Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Horse Tails

Pat and Kelly

As soon as Cindy and Sandy were sold, hubby was eager to get another team. This time, he wanted giants. We knew of a great horseman who showed Belgians, and had some for sale. He always seemed to have horses for sale, as he was constantly trying to achieve the perfectly matched, four-horse hitch with the potential for four or eight. We went to see what he had available, and were soon surrounded by sorrel giants. They were so big that when they put their great heads down, to check out our tiny children with fascinated curiosity, the huge heads were as big as my sweetpea was tall! I scooped her into my arms, of course to a good deal of protest, as she wanted to check out the horses as much as they wanted to look at her. The boychild was far more sensible, and was perfectly happy for his dad to pick him up.
Ernie, the owner of all the handsome geldings we were admiring, pointed out the ones that were for sale, and my husband was eager to pick a team. Arrangements were made for hubby to come back to the farm and work the geldings, before making a final decision. This was something I heartily agreed with. Ernie was very wise, as his show horses were required to work on the farm, and this kept them steady and sane. If hubby got to drive and work them, he’d be ahead of the game. When we’d first arrived, Ernie had swept into the yard from the field, along with the sounds of heavy hooves hitting the ground with enough force to make the ground shake. High-headed, snorty geldings trotted by us with high-knee action. The jangle of chain and slapping of heavy harness on shiny, red hide as they easily pulled the forecart that hooked to whatever implement of choice was more than awesome to see. This is what Ernie wanted my hubby to do with the horses he was interested in, before he bought them. Hubby was thrilled at the prospect of learning from such an experienced horseman. I thought it an incredible opportunity for hubby, and excellent experience.
Hubby was like a kid excitedly looking forward to summer camp. He could hardly wait to go work the horses out in the field, and had the best time ever, when he did. He got to do so a couple of times for a few hours each, then decided that Pat and Kelly were the team for him.
Pat was the typical, North American version of Belgian Draft. He was a giant, sorrel with light mane and tail, and though a youngster of only three, already quite steady.
Kelly was another story, still a sorrel, yet with a light roaning that gave his coat a bit of a pinkish hue. At seven years old, one would’ve thought he would be the steadier of the two, yet he wasn’t. I couldn’t quite put my finger on the issue, but there was something going on with that horse. I insisted on putting some basics onto Kelly, before hubby began driving him. A bit of manners, some sacking out and spook-proofing, as well as teaching both drafts to pick up those giant feet of theirs. We didn’t have access to stocks like what many Drafts were trimmed in. Pat and Kelly had to learn to pick up their giant feet, and hold them there. They couldn’t be trying to pull free or misbehave. They were simply too big to mess around with. As soon as I had them good with their feet, I arranged for a farrier to come and trim them up.
This wasn’t as easy, as one would assume. It soon became apparent that most farriers didn’t trim heavy horses. They were too hard to do, too difficult to manage, and usually no good with their feet. I promised otherwise, begged and pleaded, and got my way! I finally managed to get one to agree.
Trimming day arrived, and I was pleased to get the big boys feet sorted out. Plates were fine on show Drafts, but weren’t practical for everyday use. We weren’t looking for snappy, high action. We wanted steady, sensible and quiet. The farrier set up, I went to retrieve a horse.
The nearest was Kelly, and it was nice to have him behave like a perfect gentleman. He stood quietly, held his big foot properly, and gave absolutely no problems at all. It took hardly any time, for the farrier to get the over-sized plates cut off, and a normal, giant hoof left in its place. Time for the next horse.
Returning Kelly to the pen, I reached up to take Pat’s halter with one hand, while readying the snap in the other. A second later, I was swinging in a circle like a tether ball, my feet several feet off the ground. Apparently, Pat could spin on his haunches like a reining horse!
“Pat! Whoa!”
Just like that, he stopped and lowered his head.
“Bad boy,” I sternly reprimanded while he lowered his head, “what was that about? Now … step.”
Step was the verbal command, used to tell a Draft to step forward, and Pat immediately obeyed. Whatever lapse in judgment had caused him to behave so unexpectedly was gone, poof, just like that. I led Pat over to the farrier, where he behaved perfectly. Even allowing the farrier to sit on first one great, front leg then the other, while his hooves were trimmed.
The farrier was both amused and appreciative. All of a Draft horse is heavy, and having to hold up such a large foot and leg, is certainly no treat.
Pat was done. I returned him to his buddy Kelly then returned to pay the farrier.
“I have to say,” the man said with a sheepish grin, “when you said that they picked up their feet and wouldn’t give me trouble, I didn’t believe you.”
“Oh?” Somewhat amused, I grinned and waited.
“Well, I could hardly believe that the first one was so good,” he continued to confess, “then when the second one swung you around like that, I figured here we go … typical Draft. But when you told him whoa, and he instantly stopped like that, it surprised me. I still figured he might act up and mess around, but he was good as gold. I have to say, I’m impressed.”
“Why thanks,” I grinned all the more, “I try, everybody here, has to behave. They’re too big, to not. They could easily hurt a person. I have kids. All the horses have to be good.”
“Well I can tell you this,” his smile grew, “I’ll do them anytime, no problem. I’ve trimmed lots of light horses that were really bad. These two are angels.”
I have to admit, I felt pretty proud under his praise, and I was pretty proud of those two Belgians as well. After only a few days, they already had learned what was expected of them, and that was a wonderful thing indeed. If that continued, hubby could have the two Drafts. Time would tell.
One thing we quickly learned, when a couple thousand pounds pushes on a fence, the fence loses. Time for a strand of electric!

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About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
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 Oakbank, MB