Spare The Horses

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Christine Hajek, founder of Gentle Giants
Draft Horse Rescue, gets a nuzzle from Jonas.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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“I’m passionate about draft horses,” Hajek said. “The bigger the better.

I just want everyone to know how incredible they are.”

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Link: Gentle Giants Rescue

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Irish Moss Gathering ~ Prince Edward Island

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To anyone who has walked along the beaches of Canada’s Prince Edward Island after a storm, the sight of Irish Moss is very familiar.

This seaweed is found from the low tide mark to approximately 30 feet of water and is one of the seaweeds thrown up by the action of the waves.

A fascinating sight is the collecting of Irish Moss with the use of horses.

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Irish Moss is a small edible sea plant that may be greenish, reddish or purplish in color. Although small, it is sturdy and fan-shaped like broccoli and has many “branches” near the top.

It flourishes in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence where it grows around the low tide mark.

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Irish Moss can be harvested by boat, tractor, horses or by hand.

The horse-hauling method, which could be considered the old traditional means of gathering moss, is actually still quite common.

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When the weather is especially windy with heavy wave action, horses are sometimes in water up to their necks.

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Pulling the loads of moss can require 30 to 40 horses abreast. The horse mossers collect Irish moss near shore with rakes and wire-mesh scoops pulled through the  water by a moss horse.

It is, indeed, a fascinating sight to see the collecting of Irish Moss with the use of horses. Such horses are usually large and fearless.

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While a seemingly unassuming little plant, the carrageenan extracted from Irish Moss is extremely useful.  It is an emulsifier – a kind of natural gelatin and stabilizing agent.

Irish moss is an important component of many of our favorite foods and useful products. When we consume ice cream, chocolate milk, salad dressings, sherbet, flavourings, confectionery, beer or use insect sprays, water based paints, shampoos, toothpaste or cosmetics, we’re almost certain to be using carrageenan, a starch-like non caloric substance extracted from Irish moss.

These are just a few of the thousand or more products that contain carrageenan which is extracted from the Irish Moss.

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Once a small cottage industry, Irish Moss harvesting is now a lucrative commercial activity that takes place in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence in early spring through until late autumn.

In some parts of the Island, Irish Moss harvesting is second only to lobster fishing and is worth approximately $1-5 million annually.

In addition, because of the use of horses for harvesting, it remains a popular tourist attraction.

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Irish Moss Gathering Photographs: Courtesy of Roger Hicks

Link: Storm Photographs

 

Moose Logging

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This story is from a letter written by
Pete Lammert with the Maine Forest Service

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The man in the picture is Jacques Leroux who lives near Escourt Station, Maine. He has always had work horses, first for actual work and then for show at Maine’s’ many summer fairs.

I think he had two matched pairs, one Clydesdales and the other Belgiums.

He would turn them out to pasture each morning and then work them in the afternoon dragging the sled around the fields.

Three springs ago, he noticed a female moose coming to the pasture and helping herself of the hay and what grain the work horses didn’t pick up off the ground.

Jacques said he could get within 10 feet of the moose before it would turn and move off.

Two springs ago, the moose foaled at the edge of the work horse pasture and upon getting to it’s feet had not only the mother in attendance but the four horses.

The young moose grew up around the horses and each afternoon when Mr. Leroux took the teams for their daily exercise the yearling moose would trail along the entire route next to the near horse.

At some point, the yearling got so accustomed to Mr. Leroux that, after he had brushed each horse after a workout, he started brushing down the moose.

The moose tolerated this quite well so Mr. Leroux started draping harness parts over the yearling to see how he would tolerate these objects.

The yearling was soon harness broken and now came the question of what could you do with a harness broke moose.

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NEWS BULLETIN FROM MAINE
Oh no!  It just ain’t true !!
Yep, sure nuf’ … they got me !!

And to add insult to injury, I’m even way behind the times.
T
his story started making the rounds nearly a year, ago.
Check it out, unless you (like me) still believe in Santa.

Link: The real trufff … according to Snoops

However, these photos are true (I hope)

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Link:

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Ben Moore’s Moose In Harness
Historical Photographs
University of Alaska, Fairbanks
Link:

Renewable Energy

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Draft Teams ~ Gotta Love Those Names !

