Sunday, September 18, 2011


On Saturday, Jean and I went to a regional fair. Jean has always wanted to own a Clydesdale and we specifically went to see the big horses. It is difficult to find a Clyde breeder around our part of the country and our goal was to check out the names on the trailers and mark down the farm names of horses Jean liked. The competitions that we watched were based on age and conformation - I am not sure what that type of competition this is called. The day couldn't have been nicer, even if it started a bit chilly. At 9:30 a.m., we were huddled with our coffee sitting on a very cold metal bleacher.

We walked around the back of the show barn to watch the horses being unloaded. Some of the trailers were massive!! Some looked like homes and trailers combined, with pushed out windows and living space expansions. Holy crap!

Some of the tack required.

Belgian waiting to be unloaded.

The tails of the draft horses are docked when they are about 2 years of age. :-( Apparently this is for hygienic reasons. My understanding is that they are also shod before they hit the two year mark. Their feet are almost square and their shoes are specialized.

First group up was the 2011 babies. :-) OMG, they were so cute! All legs! They kept nickering to each other. You could almost hear them saying "What the heck is going on?" "Who are you?"

2011 Clydesdales - notice the different colours!

Each age group started with Belgians, then Percherons followed by the Clydes. I was surprised at how many different colour variations there were in each breed. Each horse was looked over by the judge, then had to trot to the end of the paddock and back. Even the younger horses had presence! So majestic. Jean, of course, was oooh-ing and awwww-ing throughout the competition. :-)

Some of the younger horses were a bit flighty, understandably. They were being spooked by the noises and smells from the midway and the announcer at the other ring. See the little stick/crop in the handler's hand in the picture below? It is used to make the horse keep its head up or it is used to tap the horse on the leg to improve how the horse is standing.

Even as youngsters, these horses are big and can be a handful (see above). One 2009 Clyde was upset. The more agitated she got, the more her handler pulled on her halter, which had a chain under her chin, and waving that crop in her face (WTH??). The more he pulled, the more pain she was in and the more she wanted to get away from him. He was also standing directly in front of her, which I thought was unsafe. Well, she started to rear. This man just kept pulling harder on the halter and waving that crop in her face. She eventually reared and struck out, hitting the man on his forehead with her shod hoof. The sound was sickening, like a watermelon being hit with a hammer. He went down, blood a-gushing. He was helped off the field and loaded into an ambulance. Another handler stood in for him and continued showing this young horse. Interestingly, as soon as the horse got away from her original handler, she calmed right down and was not a problem. In fact, she placed first.

2009 Percheron

2008 Percheron. What a difference in size one year to the next!

Check out the size of the feet on these Belgians!

Early in the afternoon, I left Jean sitting in the stands. I told her I was going to see if I could get in the show barn and take some pictures. On my way there, I noticed a young man waiting to show. He was very polite and willing to share his knowledge. Did you know that draft horses don't have a long life? When they hit the 20 year old mark, they are "old". When I told him I had a Canadian, he said that he had a Canadian/QH cross that was his trail horse - one of the best horses he ever had. :-) She was purchased at 20-years of age as a family horse, and she passed away last year at 32 years.

This is one of his family's Clydes. Isn't she gorgeous? She is a 2-year old and is "his" horse. See the decorations in her mane? He braided her hair, then fed cheese cloth through it and attached the decorations. Cool, eh?

2-year old's feet compared to a 17-year old's. :-)

As we chatted, it came about that his family breeds Clydes and their farm is located only 30 minutes away!! I told him about Jean's dream and he very kindly said to bring her over to the barn after he had finished this last competition and he would show her some of his horses. How wonderful!! I went back and told Jean. She was so excited!

We met him, and his parents, in the barn. I was impressed that immediately after he introduced us to his parents, the young man watered and fed his horse before he came and talked to us. They were a nice family; warm and funny. They obviously loved their horses and provided all sorts of information. They also didn't look at Jean like she had antenna growing out of her head when she told them she wanted to have a Clyde as a pleasure ride. Jean is not ready yet, but will be in two years. The young man's mother said that if they couldn't provide the right horse for her, they would help her find one through their Clyde connections. How nice is that??!

In spite of their young age, the horses they brought to the show were fine being touched and handled. They didn't mind having their feet picked up. I think that is an indication of the care that they are receiving. Both Jean and I were in awe of how big these horses are. Being in their presence was pretty amazing. I could completely understand how Jean would want to ride one of these giants. As a matter of fact, Jean was quite smitten with a little 2011 roan baby they had shown that day. Yep, I am thinking that Jean may have a roan Clyde gelding in her future..... :-)


  1. What a great show. I love the big draft horses. There was a woman at one barn we boarded at that had one. She rode her all over the place. Big girl but very sweet.

    Sounds like the guy who got his forehead stamped didn't know how to really handle horses. Glad the horse got a different handler and calmed down.

    Hope your friend Jean sees her dream come true someday.

  2. GHM - They were gorgeous! You know, even as a person still fairly green to the horse world, I could see that that handler did not know what he was doing. I think after Saturday, Jean's dream is just a little closer to be being realized. :-)

  3. I smiled when I read about his QH/Canadian cross being an awesome horse. That's what Artemis is.

    I love your pictures, drafts are so beautiful. I was a little horrified reading about that one handler, it's bad he got hurt but thankfully it allowed the horse to get away from him.

  4. Such majectic animals! The photos are fabulous. It is great that it seems you found a good connection in Jeans search for her horse. Sounds like a great bunch.

