An Appreciation “Burros still pull their weight in the Mexican village of Yelapa, Jalisco.”
Working horses have always played a part in my own work life. Back in the 1970s, I spent a summer in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, working for the U.S. Forest Service as part of the Youth Conservation Corps. We labored in roadless wilderness areas and the only way to get equipment and supplies was with pack animals. Once a week, an old muleteer would show up with his work string loaded high with lumber and food for the crew. I always volunteered to help him pack the string and make the long trek from trailhead to base camp and back. When their work was done, I admired the neat way his animals got in his stake bed truck, lining up side-by-side, nose to tail.Later, I ran pack strings myself in Colorado and burro strings in Mexico. One thing you learn about working equines, they are like soldiers: given the chance to sleep, they can do so in an instant. They don’t waste energy foolishly, like a lot of recreation horses seem inclined to do.Near our Colorado ranch was a Mennonite settlement where they raised Percheron horses. Although they plowed the fields, the horses themselves were the cash crop. Each year, dozens of buyers would show up for the annual auction to pick out field-trained draft horses for use in pulling competitions, for logging, and as wagon teams. I got to ride some of those horses under saddle, and it was an amazing experience to sit astride a horse with such size and power that was nonetheless so tame and forgiving of the rider on his back. I always came away with sore thighs but a huge and satisfied smile.In the last two years, I lived and worked in a remote fishing village in Mexico. There were no roads to the village - everything arrived by boat. With no cars or motor vehicles, the people of Yelapa still use burros and horses to carry loads of cement, building supplies, groceries, tanks of propane...in short, everything needed for their lives. These hard-working horses and burros could be found standing, tied to trees and swatting flies, for hours of the day, content merely to sleep and wait for their next task.While I greatly admire show horses and spend most of my time writing about these pampered aristocrats of the horse world, it’s working horses that have been the biggest part of my own horse experience. Though the internal combustion engine largely wiped out the horse as the engine of civilization, the horse continues to be a working class hero throughout America and the world. For that, I am personally grateful.
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