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4Shoes Farm has been my fondest wish since I could remember. Long before the dream actually came to be, my desire to be surrounded by magnificent horses was satisfied in racetrack backstretches.
A reality of owning &/or care-taking of racehorses is that, regardless of their athletic prowess or lack thereof, eventually they all must retire from the sport. More than one special horse that I might have liked to hang onto was claimed away or placed into a happy new home as a riding &/or driving horse. While it was never too hard to find a good horse a new life, it was always hard to see them go.
The time came for a particularly special mare to retire, but I really just didn't want part with her. Right about that same time I was extremely fortunate to meet elderly Uncle Wally who had bred & raised Quarter horses & Belgians until into his early 70's. In exchange for light maintenance work & house-sitting over the winters, I had full use of the barn & pastures. Uncle's barn was barely a mile from our driveway -- but that gorgeous acreage could never really be ours.
Fast forward some...
My first impression of the entire Interlake region was rather... dismal, to say the least. We were shown around to unsuitable place after horrible place. Was the realtor even listening to us? A last minute addition to the viewing list suddenly spoke to Mr. Shoes; I could barely hear a hint of whisper.
It was a rough & raw looking quarter section left fallow for over 20 years. Dense thickets of willow & poplars almost completely choked out more of the land than not & where there was not bush a healthy strip of peat bog sported countless cat-tails.
I struggled to find positives -- the house itself was nice enough (if a little small), it had a triple size workshop, there was a single new Ritchie waterer in a good spot, & the entire quarter had been newly fenced with 4 strands of smooth, horse friendly fencing.
Looking over the wild of snarls of bush & bullrushes, the property's best potential was certainly well hidden. I wondered to myself if it was even possible to reclaim this land from Mother Nature anytime before I would die of old age. To me the place looked like an enormous, money-sucking risk & very clearly a given that it would take our small family literally years of hard work to get it to the point where there could be more good things than bad to say about it.
"Cut 'em a cheque", said Mr. Shoes as I quietly raised my eyebrows in his direction & looked around dubiously at the spoils of the past 100 or so years littering the grounds.
Born into a farming family but with no farm to inherit, if we really wanted the life, my only choice was to trust in Mr. Shoes' vision.
Fast forward a few more years...
This once neglected chunk of land has been slowly transforming into a pastoral showcase of manicured lawns, tidy paddocks, expansive pastures, shaded woodland trails that Mr Shoes created, & crop fields restored to productivity.
Although the maintenance & further improvement projects never seem to end, we are so proud of the 4Shoes.
For those who may wonder...
The origin of our farm name was inspired by a keepsake from a special bygone horse; his very first set of shoes is prominently displayed on the tack room wall.