Friday, November 12, 2010

A Percheron History -photographic montage

I have selected "a few" photos from my assortment of books, magazines, ads and printed matter and put together a little slide show.

Sources for the photos were Haras du Pin, print ads, Col Walters book "The Percheron Horse", 1st edition -art book, Percheron magazines and journals, material from the PHAOA.

From...The Rider and Driver, Dec 11, 1897

OUT DOOR WRAPS FOR WOMEN WHO RIDE OR DRIVE (I guess that formal equine wear for women sometimes came in something other than an apron!)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Someone Needs to Write it...The Shoes are way out of Proportion.

In 1938, the Percheron Horse Association of America published a little booklet on the Percheron standard. It was the opinion of 100 of the top breeders, judges, agricultural teachers and Percheron experts in the USA and Canada. The image below is the section written about the ideal type of good foot and shoes for the Percheron horse. The mare, whose bottoms are shown below won the Championship at Ohio State Fair in 1935. These standards were developed in the early 1800s and continued up until the 1960s. What changed?

How did scotch bottoms come to dominate the show circuit? Here is the story that I have heard about how the use of scotch bottoms came about. In the 1960s, when the modern type Percheron was being re-invented, a small number of Clydesdales were imported from the UK for exhibition at the Royal Canadian Winter Fair (one of the top fairs in the Americas). The feet of these horses were shod with scotch bottoms, as these horses were being used for slow field work and heavy pulling work. Well, the American Percheron owners saw how these shoes caused the Clydesdales to pick up and how the shoe allowed for the feet to grow bigger than normal and it was love at first sight. Early use of these shoes was moderate, they were not the huge, oversized and weighted monsters of modern draft horse shows. It happened gradually, but slowly these giant shoes, along with modern epoxy formulations became the foundation for growing a huge, oversized and unnatural foot. Unfortunately, the horse without an extremely over-sized scotch will not place in the halter or the hitch ring now. They are considered a "must have" for any serious competitor at a rated show.

Taking a stand against these shoeing practices is not an easy thing to do. I love draft horse shows. I love the pomp, the action, and the presence of these majestic animals. But I love these animals more than I love a good show and I think the draft horse industry is doing our horses a grave disservice. I believe that the modern draft horse shoeing practices for halter and hitch horses (particularly Percherons) at the big shows are often bordering on and can be inhumane. I also hear the stories of drugging with caffeine and speed, overuse of steroids and NSAIDs, and the use of other drugs to enhance performance. The use of electroshocks under the harness to promote action, impulsion and animation are common. So common, that often electroshock controls are left openly on the wagon seat for usage during shows. I do not believe that these practices reflect modern animal husbandry standards. The standard shoeing practices for halter and hitch horses can and usually do lead to soreness as well as side-bone, sequestrums, splints, OCD, and ringbone. No one who works in this industry will deny that these shoeing practices hurt horses and that drug use for enhanced performance is a common occurrence (if you can get them to speak openly behind the barn).

In fact, an argument might be made that the practices of shoeing with over-sized scotch bottoms -sometimes inches too big, weighted shoes, growing flares, shaving off the inside hoof, cutting down the inside hoof, using excess epoxy, and growing out toe and hoof beyond normal farrier practices breaks the Federal laws regarding soring.

Here is a link to the APHIS/USDA fact sheet on soring. What do you think? Would the statement in the USDA fact sheet (quoted below) be inclusive or exclusive of scotch bottoms?
"The accentuated gait may also be accomplished
using inhumane hoof trimming or pressure-shoeing"
Why or why not? Do the modern scotch bottoms, and the farrier practices associated with showing Percherons violate Federal law? Is the use of chemicals to enhance gait a common occurrence? Honestly, I don't know. But am I totally off my rocker to think that it is time for the industry to regulate itself before the Federal government decides to took a closer look?

Is it possible for the draft horse industry to regulate itself? Return to the standards set by our forefathers? Or, do you believe that these shoes, steroid use and drug use falls within normal agricultural practices? Do you believe that drug and steroid use is minimal and an uncommon occurance? I would love to hear your point of view.

