Percheron Joe: farewell to a noble friend

Last Friday was a very difficult day at Billings Farm. Joe, one of our four beloved Percheron draft horses, left us after a long battle with melanoma and osteoarthritis.

Joe was a magnificent horse, much loved by our entire Billings community. Sweet, gentle, and loyal, he was the first to greet our farm staff in the morning with his signature whinny.  Joe’s strength and temperment were exceptional when pulling sleighs or wagons with his team-partner Jim, or taking part in field work demonstrations. The two were inseparable until they parted, always happiest when running across the pasture together and play-fighting in front of visitors.

In recent years however, Joe’s health declined – due in part, to age. When Billings Farm bought the team over ten years ago, we believed that Joe was about four years old. After consultation with our farrier however, we learned that Joe was probably at least eight years older than we previously had thought. When he passed away, he was actually around 25. This is a very respectable age for a draft horse, especially when taking his health issues into account.

Since being diagnosed with cancer and osteoarthritis – a debilitating joint condition commonly known as ringbone – our farm staff tried everything possible to keep Joe in good health, equipping him with special horseshoes and giving him supplements to improve his mobility and keep him as pain-free as possible. His condition worsened very suddenly late last week and after consulting with our vet, we made the difficult decision to put him to rest.

This has been a sad and trying time for our staff at the farm, many of whom spent nearly every day with Joe for many years. Alayna Perkins, our Farm Manager reflects:

“The livestock at the farm are not just animals to us – they are literally our family. We spend more time with them than we do with our human families. We love them, we appreciate them, we cherish them; they keep us going on tough days.

When you are asked to make a grave decision in the best interest of a family member like Joe, it is not taken lightly.  At the end of the day though, the decision needs to be what’s best for the horse.  Joe had a good life, he was loved unconditionally by his buddy Jim, our members and visitors, and most of all, his farm family.

We laid Joe to rest last Friday evening. His family was there to say their final good-byes and Jim got to see his friend pain free, once again. Joe was a wonderfully huge part of Billings Farm, as well as a huge part of each one of us. We will miss him dearly.”


12 thoughts on “Percheron Joe: farewell to a noble friend

  1. The horses are the biggest draw to my girls. We would always go into the horse barn first to see if Jim and Joe were in their stalls so we could say hello first. Joe you will be greatly missed. You were a gentle giant. Billings will never be the same. Rest in peace Joe and enjoy your side of the rainbow bridge.

  2. know your pain lost a Shetland pony a few years ago that I broke when I was just two. She was 34 when I lost her to kidney failure.

  3. So sad to hear about Joe’s passing…they were a beautiful pair and we were just at the farm a few days before this tough decision was made. May you all be at peace knowing Joe had an incredible life!!

  4. The Prosper Valley 2nd Grade is very sorry to hear of Joe’s passing. As the 2nd grade teacher here for 25 years, I really feel this loss not only on my professional level, but personally as well. My out-of-town grandchildren loved nothing more than visiting BF&M, with the highlight of their visit being Jim and Joe. Many wagon rides and barn visits will stay in my memory for years to come. Thanks for doing such a wonderful blog about Joe, one that I can actually share with the children. Wishing all the best to Jim as he adjusts to life without his best bud!

  5. Oh Joe, rest peacefully. My girls will surely miss your gentle presence. To all of the Billings family and community, and most especially Jim, we wish you peace and healing.

  6. I am so very sorry to hear the news about Joe. He was very special. I remember him well. When I would come to Billings Farm and Museum to visit, the first place I went was to the barns to see the horses. If they weren’t in their stalls, I went to the pasture to be with them. I have always had a fondness for horses, because my grandfather raised Percheron horses on his farm in Ferrisburgh, Vermont, in the early part of the 20th century. You are at peace, Joe. Run free and wild in Heaven. I have always enjoyed the wagon rides around the Farm, too. I love Billing Farm and Museum….it is a wonderful and educational experience, indeed.

  7. The news of Joe’s passing on and Alayna’s “in memoriam” are very moving. Much more than just a tourist destination, Billings Farm & Museum, by remaining a working dairy exemplifies the ties to the land and the caring stewardship of the creatures on it, that have marked Vermont since its beginnings. May it ever be so.

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