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Web of Interconnections: Babe

By Jessie & Randy Mermel, On-Farm Educators

Babe is one of our most gracious farm hosts.  She happily obliges visiting children to brush and pet her as she stands there, eyelids heavy with the pleasure of attention.    For many children who visit the farm, Babe is the first horse they have ever touched.  Her affectionate nature helps ease any apprehension about her massive size.  Naturally, she is one of the most popular animals on our farm.

We celebrate Babe, our lovely black Percheron horse, this month as she turns 30 on May 14th!  30 is an advanced age for a horse.  In human years, Babe would be right around 85.   Tom Spaulding, Co-founder and Executive Director of Angelic Organics Learning Center brought Babe and fellow horse Flash to the farm back around 2000.

Tom tells the story of Babe:  “I bought her from a Percheron breeder who bought her from a farm where she was a work horse.  He told me that she was the dominant mare in every Percheron, draft, horse, Angelic Organics, organic, plow, AOLC, Tom Spauldingherd.   She has many desirable traits and her owners (including me) have tried to breed her but never successfully.  In spite of this, or perhaps because of this, she was always the matriarch who attracted the foals from the herd.   When we bought her and had her temporarily at a neighbor's horse farm (we were fixing our fences), the foals of other horses would find a way to wiggle under or around the electric fences to get in with Babe.  Often, I would arrive in the morning for feeding and she would have another horse's foal with her.”  Babe just has that animal magnetism!  

The Percheron breed of “diligence” horses originated from Northern France in the province formerly known as Le Perche.  They were originally bred as warhorses. Percherons are known for their intelligence and willingness to work.  According to Tom Spaulding, “She was always the horse in the team that wanted to work, was excited to work!  She would nip at her partner in the team if she was too slow to keep up.  I had to poke other horses in the rear end to step into a job, but that never happened with Babe.  She was the horse that I always had to tell ‘walk Babe’ or ‘slow Babe’, as she was so eager to lean into whatever job was before her."  The name "diligence horse" certainly fits her well.  

Rudolf Steiner, the father of Biodynamics, taught that every farm should aspire to be a self-contained individuality, or organism, a condition that requires having the appropriate kinds and number of livestock on the farm. According to the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association, “The horse is as important as ever for generating fertilizer, while its usefulness as an energy-independent, nonpolluting source of work energy is greater than ever.” Babe is retired now from her work as a draft horse, but Tom Spaulding once would hook her up to pull wagons or cut hay, much like Farmer John Peterson’s uncle demonstrated in the old 8 mm footage from The Real Dirt on Farmer John. 

Now, Babe’s role in the farm organism is to supply us with valuable manure for the compost to restore the vitality and balance of the soil.  Her kind, gentle spirit also adds the softness and wisdom of a grandmother to the personality of the farm. You can find peace by simply by spending time with her.  “Babe has an amazing presence,” says Tom Spaulding.   “I have always had the feeling that Babe is like a huge black hole, like those in space that pull all matter into it, but rather than matter she pulls all grief and other raw emotion right out of you.  10 minutes with Babe is worth multiple visits to a therapist!”  Happy Birthday, Babe!  We celebrate you!

Percheron, horse, Angelic Organics Learning Center, AOLC