The clipped images (4) used above are for educational use only.

Friday, September 3, 2010

World Percheron Congress

The World Percheron Congress is shaping up to be an extraordinary event! I read this week on the facebook event page that at least 33 six horse hitches are coming and 1000 stalls spoken for. That means there will be almost 1000 Percherons in one place. WOW!!!

Above: MGs Prince Charles and Robert at the 2006 World Percheron Congress,
winning first place -aged stallion class

Well, with a less less than two months to go, we are getting ready for the Congress!

The World Percheron Congress is being held in Des Moines, Iowa this year at the end of Oct. Getting from here to there is a lot of work and we are in the thick of it! From our farm in Jasper to Des Moines is a fifteen hour drive. Then comes that fact that the Congress wants exhibitors to stay the whole week, which means a week away from the farm, from Robert's and my business and from our very busy lives. But with much fear, we have jumped in with both feet! The fees have been paid, the hotel has been booked, we are busy training and readying the horses, tack, harness and vehicles. I am driving and riding every single day now. Two horses, no excuses! That excuses!

To write that I am excited about the Congress would be a huge understatement. This is going to be the “alpha and omega” of draft horse shows for me. I can’t wait to watch the hitches, feel the tension and excitement and see the next halter superstars in the Percheron world. Being able to meet old friends, make new friends and put faces to some of my Internet buddies is just icing on the cake! I am looking forward to the banquet, the displays and of course, the hitches!

I have been practicing like crazy this summer and have made great strides with Cielo Azure’s Fleur du Soleil, my five-year old mare. It has been a long road for us. Soleil coliced early February and went to surgery. The post-up, recovery during spring took a lot of work and was very stressful. She is not a horse that keeps easily in a stall and she became very spooky and hot during her recovery phase. But starting late April, I have been re-building her skills, working on new skills and building fitness this summer. Finally, I feel that she is back on top of her game and we are better than ever. I have never felt so close to a horse as I feel to her. Every day, I thank UGA veterinary hospital for their extraordinary skills in saving her life. There are few places that can perform colic surgery on a eighteen hand draft horse. I am lucky that Soleil was in such great physical shape when it happened and that we caught it very early.

Robert has been riding Cielo Azure’s Corbeau. Corbeau is a four year old gelding and full brother to Soleil. He has had his hands full, as Corbeau is young, full of energy, very forward and recently gelded. However, he is going great and I think he will be ready for his second Congress. Corbeau placed in his halter class as a weanling at the 2006 World Percheron Congress.

We have entered both horses in English and Western Pleasure riding classes. Then Robert will be driving Corbeau and Soleil as a pair in the carriage class and I will be driving Soleil in the pleasure driving class.

If we can find room on the trailer, we will also be bringing G.T.s Joanna. Joanna is a lovely five-year mare who Robert will be entering in the registered mare, men’s cart class. Competition is fierce in that class. Hoever, Joanna is an exceptional mover; although she will be conservatively shod and she will not have an overcheck bit on. We will be lucky if he places (there are probably close to 50 entries in that class, unless they have a cut-off). But to drive at the Congress is a dream come true in of itself.

We were fortunate to go to the Congress, 2006 in Lexington, VA and we placed well in many classes. Part of that was luck and part of it was preparation. But in 2006, the World Percheron Congress came right smack in the middle of selling our house in Maryland and moving to Georgia. I did not enter any performance classes and Robert only entered a couple of riding classes. We did do well in halter though. During the Congress, we ended up having to come back up to Maryland to take care of other business, which definitely made showing difficult. So, this time –the week will be spent in Iowa and I look forward to being able to concentrate on the World Congress ! Also, this year, we will not be entering any halter is too far to drag the babies (who were born late this year) and the big shoes aren't practical with our riding or driving. I wrote. The next few weeks are going to be very busy for us as we work towards our dream of participating in the 2010 World Percheron Congress. Coming up in the next month: we will also be holding a draft horse conformation and halter clinic at the farm, both showing and working to put on the best show possible at the Parry National Draft horse show; where we will also be performing in a ten minute quadrille. Yikes! My hat is firmly in my hand as we go off to the races!

