The Mental Ecstasy of a Belgian Draft Horse

     I fell in love all over again last August at the Iowa State Fair–with sixteen stunning two-hitch teams of Belgian draft horses. 

     We had the good luck to be milling about the horse barns when the teams were lined up and paraded out along the avenue that led them into the Pavilion where the sled pulling competition was about to start.  

     The calm, intelligent, cooperative demeanor of these gigantic beauties brought the foot traffic along the roadway to a stop. There’d been high-dressed, glossy horses of various breeds out and about on the avenue all that morning, but none of them commanded the attention that the Belgians did as they made their way to the competition ring. I’m always in awe when something can grab onto the human collective and cause it to get quiet for a bit. It was dang near a spiritual moment. I wanted it to last. 

     When we caught up with the crowd, it was standing room only inside the Pavilion. During the competition each team had its turn in the center of the ring where the driver held them in ready position while two men, one on each side, stood poised to attach the team to the sled loaded with weights. When the judge signaled them to begin, the two men moved in to attach the rigging in a synchronized manner and then backed out of the way very quickly because the minute those horses felt “the attaching” they began to pull that heavy sled. They didn’t wait for any prodding from their driver. They knew what needed to be done.  

     I have loved the working class horses since childhood when I experienced their commanding pride from the sidelines of a parade. The only times I was able to enjoy them were in parades, and while I couldn’t have articulated then what it was that affected me, I think I understand it now. 

     Those horses know who they are and what they’ve been put here to do. They just go with what’s inherent inside them–deep, deep down inside–and it gives them authority. And authority isn’t what they are after. They are after doing what they know how to do. 

     Mankind should be so lucky, or even more specifically—writers should be so lucky. I think those Belgian drafts know more about listening to their intuition than we do. 

     So then—a question for my writing world friends today: 

     What is it that feels inherent in you these days when you sit down to write? Are you waffling over what you think someone’s going to say about how you said something? Are you afraid someone will see through you? Will you be satisfied in the end to have been so controlled? 

     The following quote was at the bottom of the page in my journal where I wrote about my State Fair Belgian “hooo-ahhh” moment last August–  

       Being you is all about connection, about being real. When you are you, you connect with others. —  Henriette Anne Klauser, 20th century American writer.