Dylan de Polka and Red Tabby are stars of the Happy Days Circus. Like the rest of the troupe, they lead busy working lives but always have time for friends and neighbours..
A favourite pal is a pure white Percheron mare called Rosie.
No one knows the exact origins of Percheron horses. Perhaps they reached France
with the legions of Julius Caesar. Or were already there, snatched from the Bretons by
King Clovis after his victory in 496AD. Or maybe they descend from Moorish cavalry, fresh from the Battle of Poitiers in 732AD. Or even from Arab stallions brought to the valley by Muslim invaders in the same century. Just to muddle things up even more, the
11th Century crusader, Compte du Perche, added Spanish horse stock to the mix.
Whatever the truth of it, there is no doubt Rosie may claim a remarkable and noble ancestry. In ancient times her kind was smaller than the modern breed and usually dapple-grey. White coated Percherons would be extremely rare in those days, as they are now. In fact, Rosie has good reason to believe there are only two other pure white Percherons such as herself in the whole of England.
Just like members of the Happy Days troupe, Rosie is a working animal and trained to perform in public. At one point she took part in grand coaching events in London, even being driven as a pair. This took a lot of courage and skill on her part and, as you might expect, she carried her duties off perfectly.
Nowadays, Rosie is famous in England’s West Country for her elegant presence at weddings and on other special occasions.
Sometimes you’ll see her pulling a decorated cart, and often a carriage.
But now and then a young bride simply hops up onto her side-saddle to be carried reliably and safely to her wedding.
Rosie may be a mature celebrity but she’s still young at heart. When out in the fields there’s nothing she likes more than to roll in muddy puddles with her friends.
In wet weather she can end up looking more like a skewbald horse than a white one.
The day before an event she must be given a thorough bathing and grooming. Due to her thick coat and that love of puddles, this can be a lengthy business.
First, a bucket of warm water has some horse shampoo added to it plus some whitening agent – all sponged on and worked well into her coat with a firm brush. Then the mixture is thoroughly hose piped off again. At busy times a warm water pressure washer is used to speed things up. To begin with the rinse water runs off her like muddy coffee. The horse shampoo must be applied again and again until the water runs clear.
On cold days or when time is short, Rosie is dried off with a hand held hairdryer.
Then comes the grooming. Like Red Tabby, Rosie has a very thick coat that needs a lot of care if she’s to look her best. This is hardest to manage in spring while she’s shedding her thick winter coat. At that time her groom might brush out a whole wheelbarrow full of white hair in one session. Some of that hair is left about in the yard as the birds love to use it for lining their nests. When Rosie’s owners check the nests after the babies have flown, they often find soft white liners inside.
Grooming over, it’s time for bed. Rosie is stabled wearing a porous, rose coloured Lycra outfit that her owners like to call her pyjamas.
This outfit covers most of her body and helps keep her clean overnight. Next day it takes a further hour to have her looking perfect and, even when she's arrived at her event, she still needs more attention before taking up her duties.
On days off Rosie enjoys a regular daily exercise routine to keep her fit and well. She also benefits from a special feed which contains nutrients and supplements
to build her up for her working months.
Rosie not only has the benefit of a personal trainer, special diet, and her own groomer-cum-hairdresser. She is also luckier than most humans I know as her shoes are refitted or replaced every six to eight weeks.
Rosie the rare white Percheron, may be a handsome animal but her stable pal, 22-year-old Twiggy, runs her a close second.
Twiggy is an ex-race horse with long, elegant legs!
They have two other live-in friends, newly trained Bella and Rosa who are Friesian horses, a breed that comes from the Netherlands. The four of them go off into the fields together except when working.
A properly cared for working animal is a happy animal. Horses are highly intelligent and love to learn new things and show off what they can do.
Happy Days Circus performer, Irma Elephant, offers these facts about Rosie:
Rosie is one of only three white Percherons in England.
She was bred in Chelmsford, Essex.
When she was five she had a foal.
Rosie is 16-years-old and stands at 16.3 hands high.
Rosie is usually driven three to four times a week during her working season which begins in May.
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