For more information, go to:

If you are going to be at the Congress, please come by and visit! My goal is to have as much fun as possible and to meet as many new people as possible. Talking about these great horses is almost as good as working them!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Breed Study by the PHAOA: Percheron Action Described

Percheron Type Study
By: Ellis McFarland, collaborating with 44 leading judges and breeders in the USA and Canada. 1938. This work is a subsequent publication to clarify an earlier publication on the Ideal Percheron Horse "How to Select Percherons," 1936.

At the same time, Ross Butler was commissioned to illustrate the perfect Percheron and to sculpt a model of it. Prints and these models can sometimes still be found. Examples of these wonderful pieces of art are copied above from the Ross Butler gallery site for educational purposes.

The text below comes from the study written in 1939

True Action Desired:

"In an effort to focus attention on the importance of correct type for Percherons, it is not the intention to disregard the subject of action. Good action is recognized generally as one of the outstanding qualities of the Percheron breed.

...The breed is noted for its light-stepping horses. Farmers no longer want the extra big, clumsy-footed, thick headed draft horse. They prefer the up-headed, smart-eared type with a comparativey long neck and a trim throatlatch that can step lively if necessary.

...True action for all practical purposes is essential in a good work horse. True action combined with high action is ideal for a show horse..

Those at the Chicago International Livestock Exposition who saw Damascus and Encanter at the time they were made grand champions in 1935 and 1937, respectively, saw draft horse action that no other draft breed has equalled in many years, perhaps never. These horses picked their feet up with a mechanical like precision that gave real distinction. They were ton horses, but they could walk, trot and turn around with great ease. Breeders and judges should keep these two in mind as the ideal of superb action...

Quickness of step, coupled with a good disposition, is characteristic of the breed. Percherons are noted for their good dispositions and a quick step indicates as unusual degree of intelligence. Because of these qualities and the added advantage of the Percheron high-headedness, men on the lead-strap on show day claim less fatigue than those with other draft breeds. Percherons have the enviable reputation as the the smartest-headed of all the draft breeds."

Another section of the study concentrates of height. This is what the study concludes about height:

The popularity of the Percheron continues because it come in all sizes for the various needs of prospective users. The big, heavy horse is not as popular in America as in the past due principally to the slight demand in cities for extra heavy geldings for big truck hauling. However, the big ones are still preferred in England. Breeders in that country want extra heavy-boned, large framed animals.

In the French shows two classes are provided, namely, one the big and one for the medium sized Percheron."

To end:

There is always something new to learn in exploring the Percheron breed in times past. The 1920s to the 1940s favored heavy animals, with a lot of bone. But it turns out, that even in the period when a very bulky horse was desired, action was still paramount. What comes around, goes around.

Lady Roxy 210562 and Lady's Carpo (231485). First prize mare and foal, 1938 National Percheron Show.

Registered Percherons working at Monocacy Farms, Frederick, MD. Photo from 1937.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Slight Course Adjustment

After much thought, Robert and I have made the big leap and purchased a black, 100% pure Veiga Lusitano colt. With luck, in a few years, he will be used for breeding. His name is JP Zarathustra and we think he is very special. As with many Veiga colts, he is line bred and so will be very prepotent. Zara is very typey, with a dry convex head, a great top line, clean legs and a baroque head set.

We chose the ancient Iberian horse breed for a number of reasons. The number one reason is their tractability and their native intelligence. They simply excel at learning. We also appreciate their strength, athleticism, baroque form and the Veiga line's natural ability to collect. Finally, we appreciate the history of the world's most ancient breed. The Lusitano is truly an ancient treasure.

We wanted a horse that could be able to be used to create a crossbred (in our case the Spanish Norman) that will excel in driven sports. That includes dressage, pleasure driving and CDEs. The linebred Lusitano is an excellent horse to crossbreed because he passes his strong traits to the next generation. We chose an elegant, refined Veiga horse; that should pass down that wonderful headset, temperament and croup. With our black Percherons, we wanted a black stallion. This way, we can rapidly breed a pair of matched horses for the show ring. So, we went and and searched for the best darn horse that we could find. Unfortunately, that meant getting a colt. The price of a stallion of the quality we desire was just out of our price range.

