02 Aug Working With Our Spotted Draft Horses
Pitch and Patch, our two draft horses, recently returned to ifarm from their summer pasture. We have been taking time to refresh their training, which they enjoy especially because of the treat opportunities. There are certainly challenges that accompany training and working with a team of draft horses, even a team that has been well trained. Mostly the issue is their sheer size! Pitch and Patch are excellent draft horses, but together they weigh almost two tons. When they decide they want to go somewhere, there is really very little we can do to stop them. It is only their respect and the belief that humans are worth listening to that trains them to us. Taking care of their feet is a trick, and we are very glad to have our farrier Todd Blackington take care of it for us!
We are confident that Pitch and Patch mostly understand the need to watch out for us as we look out for them. However, the sensation of driving them is always one that inspires awe and caution. They are so strong! It is hard to understand their power until they are pulling you at a trot with only leather reins and your voice to guide the way.
We are happy to have the horses, even when they decide to make detours through the garden. They work hard when we ask and provide us with great manure for our permaculture garden. As they have acclimated to life at ifarm, both have become significantly calmer and more trusting with us. That trust, in many ways, is our goal as much as being able to pull a plow or hay a field. It is the intertwined relationships that make permaculture sustainable more than the checklists. It’s just a bonus that they are far more accepting of all our bathing, mane-trimming, tail brushing fuss.
Draft Horse Breeds
All draft horse breeds are larger and tend to be fairly easy-going, or what is referred to as “cold-blooded.” Racehorses are bred in part for explosive energy and are called “hot-blooded.”
We imagine draft horses were bred for easy-going natures because we can guess the damage a one-ton “hot-blooded” horse could do!
Pitch and Patch are a mix between two draft lines, Percheron and Belgian. Percherons hail from the Huisne valley in France, while Belgians (of course) originate in an unspecified area of Belgium. It is difficult to trace either breed with specificity. Both come from ancient horse lines that have been tinkered with by the noble and peasant classes for different qualities down the ages. The Percherons were certainly bred as powerful warhorses at some point, later becoming carriage horses and farm animals. They
have some Arabian blood and tend to be quite intelligent. Belgians may have been warhorses but are only documented as farm workers. They are among the largest and strongest draft horse breeds.
Both Pitch and Patch are Spotted Draft horses, though only Pitch is a registered North American Spotted Draft horse. This breed is a pinto cross between a draft from Percheron, Belgian, Shire, Cyldesdale, Suffolk Punch, Drum Horse or American Cream breeding.
Look for our Spotted Draft horses as part of the Topsfield Fair Parade, 9AM on October 1.