Adventures in Owning a Draft Horse

Introducing Star Pt 2.

Once we got Star home, she was turned out into the small arena. Being the only draft horse at the barn, she quickly gathered a small crowd of admirers. She seemed to calmly take everything in, watching the other horses, and saying hello to some of them over the fence.

After a few hours, as we went to lead her out of the arena to the paddock with run in shed where she will spend the next few days, we ran into a problem. She planted those huge draft horse feet and refused to move! It took quite a bit of encouragement, and all our ingenuity, but we finally got her moving again and safely installed in her paddock, where the owner of the barn had placed a bale of hay – feeding a draft horse was going to be an adventure in itself!

The next day, she didn’t want to come out of the paddock and once we did get her out, she proceeded to drag me where ever she wanted to go. I could tell this was going to be a challenge! It probably was quite amusing to watch but I managed to get her into the small arena, with the intent of doing some lessons on leading manners. Again, she dragged me all over the place.

By Saturday, we had decided that, whatever this mare may or may not have done in the past (we were told that she was broken to ride and drive, and that she had been used to pull the wagons on trail rides) we were going to go back to square one.

With a draft horse of Star’s size, it’s imperative that they learn to respect the handler’s space. As it was, Star looked at Frank and I as a couple of insignificent gnats!

Since we are pretty sure she’s too big to fit through the small gate to our round pen, I decided to begin with some leading lessons in the small arena. I looped part of the lead rein through her headcollar and around her nose and that seemed to give me the respect I was looking for. She gradually got better and walked and halted as I asked, although the turns were still pretty bad.

Then I lunged her at the walk, but after a couple of circles in each direction, I realized I really need to get a longer lunge line than the one I’ve got, so I switched to working her loose. With very little encouragement, she went into a nice trot and showed us her moves. I think she’ll be comfortable to ride, once we get that far.

Since she’s obviously completely out of shape, I only let her trot for a few minutes and then let her walk and come in to me. Seeming to trust us a little more, she allowed us to lead her over to the wash rack for a little grooming session.

Grooming was a case of seeing what she would and would not tolerate. She was really dirty and needed a bath — we compromised by running a very gentle stream of water over her and only one crushed toe later (Frank’s), she was standing quite happily, seeming to enjoy the cool water on the warm day. The count of injured body parts starts here.

Owning a Draft horse is a whole new challenge. Owning one that apparently doesn’t know, or remember, much is even more of a challenge, but one that has brought Frank and I closer. Whereas before, he would snooze in the car while I hose Annapolis and re-wrap his leg, he is an active participant (hence the crushed toe) with Star.

Other challenges face us. In addition to needing more space than the 10 x 10 stalls at our barn provide, there’s the additional feed she’ll need. And, of course, no bridle, saddle or blanket that we possess will even half-way fit her.

There’s also the challenge of finding a farrier willing to trim those big feet. She’s already demonstrated that she’s not familiar with the concept of picking her feet up, so that will be a daily lesson from now on.

On the way home from the barn, we stopped in at D & D Western store in Hockley, less than a mile from the barn, and scoped out halters, lead ropes and other paraphanalia we will need. While there we came upon John Lyons’ Ground Control Manual which we sat on the floor and browsed through! We especially liked the lesson plan and training cards that we could take to the barn with us, as a quick reference guide while working with her. At $134.95, it’s not cheap, but it’s on our “to buy” list.

So, I have a new project — turning this very sweet, but very large and very green horse into a suitable riding horse for Frank and I. If someone had told me, at the beginning of the week, that I would soon be embarking on such a project, I would have said they were nuts.

As it is, I can only relate to the T-shirt I saw, where the man has removed his head and handed it to his doctor, saying “Can you examine this for me? I just bought another horse”

Back to Introducing Star

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