But beyond the breeding, we wanted a horse that can be used for dressage and driven dressage. A horse that Robert can train and that can take him to the next level in his quest for his own personal growth in horsemanship.

I think we found all that we were looking for and more in our little colt. We purchased him from JP Giacomini, who had not intended to sell him. JP had been planning this breeding for many years, and sees the potential of this cross to be his replacement one day for Hipogrifo, our colt's sire. He has retained rights to a certain number of breedings and we are very happy to have a partner in our new journey with JP.

Hipogrifo is an amazing horse. He exudes the Veiga bloodlines through his every pore; from his convex head, elegance and down to his work ethic. Hipo is now a venerable old stallion, still eager to please and just amazing to watch.

Finally, I wish to quote the Interagro site and their wonderful write-up of the Veiga blood:

the symbol Veiga Veiga

"The Veiga bloodline produced the most genuine war horse of Ancient Lusitania. 'Veigas' are extremely functional and smaller than the other lineages - excellent for bullfighting.

They have the typical convex head known as the "Veiga head", flat thin legs with prominent hocks, fantastic impulsion and proud flexible necks.

Manuel Veiga describes his horses as follows: "Nervous, full of gallantry, so obedient they seem to outguess the rider's intentions; high thin head, long free-flowing manes, elevated movements and a striking agility challenging all threats and dangers with indomitable courage"

The Veiga is a true race within the Lusitano breed and the stallions when used on mares of any other lineage have the power to transmit to the offspring the most typical characteristics of the Lusitanian race.

The selection criterion was based entirely on the functional qualities, as explained by Alfredo Baptista Coelho:

"not the height, nor the academic morphology, not the color, nor the form of the head. Everything was offered by the race itself: wonderful fine slightly convex heads today known as "Veiga head", ancient rare colors, fine flat legs with strong hocks, flexible backs, uncommon impulsion, beautiful malleable necks... in short, the race offered him [Mr Veiga] a horse that makes our horse loving people vibrate.""

JP Zarathurstra

Monday, July 19, 2010

Summer on the Farm

It has been a busy month. A foal was born, there has been lots of gardening, cooking, fence mending, farm clean-up, a show or two and a fair amount of horsing around.

The foal was born about five weeks ago. She is quite stunning and we have named her Cielo Azure's Fantasia (Fannie for short). Fannie is an elegant girl, very tall and with a very long neck and legs. She is quite the looker. I made a little movie of her when she was a few days old.

As Fannie has grown up, we have discovered that she is about the friendliest little filly around. She just loves to interact with us and follows us around like a dog.


I have been particularly proud of our vegetable garden this year. It has kept us with a constant flow of tomatoes, basil, peppers, squash, herbs, cucumbers and swiss chard. Earlier in the season, we had lettuce, parsley, spinach and radishes. Yesterday, I harvested the first potatoes. Last night's dinner was from start to finish from our land. We scrambled eggs (from our chickens), hash browns made from freshly dug potatoes and a side of small tomato and cucumber. Yummy!

Cooking has always been something I enjoy. A way to give back to my family. As we are vegetarians, I have developed many recipes based on the cooking I grew up with (my parents were British immigrants), which I have modified for our meat free diet.

A favorite recipe of mine is Split Pea Soup, which I have written out to share with you all:

Vegetarian Split Pea Soup (Easy and healthy)

1 pound dried split peas
3 to 5 carrots (about a half cup sliced)
1 medium or 2 small onions
½ tsp thyme
1 tsp salt
½ tsp oregano
1 tsp white pepper (black works also)
¼ cup butter
1 box vegetable broth (16 oz) or two cans or veggy boullion cubes (2 or 3 cubes)
1/3 to ½ cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
½ cup sliced celery
1 cup textured vegetable protein (I like Hammish bits made by Harmony foods*. If you use unflavored TVP –you might want to add a touch of liquid or powdered smoke flavor to taste)
Water to cover all ingredients.

