Have You Ever Seen An Icelandic Horse in Churchill?
Michelle Beaton and Rhoda deMeulles
Some people just love horses. Maybe it is the image of riding off into the sunset that lures them, or of the wind blowing through their hair, but there is just something about horses that captures their hearts. Picture a little girl’s bedroom, walls covered with posters of horses and unicorns. Most of these little girls only dream of owning their own horse, someday, but for two such grown up little girl horse lovers in Churchill, their dream has just come true.
Rhoda deMeulles and Michelle Beaton, both local business owners, are the proud owners of Churchill’s newest residents, two Icelandic horses named Yukki (pronounced Yoo-ky) and Pearl.
And on this most stellar day, sunny and warm, with a light breeze and no bugs, Yooky and Pearl are grazing on grass in Rhoda’s yard, and picking at the fresh green shoots on the willow bushes. Local kids are watching, curious to see these fairy tale animals up close.
So Michelle lifts them up over the little fence, and they pet the horses, big smiles on their faces, giggling. Adults, too, pass by, and can’t help but come in for a closer look, a little touch of that softest nose, or just to ask a question or two about them.
Michelle and Rhoda both grew up around horses, Michelle in St. Vital, and Rhoda in St. Laurent, on her parents’ farm. Michelle’s grandfather, Fred Reid, used to care for the horses at the Port of Churchill. When he left in 1981, he took a Palamino south with him, and she spent lots of time visiting at the horse stables down St. Anne’s Rd. (pre-suburbia). When she was ten, she got a horse of her own, a two year old foal named Be-Astra-Star. She tamed him herself, learning all she could on the subject by reading books.
Rhoda, too, was a natural with the horses, nursing the injured back to health, and taming them with such ease that people from all over southern Manitoba would send their horses to her dad, to get her to break them. So when she settled in Churchill, she always dreamed of one day owning her own horses again.
Last winter she found a willing partner in Michelle, and set about researching horse breeders in Manitoba. She found Arnason Farms, in Rosser, Manitoba, and was moved by their story. Seems it had been Mr. Arnason Sr.’s dream to have Icelandic horses at the 100th anniversary of the Islendingadagurrin, the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba.
Unfortunately, Mr. Arnason passed away suddenly, prior to the event, and never got to see his son, Brett realize his dream, and even take it one step further. On his website he cites an old saying: “There really is something about the outside of an Icelandic Horse that is good for the inside of a person.”
And Rhoda agrees. “Life’s too short,” she says, “you’ve got to live out your dreams, otherwise, what’s the point?” So on May 9th, coincidentally, the birthday of her first horse, Kimberly, she and Michelle were off to take some horses for a test ride. They fell in love with Yukki and Pearl in a heartbeat, and made their way back home with a horse trailer, two Icelandic horses, saddles and bits and bridles and combs and brushes, and even bug jackets!
Yukki, a 16 year old gelding, came directly from Iceland, and was a ‘Dressage’ horse, a show horse, in Texas for a while, while Pearl, 9, was born in Canada. She is so gentle and docile, letting the kids climb on top of her, walking slowly around the yard with these little strangers on her back.
Both ladies are kind of work horses themselves. Rhoda owns the hardware store with her husband Dale, while Michelle and her partner own the Bear Country Inn. Both of them have 3 dogs, kids, and busy schedules, but neither seems care about the extra work the horses are creating for them. “They’re keepin’ me busy, but I don’t mind”, says Michelle, grinning from ear to ear.
Yukki and Pearl graze on grass and hay, and love anything sweet. During the day, they are kept in the compound at the old Co-Op building, in a makeshift corral. A lean to, against the building, will minimize noise and odors wafting toward businesses on the main drag. They spend their nights in a cozy corner of the lumber shed devoted to them, safe and sound from polar bears and the cold.
These are not the first horses in Churchill. You may remember former Bayline Girl, Mrs. Urbanovitch, aka, the ‘Cookie Lady’ and her husband brought three shetland type ponies up to Churchill in 1967, and used to give rides to the local kids for free. Which leads me to wonder, maybe these kids’ parents rode an Urban pony?
As I walk away, Rhoda’s husband Dale says “here are two women who work very hard at what they do, and this is their dream.” He continues, “there were hurdles, but they accomplished it. This is the happiest my wife’s been since I have known her.” Dale’s dream, a candy apple red Honda Shadow sits in the driveway. Giddy up!
- Prepared by Carmen Spiech