The final segment of our adventure is literally all one long blur. We awoke our last morning with the sun shining, but a decided chill was in the air. We enjoyed the coffee Christine was kind enough to deliver as we tucked everything away for travel, loaded the water tank and finally loaded Toundra back onto the trailer. More sad farewells followed, and we were on the road before noon, off to our second to last stop.
We left Russell and made the 3 hour trip to Dunvegan, Ontario, home of MJ Proulx and Canadream Farm. MJ is a former Canadian Horse Breeder (as well as a former president of the Canadian Horse Breeders Association) who now breeds Dutch Warmbloods. She is also the owner of Swallowfield Eno Kelbeck, a name I’m sure many of you are familiar with! I have to admit, it was a thrill to finally get to meet a horse I’ve been hearing about for so many years! But, Kelbeck was not the reason we were there and despite weeks of killing time, we were now on a tight schedule!
Monique was picking up a mare she’d loaned to MJ (Litjens Navajo Esperanza) as well as another she’d purchased, (Canadream Dazzler Wish-me-luck). Wish was weaning a foal and we were waiting for the OK from MJ before we could go pick the two mares up. Though Canadream was gorgeous, we didn’t have time to stop and socialize. As soon as the 2 mares were on board, we were off again. This time back to Quebec and to a stop I’d very much been looking forward to!
The trip to Quyong, QC seemed to take far longer than the few hours it actually did. We arrived on a chilly fall afternoon at the home of Michel Allen and Claude Blanchette, owners of Elevage Fabie. This was also the home of my long-time horse crush, Joly Vulcain Lucifer! But I wasn’t to meet him just yet because as we pulled in along the front paddock, Yahve made his presence known…and what a presence!
He raced along the edge of the paddock with such incredible elegance. The wind was blowing his copious mane and he pranced along, the total master of his realm. Show horses are lovely, but its moments like this, candid shots where every action screams of pure, unadulterated J’oie de vie! (I really wish I’d gotten to use that name this year!) Translated, it means joy of life, but it’s more, it’s a zest for living and in these animals, it is magnificent to behold.
All of this at first glance kind of masked the fact that this stud muffin is a bit more on the muffin side at the moment! Lol sorry Michel, he’s tubby! Michel and Claude are in their 70’s now and like so many of our breeders, they have no one to take up the mantle of their farm. Michel say’s he’s “cut back” to fewer than 50 horses (and a young stud), but time inevitably slows us all.
Not to worry though, this “Master of his realm” gets exercised regularly. He’s ridden by an 18-year-old girl…bareback…with a lead line… How these animals can exude such incredible power and yet such a deep sense of kindness and gentleness all at once just blows my mind. But that was enough of Yahve, I was on a mission. I wanted to see the old man!
Michel warned me “not to expect too much, he’s quite old". He lied. A bit sway backed?
Yeah, and obviously a bit long in the tooth. But as I watched him pace a fence calling to a mare, I can tell you, that boy has lost NONE of his swagger!
I could have stayed and watched him all day, but sadly the clock was ticking. I was so excited by everything I forgot to get a photo of Michel and Claude so I stole this one from their FB page!
It’s funny, Michel and I have spoken on and off over the past several years, as I have with a great many people in the Canadian horse community. His first comment upon meeting me was surprise that it was me, and a comment that he didn’t think he’d ever even seen a picture of me. You would not believe how many people said that to me on this trip! Lol I prefer to be behind the camera!
Then it was time to load our last passenger, Lise (DuCoteau Dynamo Lise) and hit the road. We had originally planned to spend the night there, but we were eager to be on our way and after all the people we’ve been exposed to, I think there were some health concerns over covid.
No matter where you stand on the covid belief scale, we were definitely getting up there on our chances of exposure and Michel and Claude are seniors in a rural area.
As much as I could have spent days asking questions (Michel speaks excellent English, so maybe lucky for him we decided to move on!), it wasn’t worth the risk. Come to think of it, I haven't heard from them since we returned. I hope all is well!