Rinse the peas well, and throw out the water. Prepare and place all of the ingredients into a large pot. Add water to cover (plus and extra two to three inches). Bring to a boil and let simmer for about an hour or a bit more, stirring occasionally. More water may need to be added –keeping the liquid level just above the other ingredients. Once peas are soft, use a hand held electric blender to puree the soup. If you don’t have a hand blender, you can either serve it as is or pour it all into a blender to puree. Add more water if you like a thinner soup. Taste and season again –if needed. This recipe is easily modified to add more of less of any of the ingredients. Fresh vegetables, such as asparagus may be included or substituted.

This time of year, I have parsley, oregano and thyme in the garden. So, I tend to use a mix of store bought (dried) and garden grown herbs –depending on the season. The thing about using fresh herbs and spices, as well as garden produced dried is that different varietals, different growing environments and different drying conditions produce different levels of intensity in herbs. So, my cooking tip is taste your food frequently while cooking and season “to taste.”

* I buy TVP in bulk over the Internet, as NW Georgia isn’t known for its great selections in the local supermarkets. Harmony foods has TVP in many sized chunks, flakes and flavors and they sell it in bulk much more cheaply via the net.

For the sweet tooth:

Here is an old fashioned English recipe for lemon curd from my mother, Iris Glasspool. Lemon curd is like a lemon jam only tart and creamy. It can be used in place of syrups, as a filling for cakes or on bread.

Lemon Curd

¼ pound butter (melted)
rind one lemon
juice from 3 lemons
¼ tsp salt
1 ½ cup sugar
3 egg yolks + 3 whole eggs (beaten).
Note about eggs: My sister just uses 5 whole eggs and that works too.

In a saucepan, combine lemon juice, lemon rind, sugar, salt, eggs, and butter. Cook (stirring gently), using medium-low heat until thick enough to hold marks from the whisk, and a few bubbles appears on surface.

This recipe keeps for about a week. Cool before using.

Finally, I leave you all with this image of Robert and I taken by our son, Spencer at a local draft horse show. Having fun in the show ring, what could be better?

Enjoy this wonderful summer, it will be gone before we know it!

Monday, May 24, 2010

LDs Prince Charles: Fifteen years young!

Charles is a Percheron Stallion. He was born on May 29, 1995, which makes him fifteen years old this week. Charles is all black, with a few white hairs on his forehead. Barefoot, he stands at 17.2 hands of pure muscle and action. Charles joined Cielo Azure Percherons almost five years ago and he has been a pleasure to have around the farm!

Charles loves the mares; they really are his main passion in life (that and eating). But Charles is also the local comic relief, as he loves to roll and rear and run around and "be stupid." But Charles is always happy to have a head scratch, a back rub or a good rinse off when the weather warms up.

He is always gentle around the mares, as well as around humans. When children come to visit, I can always count on Charles to accept their pats and kind words with grace and gentleness. He has a kind heart and that says it all.

Thank you Charles for gracing our lives with your magnificent presence!
May you continue to thrive and live well!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Grooming Percherons for Show

Over the years, a low but steady drumbeat calling for information on how to prepare a draft horse for showing in halter and hitch is heard on the draft horse forums. It can be intimidating and frustrating trying to find the information needed to prepare your horse for your first draft horse show.

Having written various replies each year on how to prepare a Percheron horse for the show ring, I was thinking that it might be helpful to write it out. Then it could be posted here, so that I can refer people to it to it when the information is needed.

Preparation really starts with the decision to try to keep your horse black. Keeping a black horse, black means keeping them out of the sun in the summer months. I like to put my show horses in stalls during the day and let them out to pasture at night. This has a number of advantages, other than the obvious black coat. It keeps the daytime flies off of them, it keeps the horseflies away, and keeps the scratches down (here in the South, we have to battle humid, hot weather -which is not the ideal climate for drafts). Furthermore, it allows the horses a cool place to eat their own rations and they are just more comfortable when out of the mid-day sun.

