Earlier this month the town of Chatham held its annual Christmas Stroll. I always love seeing the Percheron horses pulling the Christmas carriage through town and this year I was determined to get pictures. It was a perfect winter’s night on Cape Cod; the air clear and cold and the moon three quarters full.
Earlier that day I had called the Cape Cod livery that does the carriage rides, Paradise Stables, to ask permission to take a few photographs of the horses for my blog. I talked to John Digi, who owns the stables with his wife, Margaret; he could not have been nicer. Indeed, Margaret welcomed my husband and I when we arrived at the stroll.
Margaret introduced me to her “boys”, two statuesque jet black Percherons, Buddy and his teammate Dan. Percheron draft horses are named for a region in France where the breed originated (Le Perche). They average a height of 16.2 to 17.3 hands hands and a weight of about 2,000 pounds and are known to those who love them as “gentle giants.” As I stroked Dan’s soft velvet nose and listened to Margaret’s stories about them it was clear to see why these horses mean the world to her.
Tom Desmond, the carriage driver, harnessed up the horses with Margaret. Under the street lights their jingle bells and the metal mountings of the harness glistened like jewels against their dark, shiny coats.
A beautiful forest green and yellow carriage, known as a common traveler wagon, was unloaded by another member of the Paradise team, Brian Smith. The horses were slowly backed in and the traces securely fastened.
You could tell that Buddy and Dan knew it was time to get to work as they danced in place, the sound of their heavy shod hooves breaking the stillness as they struck the pavement: Clip clop! Clip clop!
At last they were off! We had to run to keep up with the carriage as it sped along behind the police car escort. The flashing blue lights from the car bathed the carriage in a magical blue glow as the carriage entered the village.
The village was alive with caroling, twinkling lights and the sound of bells. As we window shopped along the way, the eyes of horses of many different shapes and sizes gazed out at us from their shop windows.
We rejoined the carriage down by the town hall, loading up with excited passengers. We watched Margaret lovingly hold Buddy and Dan until the carriage was full.
And off they went, Buddy’s and Dan’s jingling bells and clopping hooves echoing along the main street of the seaside village of Chatham.
The time to leave the Stroll came all too soon for me, but we had other stops to make.
We watched the carriage fill and leave one more time. “Come on Buddy, let’s go, Dan”, called Tom. Both horses’ ears instantly pricked up. Dancing a step or two in place, they leaped forward in their collars and trotted off into the night, with the sounds of their jingling bells and clopping hooves filling the air with holiday magic.
A very special thank you to Paradise Stables for making this year’s Christmas Stroll one that I shall always remember!