Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Wednesday Wonders - #1's Great Adventure!

#1 here. When I said I would post a few photos of my little adventure, I didn't realise how much of a challenge that would be. So, please bear with me if there are lots and lots of photos...

I was in the Ardennes region of Belgium, near the borders with France and Luxembourg. It is a heavily wooded area, famous for its own heavy-built breed of draft horse. The "Route du Luxembourg Belge", in which I was taking part with Team GB, is a combination of a non-stop 24-hour relay road race, done with ten pairs of heavy horses, and ten special competitions that include everything from heavy pull, to voice-control only obstacle driving, two and four in hand sports (marathon) obstacle driving, logging and dressage. Our team was made up of twelve Percherons, four Shires, two Suffolks and two Comtois. We came in seventh overall in the road race, sixth in the specials, and eight overall (figure that one out!), out of twelve teams competing.

First of all, here is what the local big boys look like:

The Ardennais horse is pretty wild and woolly!

One of the first things that happened was the measuring, weighing-in and vetting of all the horses. Here you see Robert Sampson, one of the best breeders/trainers of draft horses in England, with his stallion Axl and Axl's "wife" Crystal. These two live together in the same paddock, and Crystal will be having a foal by Axl next spring.

On that day, I was  lucky enough to go out on Claire McDermott's Percheron four-in-hand, with Tzena, Quetsche, Moon and Connie. It was very wet and getting up and down was a challenge, but what a view!

Those rope harnesses, by the way, are a completely different kind of harness made by a German company. They are much lighter than the standard leather or fake leather harnesses. Ours were in our team colours, red and blue. Guess what colour I am planning to order for Violette?

One of Ken Young's magnificent Shires waiting to start in the voice-command obstacle driving:

Dan Brown's lovely Suffolk, Marigold, at the logging competition:

The road race started at 7pm and went until 7pm the next day. It was mostly run in pouring rain. Dan Young's Marigold and Obie started us off in Stage 1:

Claire McDermott's Tzena and Quetsche going through a town:

A brave Harry Sampson going through the forest with Galley and Isabelle:

In case you were wondering, every vehicle carries a driver and a groom. The groom stands at the back and stabilises the vehicle as it goes around bends and over bumps. The nickname for grooms is "monkey"!

The Shires, Storm and Fern, being driven in to to a relay by 18-year old Peter Young:

As each pair came into a relay, our team vet checked the horses' heart rates before the official race vet. The heart rates are of course an indication of how fit the horses are:

Robert Sampson's Axl and Crystal on a country lane:

One of the relay points was this rather nice privately owned chateau:

The last of the specials, on Sunday (the one day it did not rain!), was a four-in-hand obstacle driving competition. Eighteen-year old Peter Young drove his family's four Shires (Storm, Fern, Ebony and Willow) brilliantly to end up third, well ahead of drivers with years, if not decades, more driving experience than iim!

Peter then came to collect his prize riding Storm in full harness!

The very last event was a parade of all teams through the town of Libramont. We did a tribute to the big horses of the First World War with a six-horse hitch pulling a (fake) gun:

We also put together a "Lord mayor's Coach" from a standard marathon racing vehicle, pulled by the four Shires, and it turned out rather well!

And another vehicle was transformed into a hay wagon by the Brown family, pulled by its pair of Suffolks:

And last but not least, here are a few of us at the Award Ceremony:

My knee did remarkably well throughout, despite a pretty gruelling pace!


  1. Wow! That was some event! And what gorgeous horses they all are!

  2. Those horses are magnificent!! ALL of them. Of course "our" horses, the V's, are the best in the world but we can acknowledge beauty and hard work in others as well. What a great adventure and I must ask, how did the Ardennais horse get those "leggings" and are they specifically groomed to look like that or do they appear like that naturally?

    LOVE all of the pictures. xox

  3. Our favourite picture is of the Ardennais horse with the lovely mane and those spectacular "leg warmers".
    Luv Hannah and Lucy xx xx

  4. WOW. They are very beautiful and very strong. We can feel the power through the pictures. The events looked very exciting and exhausting as well we think.

  5. Those horses are fantastic, gorgeous
    Benny & Lily

  6. Amazing! Those horses all worked so hard at their competition. Glad you are back home now.

    Your friends,
    Niamh & Ambrose

  7. Wonderful photos and a wonderful adventure! LP says she would love to be a "helpful monkey" behind a driver! :)

    All the horses are truly magnificent! We are certain Violette will love her violet harness :)

    the critters in the cottage xo

  8. what fun...and congrats!! mom says "holy tomatoes those horses are HUGE" MOL

  9. All these horses are beautiful, and they are so big, and look so forceful ! We showed the pictures to our neighbors Boubou and Alicia, two mares : they couldn't believe their eyes ! Purrs, and extra-headbutts to #1

  10. Wow, that was quite an event! And all those gorgeous horses! So glad your knee held up - that looks like it was a lot of work!

  11. Ce n'était pas une petite aventure, plutôt une grande et .... pesant son poids!
    J'aime tout particulièrement l'Ardennais et Marigold. Ils sont beaux, majestueux.

  12. Absolutely fabulous. What a wonderful time you had. Loved all the pictures. Hugs GJ x

  13. The large breeds of horses are so magnificent! There are a lot of them nearby to where I live, in Amish country, still being used in the fields; watching them work is always a treat when we visit Lancaster County (Pennsylvania). There was certainly a stunning variety of truly spectacular creatures at this event -- I can see why you enjoy it so much!

  14. Great photos of all these magnificent horses. Glad you had such a good time.

  15. That was so exciting even to read! It sounds like you all had a great time despite rain and your knee for you. Awesome!
    Thanks for sharing the photos with us.
    Lily, WA, USA

  16. Thanks for sharing those amazing pictures. What a fun event that would have been to see.


  17. Well done by all. We should know that you would mention all the horsies by name. Our Grampie used to talk about the horsies he had on the farm growing up. All by name. Pet, Cornell, Mae were a few we can remember.

  18. What lovely photos and horses! And you look like you have a great time. What an exciting event and thanks for sharing it with us. Concats on having done so well, too.


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