The next thing you really need to think about is shoes. If you want to really succeed in halter, scotch bottom shoes need to be put on your horse. For the show season, that means that in June, a set of "growing plates," (or die 2 shoes) are nailed on. These shoes will allow the horse to grow a larger "foot." Later in the season, these will be switched out for scotch bottom shoes (or die 1s). For some, a set of scotch bottoms put on just before the show will do. This often requires an epoxy to be added around the base of the foot to make it look like the hoof has grown into the shoe. But when that is done, a good judge will spot the difference immediately. For us, because we like to turn out our horses and we do canter work, we do not put scotch bottoms on early in the season, as they will pull them off. We do not shoe for early shows in the spring either. I am sure that this has hurt us in the show ring but the benefits are a horse that can be used without losing shoes. If you are showing in A or B rated shows, and if you want to win or place, you have to get those scotch bottoms on early in the summer. The hardest part may be getting a farrier who knows how to shoe for draft horse shows unless you live in a state where such shows are the norm. Otherwise, you need to either fly down a farrier, learn to do it yourself or pay for your farrier to learn. It is an expensive proposition, no matter what route you choose.

The good news is that if you take care not to overshoe, use a moderate scotch and don't let your horse out in mud, scotch bottoms can be a perfectly safe and fine shoe for the very short show season. A lot of people think that Will Lent makes the best shoes on the market, here is his website (a die 1, is the shoe most commonly used for big shows)

Now, that your horse is black, your shoes are on and your hoof is nice and big, lets look at the actual show preparations!

A couple of days before the show, I give the horse a bath (sometimes two). I like to use a human dandruff shampoo (generic, if you must know) but any good human or horse shampoo will do.

After the bath, I clip. Clipping a Percheron for show is not much different than clipping a light horse for show. The whiskers, ears, stray hairs all must be clipped. A bridle path should be cut. The legs are clipped, but a bit of feather -right behind the pastern joint is left on (although some people remove that too and other people will leave on a little more feather than others). The Percheron is a lightly feathered breed, and the judge will want to see the length and angle of the pasterns. Get those pasterns trimmed to allow the judge to be able to see what he needs to see. If you horse has some thickness around his pasterns from scaring, you may wish to leave a bit more feather on than is normal. Likewise, a lovely long pastern, with great angles is worth highlighting. You always have to work with your horse -you should know what modern Percheron breed type and conformation should be and then strive to perfect your own horse through careful grooming as well as conditioning. You have to work with what you have! That is what showmanship is all about! One way to learn what is proper is to really look at images on the web or go to a draft horse show and study those horses. Shown below is a young colt, note how his fetlocks are neatly trimmed and just a touch of feather is left on.

The tail should be put up in a tail bun. See the mane roll section below for more information. The bun should be neat and tidy. Practice putting in the tail bun (and mane roll for geldings and stallions) before the show. An hour before the class is not the time to learn!

If a tail has a long dock, special preparations have to be made to accommodate the amount of hair. A long dock or an un-docked tail should have a tail bun at the top, placed where it is normally placed. Then there are a number of options on what to do with all that hair! These range from shaving the tail bone to french braiding the rest of the tail.If you choose to braid, practice what works best for your horse before the show! Some options for braiding and finishing the braid include bringing the long end of the braid up through the braid or tied with ribbon to the braid.

Remember, the judge will want to see those hocks, if he/she can't see the hocks, he/she can't judge the hocks and that WILL put you in a disadvantage! It is your job to make the judge able to judge all aspects of your horse and the hocks on a draft horse are a critical criteria for judging.

The yearling below has a full tail, note how it has been braided so that the judge can see her hocks. Note that a full tail is not what judges "want" to see. It is still the rare judge that is not going to mark off for such a tail. This horse is being shown at a fun show in the spring, so no big shoes were put on her.

Hooves and chestnuts should be blacked with hoof black. This can be done the night before and touched up just before show time. If your horse has various nicks and dings, consider getting a can of black horse touch up for such spots.

I like to use Pepi sheen spray just before entering the ring. But don't put such products on too thickly or the dust and dirt will cling to them.

