Christine Hajek, founder of Gentle Giants
Draft Horse Rescue, gets a nuzzle from Jonas.
Christine Hajek fell in love with her first draft horse when she met Elijah, a Belgian gelding, at an auction in August 2001 and brought him home.
But Hajek, who grew up on a horse-breeding farm, had been mesmerized by the huge horses raised for plowing and farm labor ever since she rode one years earlier.
“I loved the gait, I loved the size and I loved the feel,” said Hajek, 34, who is an Anne Arundel County firefighter. “They’re so broad across the back that they give you a real sense of security. They move slowly. Anything they do is kind of in slow motion.”
It was Elijah that gave her the idea to form Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue, a nonprofit operation specifically tailored to draft horses — and turn a hobby into an obsession.
“He ended up being a perfect horse — totally flawless in every way,” she said.
That one horse has turned into 21 at the 42-acre Woodbine farm in Mount Airy, Maryland where she lives with her husband, Jamie McIntosh.
Hajek estimates that she and her husband have rescued more than 60 draft horses since then — most of them within the past two years.
“They work hard, they’ve seen everything, so they’re not afraid of anything,” she said.
Once she brings horses home, she spends an average of two months with them before they are adopted.
“I might be sad for a couple days, and I might cry really hard when I drop them off,” she said. “But mostly, I’m happy for them.”
The horses she’s rescued are now scattered around the United States, with adoptees in California, New York, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, she said.
Recently, Dick Dodson, 72, from Boyds, who recently took up riding again after a 20-year hiatus, visited Hajek’s farm to meet a horse named Texas that he’d seen on the Gentle Giants Web site.
“The attraction for the drafts is that they’re very calm, they’re sure-footed, and they don’t spook easily,” he said. “I want something that’s bomb-proof. I don’t want to get hurt on a horse.”
He was drawn to Texas because of the chocolate-colored Belgian’s background as a carriage horse that had done some plowing for an Amish farmer.
“I might ride that horse bareback,” Dodson said. “This horse has a very gentle disposition.”
The Gentle Giants dog, Bug, hangs out at Tristan’s feet.
Not only can people adopt horses from Hajek; they can also ride. She caters mostly to adults and a few children of adults who ride there.
Saving draft horses is a passion that costs her money, she acknowledges. She only wishes she could save more.
“I’m passionate about draft horses,” Hajek said. “The bigger the better.
I just want everyone to know how incredible they are.”
Link: Gentle Giants Rescue