With Lise loaded, we aimed for Thunderbay and just started driving.
As amazing and magical as this trip has been, the next three days were downright hellish. By late evening we encountered snow in Ontario. I know I’ve mentioned it before, but northern Ontario is covered in 2 lane highways that twist and turn up and down rocky outcrops and down along the edges of lakes.
The speed limit is 90kph and there are very long stretches of nothing but wilderness. At night, these highways are crawling with truckers that are accidents waiting to happen! They tailgate, they cut in front of you, they flash their lights at you! It’s awful and snow just made it worse.
We stopped numerous times for gas and to feed and water the horses.
A routine developed, Monique would fill the tank and I’d grab a ladder out of the tack room to check hay and water levels. Then the carrying began. We had to fill 4L (one gallon) jugs in the trailer and carry them out to top off everyone’s water. Thankfully we found numerous places kind enough to let us fill buckets directly, saving time and our water stores. It saved time, but it didn’t save any energy.
Lugging water buckets in the cold all day, climbing up and down a ladder with them. Add to this the fact that it was becoming obvious that Monique was coming down with a cold. I really tried to pick up as much slack as I could, but when we finally stopped late that evening, I was done in. One last round of hay and water and I fell into the bunk still in my clothes and was half out by the time Monique finished getting the furnace started and came in.
I expected to sleep like the dead, and I did, for about 2 hours. Then I woke up hurting in ways I couldn’t even imagine. I got up, went out for a smoke, did some stretching, and went back to bed…for another 2 hours. Again, in so much discomfort I couldn’t sleep. This time I got up and took some advil and I think eventually I got another hour or 2 of restless sleep.
We woke early, or I did. I can’t imagine how much more sleep Monique might have gotten without me around! 6 am. Well, we were up. Feed and water and back on the road. We grabbed coffee somewhere, had advil for breakfast and kept driving. Monique was obviously sick at this point, and I was beginning to experience nausea and stomach pains. We drove all day, the monotony broken only by frequent stops for gas, tending the horses and buying food, which neither of us really seemed to eat. I dozed in my seat as Monique drove on, Canadian True Crime podcasts playing over the stereo.
We reached our destination around 8:30pm. We stopped for the night at “The Barn” in Kaministiqua, Ontario. A regular stop for livestock haulers where you can unload your animals into private pens with plenty of fresh water and hay.
The rates are not only reasonable, but the main building hosts a cozy main room with kitchen facilities, a clean bathroom and shower and a warm welcoming atmosphere.
We unloaded the mares into a spacious pen and settled in for the night. Wrong again. While we’d both taken our pre-emptive Advil, a good night’s sleep was not to be. The cows, the main resident of the facility, moo’d all night. All night!
We managed to sleep until about 9:30 and when I went out for a smoke break, I discovered that one of the mares had gone all “boss mare” on the others. Poor Toundra had a cut in one nostril and sweet little Lise had a cut above her eye.
We loaded the 2 red heads into the trailer and left Lise and Toundra to relax and eat and drink at their leisure. We warmed up inside and Monique grabbed a cup of coffee while the girls relaxed. A quick refill of our water tank and then it was time to reload and hit the road again.
That entire day is a blur of dozing in the truck interrupted by and endless stream of water buckets and hay. Monique was obviously fevered and quite hoarse (no pun intended!) and I couldn’t even entertain the thought of food. We drove until early evening where we stopped at a truck stop / tourist rest stop just inside the Manitoba border and managed to grab a few hours sleep after chores.
We awoke early again and started it all over. We drove until 2pm that day when we finally reached Monique’s home outside Melfort, SK!
My husband arrived while we were unloading the horses. I’m embarrassed to admit I grabbed my stuff and bailed on Monique. I was well and truly done and I still had one more day to go before finally reaching home. But first, a hotel, with my one requirement, a hot tub!