Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Day at the Fair - Part Two

Photography, of course, was not all that was on display at the Cowichan Exhibition. Inside Mellor Hall were many hundreds of exhibits, from flowers to fine art, collectibles and crafts, baking and quilting and even old treasures and stamps and homemade wine. It was a feast for the eyes and fun to see what people’s creativity enabled them to produce.

Inside Mellor Hall

But the indoor exhibitions are just a small part of the fair. Outside are rows of farm machinery, portable sawmill demonstrations, barns full of animals, riding competitions, the mini-donut trailer and other fair foods, and countless other things to see and do.

Lower field

I meandered down to the lower field where the farm equipment and other outdoor displays were on show. School kids favoured this display of old hand pumps and spent ages pumping and watching the clear water spill out, letting it splash on their hands and shirts:

Kids having fun

Farm machinery in bright reds and blues and greens and yellows made for a colourful sight, though my friend and I couldn’t help wonder about the company that came up with this name for their machine:

I think I prefer "John Deere"!

Returning back up to the barns, I watched an interesting demonstration of sheep shearing using hand shears, then a manually powered set of clippers, and finally today’s modern electric clippers. Having helped with alpaca shearing myself, I found the differences between how sheep and alpaca are sheared interesting. The shearer at the fair, an Australian who ‘retired’ from full time shearing but still does it on the side, was highly skilled and had a kind and gentle touch with the animals. This girl didn’t seem to mind the process in the least and never showed any signs of panic or stress:

Shearer explains the process

Just a little off the top, please!

Mmmmmm.....Old Spice, or is that Shearer's Special?

Aw shucks, did I say I wanted a buzz cut?

Here, the children in the audience helped power the hand-cranked machine for the early prototypes of electric shears.

The necessity of annual shearing was brought home when the shearer’s daughter told us of a sheep left unsheared for four years, whose coat, when soaked with rain, weighed hundreds of pounds. What a relief that sheep must have felt once all that fleece was removed!

And then there were the horses. Ohhhh the horses – thoroughbreds and standardbreds, Norwegians and Icelandics, and one that I had never seen before but heard of just recently on someone’s blog  (though now I can't remember where and can't locate it on the ones I read regularly) – a saddlebred.


I was puzzled by the saddlebred, for it looked positively deformed and terribly thin. The huge dip behind its shoulders accentuated the clearly visible ribs and gave it an awkward stance that made my own back hurt to look at. I asked a horseperson nearby if this was how a saddlebred was supposed to look – if it was a good example of the type and close to the ‘standard’ of the breed – but she didn’t know much about them though she did point me to an information poster.

I’m still at a loss, and I know I have horsey readers here so I’m hoping for some enlightenment. What I want to know is this – does a typical saddlebred have such a pronounced dip/swayback? Do their ribs usually show? Are they a fairly rare breed or is it just coincidence that I’ve never seen them before? Do they require a different type of saddle than other riding horses to accommodate that sway back? Are they prone to orthopedic problems more than other breeds? (I can’t help thinking of the German Shepherd show standards that favour a sloped back to such an extent that the breed is now plagued with hip, leg and spine problems!). Here's a closer shot of the saddlebred at the fair, though I must say it doesn’t look quite as shocking as it did in person, partly because I couldn’t get a good angle to take a photograph without the fence rail being in the way.:

This post is quite long enough, so I will leave one more set of photos (including more horsey ones!) and another topic with some food for thought for tomorrow.


Jean said...

I should add that I did research Saddlebreds online, and found none with a pronounced 'saddle' like this one, and the standard suggests it shouldn't be swayback:
But maybe there are other standards in Canada - the link above is American?

Renae from Stillwater said...

The swayback is a genetic condition called lordosis. It is a fault in breed conformation standard. Fortunatly for the horse, however, it does not make them unuseful. You just have to take care in fitting the saddle and use special pads. Saddlebreds are traditionally shown in a flat English saddle with a cutback pommel, called a Saddle Seat or Lane Fox saddle. They are also shown western, hunt seat, dressage, and are used in most every sort of equine activity. The Canadian studbook follows the American studbook. The breed is also very popular in South Africa and is gaining popularity in Australia, Germany and Sweden. For more information see and Equestrian Life has several informational videos about Saddlebreds.

Jean said...

Renae, thank you! So I was correct in thinking this was not a good example of the breed. Surprising that the owner chose to show it. I didn't see any other saddlebreds there, so maybe being the only entry allowed the owner to win a first place ribbon and/or some points (like in dog shows?) regardless of the fault.

Funder said...

I love a good fair. Old farm machinery is the best!

That horse isn't unhealthily thin, either. It's thinner than I like to see mine - but a horse can lose 50-100 lbs in the course of an endurance ride, so I err on the side of having a little more padding. But the Saddlebred's ribs are just barely visible, and it has decent muscles, so I think it's healthy enough. :) Sure has a lovely coat, too!

EvenSong said...

I was going to mention Lordosis, but Renae beat me to it. It is a genetic anomalie, that is more common in some breeds than others--and Saddlebreds are one of those. It is different from age-related sway back, which is more about muscles and ligaments losing their strength as a horse ages.
I agree with Funder--the horse's shiny coat speaks of good nutrition, and there looks to be plenty of muscle over the hip bones and shoulders, and fat stores at the tailhead. Yeah, a little more weight wouldn't hurt, but these days obesity in the norm, so a horse in good working condition often looks "skinny" to many.
Saddlebreds are probably more popular and common in the eastern half of the continent, but have a good reputation as all around riding mounts. They can be either 3-gaited (walk, trot, canter) or 5-gaited (add the rack and the slow-gait). I think it was favorite equine author from my youth, Margaret Campbell Self, who told the story of showing her Saddlebred in a hunt seat class, winning the class, then smartly racking out of the arena!

Anonymous said...

My horse Duke was a Saddlebred and while they're not exactly a common breed here in BC, there are quite a few of them around. I rode my boy western-style for most of our nearly thirty years together and he had wonderfully smooth action that included amazing slow trot which glided along and really covered a lot of ground in an energy efficient way. He was a real pleasure to ride, just as the breed was meant to be. He also had a wonderful temperament; I used to tell people he was like a big golden retriever - he'd give you a big, wet lick if you didn't watch out! As he aged, he developed quite a sway-back, although nowhere near as pronounced as the horse in the photo.

One thing that's happened to the breed over the past few decades is that they have been bred for an increasingly refined look, making them slimmer and less substantial than the breed once was. Saddlebreds like my old guy were sturdier horses with lots of bone. Now they're much different although they still have many of the same characteristics, including the elegent, upright head carriage. I can't help but think that this reduced bone mass, coupled with the long back that helps give them their unique gait, has lead the breed to deformities like lordosis.

Anyway, thanks for sharing and for getting me reminiscing about my own Saddlebred. I miss him still and he's been gone for more than eight years now.

Deb S.

Kim Sanders said...

Jean, I stumbled upon this blog post as I have been doing research on my own saddlebred horse I own. I am still learning about them, but the place I found the most information is directly at a saddlebred farm, which is in Duncan, where that exact horse is located. You are more than welcome to visit!! They would love to educate you.