  5. What nice looking horses even though large!


  6. I love the big breeds!! Thanks for sharing your pix, the babies are adorable. And what was wrong with that man?!?? Even I know that's not the way to be with horses, and I is a novice!
    That family sound absolutely lovely, I'm sure your friend's dream to own a Clyde will come true :D

  7. That is awesome. I once rode a clydesdale gelding bareback, and it was a great ride. They are such calm, docile, accepting horses when treated right...I hope to own one someday as well.

  8. Geez, must have been scary watching that guy get clocked. Sounds like he deserved it but still...

    They call those shoes Scotch Bottoms, personally I think it's a crime to shoe drafts that way. They encourage the hoofs to flare and crack and call it a style. Gross.

    And now I feel like Negative Nancy. Oh well, I hope Jean finds a horse when she's ready.

  9. Cjay – Artemis is growing so quickly…perhaps that’s the Canadian in her. :-) When I see stuff like that handler getting hurt, it reminds me how stupid people can be when it comes to safety.

    Mary – They were really lovely people! Their horses were so well socialized.

    Abby – Welcome! They were very beautiful and graceful.

    Joy – Aren’t those babies just the cutest?! I am hoping that Jean now has a good connection to the Clyde world... think I may be one of her Top 10 bestest friends right now. :-)

    Minus Pride – You rode a Clyde bareback?? Ever lucky!! I bet it was pretty comfortable...sort of like riding a couch? :-)

    Shannon - It was very scary to see that guy get clocked. It happened so fast. I would have to agree with you on the shoeing thing. There were a couple of very large Percherons that I think were suffering with flares and the owners were covering it up by painting their hooves with black stuff. The breeder that we spoke does shoe for shows, but otherwise their horses are barefoot.

  10. There is a woman I've met where we live who has a Belgian team, and I once got brave enough to meet them in person. The owners said she was ripping her hair out over one of the horses' hooves--she had three of the fellows and only one had hoof problems (they were shod normally, not like the Scotch bottoms). She fed all three the same, they pastured together, they were all about the same age, but only one was having problems with bad feet.

    I've always had a dream of owning a draft, or a draft cross...probably will never happen, but I've always been drawn to draft sturdiness of frame and temper. They truly are "gentle giants." I feel bad for the guy who got hurt, but the problem with folks like that is he'll probably still blame the horse for what happened.

  11. What beautiful pictures. The drafts are stunning. And Clyde babies are sooo cute.

  12. I love them all!!!! It's so wonderful to see drafts in peak condition, coats gleaming and manes braided, instead of at the auction (where is where I usually see pics of drafts these days unfortunately). I don't get the hygenic aspect to docking tails, but the horseworld has a lot of strange practices that are leftover from years passed that I don't get. Thank you so much for sharing these. Dang it, now I want a big black Percheron!

  13. What great photos!! They are really beautiful horses ... and gosh doesn't that horse in the second photo look huge in that trailer :)

  14. Fetlock – I have to say that I was relieved that the young horse won first place. Based on my experience with dog rescues, the animal takes the brunt of owner stupidity and they end up discarded because they are “problems”. She embarrassed her handler by striking him in front of his peers. In my mind, her first place showing stopped her (hopefully) from going for meat.

    Once Upon an Equine – Some of those babies were funny. In between talking to each other, they were sniffing the air. All those different smells from the midway must have been very interesting to them!

    Sarah – Apparently it is done so that tails don’t get caught in machinery or harnesses and for cleanliness. The thick coarse hair on a draft horse’s tail holds dirt and manure, which can lead to infections. Personally, I don’t think either of these reasons hold water. The breeders that we spoke to only dock the tails of show horses.

    Ruffles – That was the first draft I came across when we arrived and I thought the same thing!! Huge!

  15. We had one of the biggest horses in america right here as part of a Knights in Shining Armor performance group. Sweetest horse ever. But their size is intimidating. Makes my horse look like a chihuahua. :D

    Beautiful photos - shame about the practices that continue for show. You'd think they'd grow past that nonsense like bad shoeing and docking tails.

  16. Breathe - I think Gem would look like a Chihuahua next to some of these guys! :-) I hear you about the archaic practices. The UK has not allowed docking for horse or dog for years. My understanding is that the Canadian Vet Association does not approve of it, but there isn't a law in place to stop it. :-(

  17. abuse ANY animal, you get what you deserve! GRRRRR

    thx for the picture show :)

  18. I love Clydies. I don't know how I would go riding one though - I think 15.1hh is huge haha.

    Nice pictures. It was a shame to hear about the filly and her handler - that's saying something and I hope he pays attention. Good Post =)

  19. laughingwolf - I hear ya....

    Megan - Gem is 16hh and I used to hyperventilate when I first started riding him! I don't think I could manage riding anything taller than that. :-)

  20. What a great post! I LOVE big horses! Wish there were more photos of the babies :) And ew, what a horrible story about the man struck in the forehead- hope he recovered well, sounds like he was in way over his head...


  21. Hi Corinna - Thanks for stopping by! The babies were adorable. I hope the guy got off with just a couple of stitches and not a concussion.

  22. Big is right! I love draft horses and I'm especially partial to Belgians. Sometimes in her winter coat I think L looks like a little Belgian.

    I met a baby Clyde once. Nine months old and he was bigger than my Thoroughbred at the time.

    I think the babies are a riot.

    Looks like you all had a nice time.

  23. ltd - The babies were very funny. I could see how L could look like a Belgian!! BTW, I ordered my necklace. :-)