Spartan, devoid of joy or soft feelings, but steely to the core and entirely reliable in his dedication to the cause.
Jack was at least 25, maybe 28, which is very old indeed for a draft horse. The last few years, we left him out of the hard long hitches but he still did many hours of light cultivation. He and Jay were the perfect team for training new teamsters. Nothing surprised them, nothing made them bolt, and they were patient with mistakes. Jack started losing weight last fall, and continued to go downhill this winter; this week he began to look uncomfortable, so we decided the most humane thing would be to put him down. Farewell, good horse, and thank you for all the miles we traveled together. Continue reading this Essex Farm Note.