Chris Gould horse breeder
Avril 2015 Touchstone Farm - Mayerthorpe, Canada
musique : Alexandre Cabanac
Romane said: "I spent two months at Touchstone Farm in Canada to help Chris Gould and his family. He taught me a lot about horses and how to live in harmony surrounded by nature. This experience still memorable for me. I will come back to film more. Chris is sensitive and has a high knowledge about horses. We had great conversations together and always very interesting. When you spend time at Touchstone Farm you are more human than ever ! Thank you."
Why are you in Alberta, in this area ?
I was born in Alberta and I never seriously considered looking out side of the province, but after searching in many places, I found this farm through a friend, who farmed in the area and fell in love with the beauty of the place with the river, hills, forest and open spaces. It has everything from wild areas with deer, moose and beaver to good farm land. It is close enough to Edmonton where I grew up and yet is really rural. It felt ideal from the beginning and has proved to be so.
What does "Touchstone" mean ?
Touchstone has two meanings for us. First it is a special stone used to test for gold and so a Touchstone is a test for excellence, which we thought was appropriate on many levels, we try to produce excellent horses, but there are aspects of life where farming is a test for ones own personal excellence. It is also the name of a character in Shakespeare's play AS YOU LIKE IT. Touchstone is the fool, but a wise one and gave us the theme for our logo with the medieval jester on a horse .
Why are working with horses ?
I was bitten by the horse bug from childhood. I do not remember a time when I was not infatuated with horses. So one way or another horses would have to be a part of my life.
How and when did you start as a horse breeder ?
I started breeding as a way to get the quality of horse I could not afford to buy. I was hoping to compete in jumping and dressage at a time when Warmblood horses (first Hanoverians) where just beginning to arrive in Canada. They were expensive and the sport was as well, so I bred my part thoroughbred mare (Anastasia), that I had received as a 21st birthday present, to the first Hanoverian stallion (Abrupt), that had been imported into Alberta. She was a ranch horse that my cousin had raised out of an unrideable chronic bucker that he owned.
Explain me your formation of horse breeder ?
When we first bought the farm near Mayerthorpe in 1975, we had 300 sheep and horses were only a sideline. The Hanoverian stallion Abrupt, that we had been using, was owned by a part time farmer in Southern Alberta. It was a very long drive so I offered to lease him. One year later he agreed to sell him to me and that was when we started to get serious about the breeding business.
Do you have a story that recalls the beginnings of your work ?
When we started there were very few Warmblood horses in Canada. Hanoverians were the first. There are quite a few German immigrants in the area and word got around that we had a Hanoverian stallion. One day a visitor drove into the yard demanding to see this stallion we claimed was a Hanoverian. When he saw Abrupt he was very surprised and exclaimed that we had the equivalent of horse royalty out here in the middle of “no where”. It turned out that Fritz was a senior judge and Hanoverian breeder that also had a Hanoverian stallion, but in Ontario. He was here visiting in-laws.
He was the first person to really get me interested in the blood lines and helped me appreciate that Abrupt was the last son of a legendary Trakehner stallion, Abglanz, that was part of the post war trek by Trakehner horses out of East Germany. Through this story we discovered that many of our neighbours had been part of that migration, finally ending up in Canada. Fritz and I became very good friends. He was one of the pioneer Warmblood breeders in Canada.
What part of your work provide you the most pleasure?
It is hard to talk about what gives me the most pleasure. It is not a reference point for me. I really enjoy seeing the quality of our horses, whether they are just running in the pasture or out competing, but I don't really think about things providing me with pleasure. Each day has its challenges and rewards. I do feel a powerful response to the beauty of the river and our natural surroundings.
Do you work alone ?
No I am on the farm with my brother and sister and mother and we share it with a lot of wonderful travel-volunteers and friends.
What is a typical day for you ?
What is typical is that there is a lot of variety and not much routine. My involvement with our breed society means that I spend time morning and or evening on the computer, for a couple of hours. The rest of the day is divided between feeding, problem solving, repairs, teaching and supervising and crisis management when necessary.
Is Horse breeding a passion for you ?
No. Horse breeding is what I do. In some way it might define who I am, but I reserve my passion for people and what I consider important in life; knowledge, ethics, philosophy.
What is the place of your work in your daily life? Does your work add values to your life ?
I find it hard to distinguish my life and my work. It is all the same thing, so I work (as a verb), but I do not think about my work (as a noun). I choose this activity and I bring value to it, not the other way around. It would not matter what work I did, it matters that I choose to do it and the attitude I bring to it.
To work in contact with horses is it appreciable for you ?
I am not misty eyed about horses. My feelings for and about them are personal and held at a very deep level.
What are the evolutions in your work since you’ve started ?
I think the main evolution has been to become more calm, patient and tolerant. Perhaps more with the horses than with people. There are really no imperatives in life with horses only choices, aspirations and time.
What do you think about the profession of horse breeder in Canada ?
Canada has a great natural environment to raise horses, but the economic and social/political environment is not very good. The industry is not unified, there are laws and practices that discriminate against horse breeding and it is not viewed as a serious business, because most breeding is done as a hobby. In part these problems are because we have a large country and small population and in part because of the social and cultural make up of the country. Very few people can be said to be professional horse breeders.
What do you think about the transmission of your work ? Do you do something for that? Do you share your knowledge in Canada or in international places ?
I would love to see my breeding program carry on in the future, but that is unlikely. I think the most important thing I have done is to found the Canadian Warmblood Horse Breeders Association and lead it for 25 years to a respected place internationally and nationally. It is through this avenue that I have used my political skills and knowledge to advance the interests of Warmblood horse breeding.
After years, what is your point of view about your work ?
Whatever you choose to do, it is all the same. I chose horses , but it is about people. I love horses, but it is the interaction with my students, associates in the CWHBA, family, friends, clients and all the amazing volunteers we have hosted, that gives the greatest satisfaction. I am sure this is the case in all walks of life. Through horses I met horse people and that has been an enduring pleasure.
Does your work give you happiness?
No. Happiness is a state of mind, not something you get from outside.
Have you got any regrets ?
I don't really think about regrets. I think they are over rated. What is past cannot be changed. I try to learn from my mistakes and I think you regret more what you do not do, than what you do, so I try to stay open to experiences. I am sure there are many things I would do differently given a second chance and I am always happy to give that as advice to others coming down this path.
What question you would like me to ask you?
What is the meaning of life?
Do you have something to add ?
I think it is a great project to ask people to reflect on their lives and work. We often only listen to celebrities and experts. Two thousand four hundred years ago Epicurus thought we should take time to contemplate our lives and I think it still holds true today.
Interview of Chris Gould by Romane Olmedo