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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 35, September 1991

HOW OUR LOVELY HORSE "DARKY" STRUGGLED TO SURVIVE

By Lance Deverill

As a youth of 12 years of age I spent a lot of time helping with horses at my Father's coaching-stables in Lower Seddon Street, Waihi.

Waihi town lays in a basin close to surrounding hills at a height of 300 feet above sea-level. Waihi, in my early days, had freezing weather conditions over a period of 5 to 6 months, April to September inclusive. Our horses were well fed and covered during this time. The horse paddock close to the stables did not have a gate - just the old-fashioned slip-rails. Now and again they were left down and the horses wandered at night.

I often got up early to feed our horses. What a sight greeted me at our side-gate on one freezing morning to find our lovely Darky laying in this low valley, half frozen. This lovely strong horse had gone to sleep and got frozen up. He had been spinning around like a top in an effort to get enough life to stand up. His right eye was covered in ice and dirt. I rushed indoors to tell my father. He came out and soon after I was called in for some breakfast. I soon hurried out again to find my Dad had Darky on his legs. How my father managed to coax poor old Darky up I will never know. Dad ordered me to walk Darky up and down this valley pathway until circulation returned and it was not too long before I had Darky back in his stall enjoying a good feed of chaff into which I had mixed a double hand-full of oats.

The oft-used expression - "Cold enough to kill a horse" came very close to being true during that shocking winter of 1918.