Oats

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This photo is of a brood mare, taken sometime before I arrived on this earth.

The barn and Percheron horse were both gone by time I came on the scene.

Though they were the smallest of the draft breeds, the knights still

carried a ladder with them in order to mount up. Their hooves are the size of

a dinner plate.

I grew up on oatmeal and vowed that when I became an adult I would never allow it in my house. But notions change, I guess. Now that I’m cooking for Barb and I breakfast menus alternate between oatmeal with raisins and one prune and hotcakes with eggs.

Why as a youngster I grew to dislike oatmeal is a mystery…unless I was influenced was talk at school. Many of our ideas are borrowed.

As a youngster, oatmeal would hold me over until lunch. However, as a teenager earning extra money bucking hay bales, plowing, harvesting, or whatever the farmer needed, I soon learned that I needed more protein to get through the day. Why?

I came along to late to have much experience with draft animals doing the heavy work – plowing, cultivating, disking, harvesting. Like people, they need water and frequent rest periods. But while I require beef, pork, or poultry just to get through the day, the horses and mules put in a full days work on oats – the same oats that left me high and dry by ten am.

My grandfather raised Percheron Draft Horses during the pre-tractor era. (Percherons, the smaller of the draft breeds, which were the mount of choice for knights during King Arthur’s time.) He raised them, worked them, and sold them. In my youth, I failed to ask how long he did this. I only recall him statement that farmers couldn’t abuse a tractor like they did their draft animals.

Rather than working two-horse teams, he worked three. Usually two seasoned mares, one on each side. The young, green horse in the middle worked or was dragged along kicking and snorting until he learned the game plan.

Back to the oats. Oats is rolled in order to break the hull which, in turn, is blown away as chaff. Draft animals are fed oats with the hulls. And that may be the secret. During our morning discussions at the breakfast table Barb wondered if the hulls carry a large part of the nourishment, like potato peels do? Perhaps that is why a horse can do a days work on a measure of oats and I can’t.

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