Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 29, 2005

There’s been lots of talk lately about horses and I read somewhere there are more than 7,000 of them quartered here in Suffolk’s 430 square miles, or just over 16 per square mile. So according to that there ought to be a familiar odor wafting just about everywhere in Suffolk…perfume compared to pig effluent.

I say familiar because it would be a rare human being that has not come in at least odor contact with what a horse’s digestive system can do to green grass or hay. To me it’s a surprising number in the year 2005. When I was a boy back in the thirties a horse pulling a wagon was far more natural than a man driving motorized wheels. Those little clumps horses involuntarily drop on the pavement during a parade today were as ordinary yesteryear as leaves on the trees. Ladies wearing even fully closed toe shoes carefully crossed streets back then and kittenish kids often threw the &uot;apples&uot; indiscriminately.

And then, as now, millions of tons of them were spread and tilled into vegetable gardens with no government agency around to warn the public of the danger if there was one. And you never saw such fat tomatoes.

Email newsletter signup

I get to visit a herd of them, the horses not the apples, well maybe both, on a regular basis over at HorseSpa Farm on Crittenden Road where my middle daughter, Wendy Parker, has 157 acres devoted to pasture for the critters. And these are mostly just plain horses…no John Henrys or Secretariats gamboling about showing off their breeding. But they get more love and just as much care from their owners and farm employees than those bred for racing. This is a new facility with an all steel barn and pasture shelters for about 40 though currently only 17 equines enjoy splendor in the grass. More will be welcome when the acre size ring is completed and all pastures completely fenced for horse safety.

I was flattered and proud that Andy Damiani, his idea, picked the farm to do his latest Roundtable Talk TV show provided to the public by Prime Media and Charter 13. I’m sure it was because of the recent talk about a recreational complex being considered for near the village of Driver that will provide space for horse shows.

There is great INTEREST in such a facility (the PRINCIPLE will run about $46 million) and it is already in the planning stage. If it comes off as described it will be far more of a &uot;centerpiece&uot; for Suffolk, than the courthouse or the cultural center. (And it won’t be downtown) A small voice inside me says there are more folks interested in recreation than culture. Like I said before…support bacteria, it is the only culture I have.

In a short year or so I have learned a lot more about horses than I wanted to know. How and what they eat at HorseSpa; each are on special diets. I didn’t know horses, today, must have a balanced intake of hay and grass plus supplements and worm controls. Weight is watched carefully, as are hooves, and care is taken to ward off as many flies as possible. They wear fly masks to protect the face and eyes and there are large flytraps controlling the population. My mother never worried about such things but did make us wear shoes when playing outside, until we got out of sight.

These spoiled animals are moved from pasture to pasture and stabled horses brought inside during the hot part of the day. We kids had only to be back home by suppertime. Even their water is cleaned daily and temperature regulated. We didn’t even have ice to spare back in the thirties. I got nothing but a disdainful glare from the vet when I asked where they stick the daily thermometer.

I have to say I’m proud of my &uot;child,&uot; she and her farm manager, Terry Peterfeso, have erected miles of stout fences by themselves. I gave them a day of fence labor last winter but it was too much for me. To help out nowadays I just plant myself on the big tractor and pull a 12-foot wide mower around a few acres at a time. Very relaxing until I realize if I fall asleep I’ll knock out a gate or a hundred yards of fence. That thought keeps me wide-awake because I fear the wrath of my petite but well-muscled daughter.

And I am pleased that they named a 12 acre pasture after me…until I found out it was for the old horses. All the pastures have meaningful names. There is the &uot;Intake&uot; pasture where a new horse is quarantined, mine, for the elderly, is called &uot;Pock’s,&uot; another &uot;Nirvana,&uot; another &uot; Battlefield, and the last one is &uot;Field of Dreams.&uot; There is room on the farm for more pastures that will be fenced as the population grows. Surrounding neighbors are pleased that these 157 acres of Chuckatuck is not going to be planted with houses. I asked one horse, about 25 years old, if he knew where he was. &uot;Heaven,&uot; he said, &uot;I told Wendy if she would build it they would come.&uot;

Robert Pocklington lives in Suffolk and is a regular News-Herald columnist. He can be reached at robert.pocklington@suffolknewsherald.com.