By Robert Hirtle

memorialCindyPicCindy, the beloved mare who broke new ground as the first horse employed by Lunenburg’s Trot in Time Buggy Rides, has died.

Basil Oickle, owner of the 23-year-old percheron, said the horse died quietly on Christmas Day after a short illness.

Owned and trained from the age of eight months by Thomas Hatt of Beach Hill, Cindy was later purchased bu Randy Stevens of Second Peninsula, who then sold the mare to Gregg and Jenny Ernst.

“Jenny bought her [with] the idea of doing wagon rides herself in Lunenburg” Mr. Oickle recalled.

Increasing family commitments, however, did now allow Ms. Ernst time to carry out those plans.

In the meantime, Mr. Oickle had fixed up an old wagon and was using it as a decorative ornament on his lawn. A neighbour suggested that he should get a horse, hitch it to the wagon and take him for a ride.

“That was the beginning of the idea that became Trot in Time,” he said. Hearing about Cindy, Mr. Oickle contacted the Ernsts about obtaining the mare, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“When I asked if I could buy Cindy to do the wagon rides, they didn’t want to sell her, they said we’ll rent her” he explained. “Jenny was tickled pink to know that Cindy was finally going to do what she was meant to do instead of standing around in the pasture doing nothing.”

In 1996, with little in the way of experience with either horses or wagons, Mr. Oickle began operating his now famous tours around Lunenburg. “I had a lot to learn, and I think Cindy [taught] me more than I [taught] her, without a doubt.” he laughed “It was incerdible how knowing she was.” It wasn’t long before the pair became not only an intergral part of the town’s summer landscape, but also a much anticipated seasonal harbringer for local residence.
From the beginning, Cindy quickly became versed with stops on the tour’s route as well as with those individuals who would offer her treats. “Especially the pink peppermints which she was most fond of,” Mr. Oickle said.

He recalled that one of the horse’s favourite stops was at the Duke Street home of Hazel Freeman Rhuland.

“Cindy would come by there and if Hazel was out standing by the edge of the driveway [and] Cindy saw her she would stop and want to enter the driveway, because she knew that Hazel had something for her,” he said. After two years of employing Cindy exclusively at Trot in Time, Mr. Oickle added another wagon and purchased a second horse, Bob, who in later years was joined by Jessie, Laddie, and Michael as members of the Oickle’s stables.

In 1999, after four years on the job, it was time for 20-year-old Cindy to retire to the quiet pastures of Garden lots.

There, Mr. Oickle’s wife Ann, would frequently visit her with a special delivery of a pocketfull of her favourite pink treats.

“She’d try to get her nose right in her pocket to get those peppermints,” Mr. Oickle said.

Despite being retired, Cindy still made appearances at the Lunenburg Rotary Club’s annual ox and horse pull where she was warmly and affectionately greeted by an adoring public.

This past December 5, however, for reasons unknown, Cindy mysteriously stopped eating and her health began to decline.

Tests conducted by a local veterinarian gave no clue as to the nature of her distress, and over the next several days her condition worsened. Finally, just before Christmas, mild temperatures allowed Mr. Oickle to let Cindy out in the pasture, and she began nibbling on some of the still green grass.

“After a couple of days, she appeared to be coming around a little,” he said.

By Christmas Day, the mare, although weak, was still able to greet Mr. Oickle with her traditional whinny “as if to say good morning” when he enetered the barn.

“I had a little talk with her, gave her a pat on the butt, and simply said ‘Cindy, you go ahead and eat whatever you want today. You do whatever you want to do.’ I spoke to her and left the barn,” he said, “I went back out later on in the afternoon and she had just laid down and died peacefully.” The next day, the mare made her final trip, this one to a hillside high above the Ernst farm overlooking Second Peninsula.

“This is exactly right where Cindy and I had started working together,” he said, “I thought that was quite nice.”

After Cindy was gone, Mr. Oickle broke the sad news to his farrier, Linden Daniels, who remarked that it was too bad the mare had died on Christmas Day.

“I said, well you know, I thought that was kind of a nice day for her to die, if there’s such a thing,” Mr. Oickle mused. “We are celebrating Jesus’ birthday. And he in turn said, yes, he must have needed a good horse.”