Draft Horse Competition in Slovakia
This last weekend we went up to Bytča in northern Slovakia to a small draft horse competition, something I’ve been wanting to go to for some time. In the more rural parts of Slovakia work horses are still used on smaller farms.
As we drove north the hills become higher and closer together and, about 15 minutes from our destination, we drove into winter. Snow lay thick on conifer trees, low bushes still held the snow. My oldest daughter loves winter as much as I do and she kept exclaiming, “Oh, look, Mom, snow! It’s so beautiful!”
When we arrived the snow started falling, fat fluffy flakes so thick sometimes you could barely see. Along one side of the grounds were tents selling decorated gingerbread, handmade cowboy type boots and hats, harnesses and other paraphernalia for horses, sheep cheese and wooly knits, balloons and kid’s toys, goulash, and coffee.
We arrived towards the end of the wagon slalom.
There was one major difficulty in travelling where we knew nobody to watch an outdoor activity in the winter, or rather, I should say two difficulties. The two year old twins started out well enough, but their feet quickly became cold and I spent a good deal of time trying to distract or placate one or both. That means that instead of snapping a gazillion photos like I wanted to, I was trying to balance a snow suited child on one hip while trying to sneak a photo with one hand.
The next event, a log obstacle course, was my favourite. The driver could only walk as the horses were required to pull a long log through pylons, get unhitched and hitched again, and separate on each side of the log. I was glad to see two women drivers among the fourteen teams.
I’m afraid I don’t know the finer points of working with horses, but it was fascinating to watch each pair. Some horses were placid, others a little more high strung; some well trained and others less so. Drivers who could predict what to do and others who were less skillful.
I enjoy the atmosphere of groups of men watching and liberally commenting with advice, observations, and horse talk.
“Girl, girl, shorten up on your reigns. Ah, it’s no use.”
“Those horses’ legs are too skinny to be hitting the wood like that, that’s when it’s dangerous. They aren’t trained to do that.”
“No, no, don’t pull straight forward, to the side, to the side, that’s it.”
The third event was a heavy log pull. The teams started out hitched to two logs and picked up two more separate logs on the way. At each stop they only had three tries to get the horses pulling.
I have a couple photos of the above team, and in every one the horse on the right is pulling for all he is worth, while the one on the left is not quite so enthusiastic. Another team, the one in the top photo, got along fine when not working, but when pulling the darker one would bite the lighter one.
On our way home, we stopped at my in laws to warm up and eat. On the way back to the car, the very same twins who cried and whined a good chunk of the time, wanted to be held and to warm up in the car, said, “See horses? More horses?” And before bed, “Horses sleeping?” And the next morning, “Horses go home?”
Jan 09, 2015 @ 21:37:30
Really interesting article Naomi. It wakes up some part of me, that loves working horses and being around them. It’s charming that horses are still being used as draft horses in Slovakia. They are here as well, but not commonly.
Jan 11, 2015 @ 20:20:37
As one travels north and/or east from where I live, it’s like stepping back in time. I’m afraid I’m not much of a horsewoman, though I would like to learn better (among the million other things I would like to learn more of). I love to look at draft horses, but am intimidated by their size if they aren’t ultra placid.
Jan 09, 2015 @ 23:32:14
Wow, very interesting, Thank You!!! ( I hear babies 🙂
You are an adventuresome mommy 🙂
Jan 11, 2015 @ 20:12:08
Glad you enjoyed it! Yes, the kids are there – actually, in the video I was answering their question, not talking to the video. I was feeling less adventurous when I was there and was kind of wishing I had gone without the twins (not that that’s possible really), but I was glad afterwards when they enjoyed the horses so much.
Jan 10, 2015 @ 00:28:33
Beautiful! Thanks for sharing.
Jan 11, 2015 @ 20:08:03
Glad you enjoyed it!
Jan 10, 2015 @ 16:06:11
Beautiful photos, and interesting story. It looks sooooo cold, though!
Jan 11, 2015 @ 20:03:36
After my feet were numb it was ok 🙂
Margo, Thrift at Home
Feb 19, 2015 @ 05:15:59
so enchanting. I have always loved horses and these are beautiful photos! Such pretty harnesses, too.
Apr 28, 2017 @ 02:38:22
Interesting story, Naomi. Reminds me of our time around Ft Wayne, IN, and the pony pulls and horse pulls that were common competitions. Next time in Slovakia, we’ll try to hook up with these events. They sound exciting.
Apr 28, 2017 @ 10:38:54
Thanks! I love watching horses, so it was very interesting to watch. They are mostly held in the winter.