I’ve been on the road several days the past week. Since being behind the wheel isn’t one of my favorite things to do, I took along a compact disc that recently arrived in the mail to make driving more interesting. The album was Jethro Tull’s Heavy Horses. The title obviously is about something that interests me, but a friend pointed out several other things about the album that intrigued me, too, including a reference to the Fell Pony.
This 2003 CD is a re-mastered version of a 1978 album. The booklet accompanying the CD contains the lyrics and is illustrated with numerous photographs of band leader Ian Anderson with a team of Shire horses. The title track was one of the things of interest to me, as the song evokes the mystique as well as the lost art of working horses in harness. For instance, the lines “Now you’re down to the few and there’s no work to do; The tractor’s on its way” captures one of the major reasons that our draft breeds are so endangered.
In addition to the Shire, the Suffolk, Clydesdale and Percheron are mentioned in the lyrics of the title track. And then the following lyrics brought a lump to my throat, as someone focused on an old type of Fell Pony: “Let me find you a filly for your proud stallion seed; To keep the old line going.” At the moment I actually have the opposite problem; I have a filly from an old line for whom I need stallion seed!
The final bit about this album that interested me I would never have seen had it not been pointed out to me. The lettering of the album’s dedication was so small that I had to use a magnifying glass to read it. The dedication recognizes the working heritage of many other breeds besides traditional drafts: “This album is dedicated to: The Highland, Welsh Mountain, Shetland, Fell, Dales, Cleveland and other indigenous working ponies and horses of Great Britain who, however tiny or great in stature, can truly count themselves as being amongst our HEAVY HORSES.” As a working pony enthusiast, I was thrilled to read this acknowledgement since so few people work ponies or recognize their working heritage.
I expect to be on the road a few times again this week. Unfortunately the truck I will be driving does not have a CD player, so I’ve moved the album to the kitchen. Heavy Horses will be a welcome accompaniment to cooking and doing dishes, things I spend much more time doing, and enjoying, than driving.
With thanks to my friend Eddie McDonough for looking at his music collection with the eyes of a Fell Pony enthusiast.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2012