Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Good Morning, Class of '64
Three Dappled Percherons Abreast - Rick Clubb
The essential joy of being with horses 
is that it brings us in contact with the 
rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit, and fire.
Sharon Ralls Lemon

 Dapple Gray Percheron

Another Day with Larry

A canter is a cure for every evil. 
Benjamin Disraeli

Feeling down?
Saddle up. 

Somewhere in time's own space
There must be some sweet pastured place
Where creeks sing on and tall trees grow
Some paradise where horses go,
For by the love that guides my pen
I know great horses live again.
Stanley Harrison
Disc Harrowing - Elaine Juska Joseph

A lovely horse is always an experience....
It is an emotional experience of 
the kind that is spoiled by words.
Beryl Markham

Day 14


Before we started using tractors, horses were a vital part of our farming. We had a horse in harness at least 75 to 100 days per year.

We had 3 different horses, one after the other, in my lifetime. They were all dapple-gray Percherons which faded to white as they got older. Our first was a mare named Nell who died in her early 30’s, very old for a horse. I can barely remember her. Then we bought Dan from a neighbor, Herbert Ware, for $30.00. Herb had the best horses I’ve ever seen. He really knew how to train them. They were great pullers, and they loved to pull. His horses could have competed pound-for-pound with any horses. Dan died of heaves, a respiratory illness similar to asthma in humans. Then we got Jim, the slowest and most lethargic animal I have ever known. He had a slightly misshapen front hoof which made him even slower, especially going downhill.

Dan was as perfect as a horse could be. He was strong. He loved to pull. He was dependable. He understood pulling and most of the jobs on a farm better than I did. He had more horse sense than most people. Dan taught me everything I know about horses.

Dan was smart, smart enough to be mischievous. When we went to get him in the pasture, he would back away, prancing and tossing his head. He would stay about 10 feet away from us until we cornered him. After the bridle touched him, he was fine. We could go up to him any time in the pasture without the bridle, but when he saw it, he wanted to have some fun. Any time you got on his back, he would reach around and nip your foot. He never bit hard enough to hurt, again, just having fun. He loved to walk fast, and he refused to let a person or another horse walk in front of him or directly beside him; he had to be in front. When hitched in a team, he always pulled most of the load because he was always a half-step in front of the other horse. I was devastated when he died.

Belgian Team Pulling Horses - Kim Corpany

He knows when you're happy
He knows when you're comfortable
He knows when you're confident
And he always knows when you have carrots.

Another Day with Larry

I bless the hoss from hoof to head -
From head to hoof, and tale to mane! -
I bless the hoss, as I have said,
From head to hoof, and back again!
James Whitcomb Riley

Four Horses Pulling a Plough - JF Alderson
 Day 13

I love to watch horse-pulling contests. That was always a big event at the state fair, one we eagerly anticipated.

Horses are fascinating animals. They are very gregarious; they like the company of man, other horses, and other animals. They like to please their owners. They like and respond well to attention. They like working. Draft horses love to pull heavy loads. Race horses love to run and have a very competitive spirit. Quarter horses love to work cattle.

I once watched the Budweiser Clydesdale eight-horse hitch being unloaded from the trucks and hitched to the wagon. The handlers led them off the trucks to their place in the hitch. Or the horses led the handlers - I’m not sure which. The horses knew their places in the hitch.

The collar fits over the head, but the horses were so tall that the handlers couldn’t reach high enough so each horse bowed his head to receive the collar.

After they were harnessed, they stood with heads nodding, half asleep. Until the dog started barking. They had not released him from the truck. When the horses heard him, they became very restive, tossing their heads, snorting, and stamping the ground. When the dog was released, he ran alongside the hitch to the wagon. When the horses saw him, they immediately became quiet,

While they were standing there, parents held their children up to pet the horses. The horses loved it. They seemed to understand that they were the center of attention and took that simply as their due.

The horses were on a side street about 100 feet from the parade route. When the lead band in the parade began playing, the Clydesdales wanted to go. They became so anxious that two handlers had to hold the bridles of the lead team to keep them secure. They knew that people had come to see them and thought it was time to go.

Their feet were badly beat up. Several had split hoofs and one or two had special iron shoes that covered the entire foot to prevent more damage. Horse hooves are not designed for hard pavement. Each horse weighed over a ton - that’s a lot of weight to come down on the hoof. The Clydesdales do not walk on parade routes - they march, slamming their feet down with every step. I took several photos of them marching and was amazed at their precision. Each horse had the same foot off the ground in almost every photo.

The process of driving a multi-team hitch is fascinating. The Clydesdale hitch is 4 teams, two horses wide and four horses long. Each team has a set of lines so the driver, with his assistants, has to control 8 leather straps. The lead team’s heads are at least 50 feet from the driver - a lot of leather to manage. To further complicate the matter, in a turn, the lead team’s heads become 12 to 15 feet closer to the driver. To make a right turn, the driver pulls the right line on the lead team causing them to turn right. As they approach the end of their turn, he must pressure the left line to straighten them while simultaneously pulling the right line on the second team. This progression continues until the wheel team (the one closest to the wagon) completes the turn. The driver must pull in 12 to 15 feet of lines on the lead team while they are in the turn and release it as they straighten. He must do the same with the other teams, each with a shorter amount to manage.

Realistically, a team as well trained as the Clydesdales could probably complete any parade without guidance from the driver. But the horses need to be confident that the driver is in control. They trust him to take care of them. The only way he can communicate that control to them is by a firm hand on the lines. He must maintain that firm pressure on the lines. With loud noises and people doing stupid, dangerous things around the horses, the driver has prevented countless injuries by his firm control. I love to watch the horses, but I also love to watch the driver and his assistants.

Clydesdale Stallion, Mare - Cassel's Book of Horse 1890

The Budweiser Clydesdale Horses 
Merrimack, New Hampshire

 Budweiser Clydedales Blog

I would be very comfortable picking up the lines and working a team in a field. In fact, I would love to! But a multi-team hitch in a parade lined with thousands of people - not a job for the faint hearted or the amateur!

President Ronald Reagan was fond of saying that there is not much that can go wrong on the inside of a person that cannot be fixed by the outside of a horse. I agree.

Teamwork - Mark Keathley
 There is nothing so good for the inside 
of a man as the outside of a horse.
John Lubbock
The Use of Life, 1894

Ploughing with Two Horses - Michael Benington

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