The forelock should have a tight braid with a three stranded ribbon braided through it.

For halter, stallions and gelding have mane rolls with seven stand-ups. Mare do not have mane rolls for halter. For all halter classes, the mane should be trimmed or pulled for a natural look, with a length of about five to six inches. For hitch classes, mares are rolled and have five stand-ups.

There are some good resources for learning how to do a mane roll and tail buns. The first is to volunteer with a hitch at your local draft horse show! Do a good job, ask nicely and they will probably be glad to teach you! There are clinics around the country on how to show draft horses. The Draft horse Journal and the Rural Heritage web sites have calendars that often list such clinics, as will your local draft horse club. The web also has some resources:
There is even a DVD you can buy:

Of course, for a small, local show or a fun show, not all of these things have to be done. But what I have written here is how 95% of all the horses will be dressed at any A or B rated show in this country.

When getting ready to show, don't forget about yourself and your whip. Blue jeans are never acceptable in the halter ring. Most shows and judges prefer either black jeans or dress pants. For women, don't over dress. Sequins, cowboy hats and such like are better left at the AQHA shows! A simple button up or polo is always acceptable. Many people have their farm name put on their shirts or choose matching shirts for their whip. That is always a nice touch.

Finally, showing Percherons successfully means that not a single hair should be out of place! My favorite youth judge, Mr. Ron Mack, has a trick to see just which youth really knows how to show. As he walks along the line-up or when speaking to the exhibitor, he will reach over and "pet" the horse. In doing so, he will knock some of the mane on to the left side. He waits to see which young exhibitor will fix the mane and which will allow it to remain and that can be the difference between first and second place!

A well groomed horse, no matter what the conditions, can only help you win a class!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Draft horses, Achenbach and driving with all three gaits

I did some reading last night and found a bit of trivia/history that came my way that I just think is way cool. As many of you know, draft horses are my passion but I also love the finer side of driving. Driven dressage, pleasure driving and reinsmanship. Combining these loves has been an ongoing goal of mine for a while.

The back story. Last spring (a year and a half ago) I learned how to drive Achenbach (which is one handed driving -kind of, you actually use your right hand too but it gives you the option of driving one handed) at a clinic with Johnny Ruhl. It took a while for me to learn, as it is complex and it has its drawbacks but for coaching and long drives, I just love it. For a little overview on different reining styles while driving, you can go to:

About a year ago, i also started seriously cantering our horses in harness. The two combined have become part of my training and it is a blast. Completely non traditional in the hitch world kind of way but WAY fun. The horses love it, I feel more secure knowing that I have at least three good gaits and I feel like I have more control.

So, last evening Corbeau, a lovely four year old gelding and I got ourselves out and driving. He is still young and a little green but it just turning out to be such a solid horse.
I took him out on the road because the farm is soaked from all the rain. We went up to the gravel section a ways away. There I let him out and he just cantered along, totally in the moment and was so good! We both enjoyed the brisk air. I drove Achenbach or Coachmens style, and it is a lot of fun to drive one handed with a cantering horse! I remember watching some Jane Austen movie, where the young rake was driving his fast horse one handed, totally casual -like he had the wheel of a power car. Well, that was kind of how I felt. I was completely in control of this great big power horse, going full speed ahead -with just the slightest touch of a single hand. What a cool feeling! There is nothing more fun than driving a cantering draft horse.

When I got back to the house, I hunted around for information on driving history (a little passion of mine) and found this:
This little article gives the history of Achenbach reining and its development by Benno von Achenbachin the 1800s. The author goes on to write that Benno von Achenbachin "... was horrified at the brutal maltreatment of horses and made it his life goal to improve the living and working conditions of horses, especially draft horses." Remember, this is in the late 1800s! The Achenbach style is still the dominant style used in driven dressage and was the official style of driving for the military of many European countries.

So, the Achenbach style -that people think is all about as being the style of driven dressage, pleasure driving and military driving actually had it roots in DRAFT HORSES. Sometimes, everything seems to come around into one big circle.

For more about Achenbach (or driving from the left) and to learn how: