The Peace was then a horseman’s country and over and over the name of W.D. McFarlane came up whenever men were “talking horse”. To the well-established farmers of that time, horses were as electricity and diesel engines are now, their source of power.
To his son, W.D. McFarlane, Jr., we owe some of the records of his father’s work. They go back to 1911, before the rails reached Grande Prairie. The McFarlanes came in on the ice over the Edson Trail to Beaverlodge, later named “Saskatoon Lake P.O.” When the Buffalo Lake area got a post office, the McFarlanes were associated with that district.
Walter McFarlane favored Clydesdale horses, well suited to heavy bush clearing operations and the incredibly hard hauling jobs over roads that were, for a long time, just dirt trails. Since his ambitions went beyond just farming, he brought into the area King’s Day No. 3313, imported direct from Scotland by an Ontario horse breeder and registered in Volume 24 of the Clydesdale Stud Book.
In 1915 he replaced this animal with the famous champion, Barrington, No. 16336, recorded in the 1933 Clydesdale Stud Book. Barrington had been imported from Scotland by Graham Bros. of Claremont, Ontario. This horse left many colts in the Grande Prairie district and traveled for stud in the Berwyn district in 1925 and until his death in 1926. A son, Cedric Barrington, No. 22692, born in 1920, replaced him for the remainder of the season.
McFarlane horses were winning a place for themselves outside the North for Cedric Barrington placed second in his class as a yearling at the Edmonton Spring Show in 1921. Victor Barrington, No. 21934, another son, won the Watson Shield for the best Canadian bred horse as a two-year old in Edmonton in 1921. Several other McFarlane horses at the same show placed well, but the urging of horsemen to show Victor Barrington at the famous Chicago show had to yield to lack of the considerable costs involved.
Victor Barrington traveled in the Wembley-Huallen area in the mid-twenties and at Berwyn, another fine-horse-conscious district, in 1927. He was sold to Mr. Funnell of Halcourt.
Other stallions that Mr. McFarlane raised and sold in the area were:
King Barrington, born about 1916
Bonnie Barrington, born 1918
Favorite Barrington, No. 24809
Locksley Barrington, born in 1935
Mr. McFarlane Jr. does not have all of these numbers, but they are recorded in the Clydesdale Stud books.
Locksley Barrington was traded to I.A. White of Spirit River for a registered Clydesdale named Lochinvar about 1940. This was common practice to prevent in-breeding.
Some of the mares bought in 1911 were:
Bessie McQueen No. 31502
Bridgend Dorothy (imported) No. 23509
Lady Balvack (imported) No. 23572
Fancy Brand (imported) No. 22259
Black Queen (imported) No. 18112
Maud 2nd bred by W. H. Cathcart, Ontario.
Besides the stallions mentioned many mares and stud colts were raised and registered from the nucleus brought in 1911. For those sold locally, Mr. McFarlane Jr. does not have the papers. As Mr. McFarlane was not only a breeder, but also a well-known dealer, he brought several other Clydesdale mares and some Shire mares in 1911, and disposed of them to local farmers. As well, Grey Squirrel, a French Canadian Draft stallion, left some good colts in the area.
In the pre-automobile days, when a fine horse-and-buggy was a status symbol, the high-stepping classy Hackney was an aristocrat. Bally Duke No. 185, imported from Ireland was a McFarlane contribution to local prestige. He left many colts. Lady Hasty (imported) No. 656 is the only mare Mr. McFarlane has a record of, but he knows of several others brought in 1911. Prairie Duke No. 763, son of Bally Duke and Lady Hasty also left progeny in the country. Raising Hackneys (and driving them) was a sideline to Clydesdale breeding, and the Standard stallion Arka, No. 72-28725passed into other hands shortly after 1911.
It was not all fair weather for the breeding enterprise in the early years. In 1912 McFarlane mares of all breeds had twenty-eight colts, of which only four survived. In 1913, twenty-four lived out of twenty-eight. Mr. McFarlane Jr. surmises that a deficiency in the diet accounted for early losses. Facilities were not available to determine causes of death at that time.