Lara J volunteers with Spiritgate Farms near Elk/Beaver lakes, 15 minutes away from town, and she invited me to visit.  Michelle Atterby runs the farm for what’s called equine experiential learning, a facilitated counseling experience with a horse.

Spiritgate Farms

Spiritgate Farms

The farms have about a dozen of well-cared for horses, including several miniature horses.  Michelle also has several friendly dogs on the farm (I think they’re pets rather than working dogs).


Growing up in a concrete jungle, I think this might be the first time I’m up-close-and-personal with a horse.  All that I have read about is true: they are large and tall, have big soulful eyes, and snorts.  And I knew they’re mammals, but for some reason I was startled touching Saul’s neck that the same type of muscle and tendon that moves him also moves me.  (Maybe we are not that different after all.  I suspect there is a Dunning-Krueger‘esque effect for animal appreciation: the more a man know animals the less privileged he thinks he ought to be.)  Surprisingly they don’t really smell like anything — I wondered for a brief moment if it has anything to do with being herbivores, but goats are living proofs that being herbivores doesn’t mean no-stink.


Lara was in most of the pictures I took of horses, and I don’t know what she think about being on a public-facing website.  So most of the pictures recounting the day was of other animals.  This is Bounce… a very bouncy dog indeed.  She was very excited over some rabbits we saw in the field, as well as a deer-mom.  Speaking of creatures in the field, we found a teeny-tiny frog, and in one of the takes to get a close-up of it, I happened to snap a shot while it was mid-flight.

We brought horses out grazing in a clover field, and in the neighbouring farm to the field there was alpacas and llamas.  I can’t tell you why there are alpacas and llamas in B.C..  They were kept with a (horse) mare, and approached curiously when I looked (and made funny faces) at them.

While most of the male horses are geldings (neutered/castrated), one of them is a stallion.  Before taking him out to graze, Michelle warned that Leo “had a different energy” to him and that was definitely true (even though as a chemist I object to this usage of the term energy).  The geldings are calm mellow creatures, but Leo was raw and restless even before he was near the mare.  I was fascinated by the power, virility, and aggression it exuded.  It’s striking how a single chemical signal can lead to such a cascade of physiological and behavioural differences.

(On that note, I noticed that the geldings are physically larger than the stallion.  Castrati — boys who were castrated as youth to preserve their “angelic voices” up until the 19th century — were apparently also often taller and longer than un-neutered men; I wonder if the anecdotal observation extends, and if so, whether the same mechanisms underline both?)

More striking than that, perhaps, is that we humans managed to build a complex, civil society despite men and our unruly impulses.  And on that note: if shit hits the fan, I would hate to be in China.  120:100 male:female ratio in the absence of the rule of law sounds like catastrophe of the first order.