11 February 2011

Horses In Ukraine

More than any other place we've ever been, the Ukrainian countryside is full of working horses. They use the roads, they inhabit the barns, they are the muscle of the farming industry. Especially in the steep terrain of the Carpathians, where tractors would have a lot of difficulty operating, we saw horses and horsecarts. In some villages, there were literally as many horses on the road as cars.
In the high region around Podobovets, we saw these haystacks dotting all the open fields and sitting beside barns. They are built around evergreen poles with branches still attached. The branches hold the hay in place - they're stable enough to be lifted whole, moved down from the fields and set back down in a barnyard. Instead of keeping the hay inside, or in the limited space afforded to each family in a village, the horse's feed is kept right where it is mown and brought down when needed.
Around the ski resorts, locals with little to do in the winter earn money bringing skiers up the snowy roads to the lifts. The horses have spiked shoes to help them get a purchase on the icy roads, and the sleighs are softened with a bit of hay and a blanket.
As we were walking one day, we came across this team a few times. A man was driving a doctor on his rounds, and they stopped at a few houses that we passed. We knew he was a doctor because he was carrying a medical case and had a comforting but grave manner. He arrived at the ski area when we were eating lunch and was greeted fondly by all of the locals. He spoke with them for a minute, then set off again.

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