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Thursday, 03 September 2009
What Do You Think of When You Think of "Horsepower"?

When I Think of "Horse Power" I Think of REAL Horse Power - Draft Horse Power!

By Joy Crupper, Librarian

A couple of years ago, I got the chance of a lifetime, the chance to work with a couple of Belgian mares and learn to drive. WOW! What a change from my little Arabian gelding! Now don’t get me wrong, these mares aren’t ‘lead sleds’, they just look at the world a bit differently than an Arabian does, and it took some getting used to.

You know how an Arabian takes a bite and then lifts his head, looks all around and may even go to investigate something? Well, these Belgians just put their head in the manger and don’t take it out till the food is gone - they are much more trusting of the world.

My 4-H leader has a couple of Belgian mares and she let me learn on and with them. I learned that showing a Belgian at halter is significantly different - much more energetic - than showing a light horse. And there is much more involved in getting them ready to show at halter. Not only do they have to be clean - and there is lots more surface area - they have to be clipped, their manes braided, their tails bunned and their feathers fluffed. Try all this with a horse that stands 16 hands (64” at the shoulder) or more and weighs more than 1600 pounds. It sure is a good thing they are “gentle giants”!

Driving is a BLAST! Those girls can really move, and can also make the earth shake for spectators. Gliding around the ring at an extended trot sure puts a grin on your face. There’s an old saying that, “You can tell a happy teamster by the amount of bugs in his teeth.”

I have also had the chance to attend plowing bees in the area and learn about the historic work of these magnificent animals. It’s a real ‘power trip’ to sit on a sulky plow behind a three-abreast of these massive horses. You find out in a hurry how hard it is to plow a straight furrow, keep your plow in the ground and turn a good corner, especially when all you can see is horse tails and feet.

And did you know that you can barrel race with a draft horse? I have placed in the top 3 of both youth and adults at the draft horse show in Sandpoint both years that I have shown there. Turning the 3rd barrel and heading for home is hard work, but what a feeling of power!

Because of my work with these draft horses, I have also had the opportunity to work with a very nice hitch of Percheron mules from Davenport, WA. Sitting on the wagon seat (about 7 feet off the ground) and whizzing around behind that team, making sure you don’t run into the fence or other wagons and what to do with 25 feet of lines (reins) gives you an adrenaline rush like no other.

At the 2008 Idaho State Draft Horse International Show in Sandpoint, I was chosen to serve as an Ambassador for the North Idaho Draft Horse & Mules Association. I proudly wear my bucket and jacket every where I go and am anxious to represent the association at various events throughout the spring and summer.

Perhaps you would like to spend some time with draft horses or mules too, but you don’t want to buy one before you try it. Try coming to the 2009 Driving Clinic sponsored by the North Idaho Draft Horse & Mules Association. The clinic will be held in Colfax, WA on May 2 & 3. For information, contact Terry Maple at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

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