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Tom and Jerry

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Lucy and Ethel 

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 Mickey and Minnie

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Ike and Mike

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Molly and Dolly

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Nip and Tuck

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Pete and Repete

~~~

And not to be missed … Mule Teams!

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Sonny and Cher

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Fred and Ted

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Jack and Bill

(Read all about Jack and Bill)

If you know more clever names for teams, please let me know. I’m collecting them.  Would appreciate photos, also. Thanks!

Horse and Carriage Show Displays Old Time Elegance

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Once each year, during the second week in August, the picturesque Pittsford, New York countryside comes alive with the magic and romance of an earlier era – a time when the Horse and Carriage reflected the quality of life and influenced the pace and scope of occupational and social activities.

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It was a time when the Horse and Carriage were elevated from a simple means of personal conveyance to a portrait of their owner – a social commentary as to profession, personal taste, and character.

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It was a time when the Horse and Carriage were elevated from a simple means of personal conveyance to a portrait of their owner – a social commentary as to profession, personal taste, and character.

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It was the last decade of the 19th century.

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In an attempt to recapture the essence and spirit of the 1890’s, the Pittsford Carriage Association annually hosts The Walnut Hill Carriage Driving Competition.

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This international celebration of the art and sport of traditional driving in held in a 19th century country fair setting on the commodious grounds of Walnut Hill Farm in Pittsford, New York.

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This living showcase of Americana presents a unique marriage in modern day equine sport – that of combining the pageantry and beauty of exquisitely turned out equipages with the excitement of demanding competition.

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The comprehensive five day schedule of classes offers spectators the opportunity to view a wide variety of 19th century carriages exhibited by over 250 competitors from some 20 states, Canada, and Europe. This year included an exhibitor from Australia!

 

Walnut Hill Farm

Haflinger Horses Replacing Larger Breeds At Fair

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 In the Pennsylvania Countryside, Joseph “Sonny” Miller and his son Victor train two of their Haflinger draft horses.

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There was a time not so long ago when draft horses — those glorious, humongous creatures you occasionally see hitched to a plow in Amish country — were present in droves at the Washington County, Pennsylvania Agricultural Fair.

And to be sure, there’s still a good showing of these gentle giants in a variety of halter, hitch and pulling classes at this annual family event taking place in August.

Yet if you ask Joseph “Sonny” Miller, who’s been attending the fair for more than 40 years, the past 13 with his son Victor, it ain’t like it used to be.

Whereas 15 or 20 years ago you might have seen upwards of 60 draft horses in various events over the course of the eight-day fair, he said those numbers have dropped anywhere from 25 to 50 percent.

Some of the decline can be attributed to the high cost of fuel, said Mr. Miller, who serves as a horse superintendent and is also one of seven fair board directors. It’s increasingly expensive to haul animals that can weigh a ton or more in a trailer from place to place.

But it also has something to do with the fact that the showing of draft horses, some of which can stand 68 inches or more at the shoulder, is more of a man’s hobby than a family hobby.

“It’s their size,” said Mr. Miller, 53. “Draft horses are extremely large animals.”

And when those men get older, it isn’t as easy for them to throw a heavy harness or saddle on these hulking horses, or handle them when they’re hooked up to a cart or wagon.

That’s why the South Franklin resident, like a small but growing number of horsemen, has downsized. Literally.

Mr. Miller is among a handful of horsemen in Washington County who raise Haflingers, a breed of draft horse that originated in the southern Tyrol region of the Austrian Alps.

Known for their sweet yet fearless dispositions and strong athleticism, these equines stand between 54 and 60 inches at the withers, which technically makes them a pony. (By definition, ponies measure less or equal to 14.2 hands, or 58 inches, at the highest part of the back).

A truck driver, Mr. Miller purchased his first Haflinger about eight years ago. And before he knew it, “we were into it,” he said. Today, he boasts 31 registered Haflingers on his 124-acre farm.

He and his son will be taking about seven or so to the fair to show in the draft horse halter, matched team and cart classes. Victor will also show his favorite pair, 9-year-old Mikey and 4-year-old Stateman, in several 4-H classes.

Their more diminutive stature is an obvious advantage, said Mr. Miller, who is on the short side himself. But he also likes that the horses — which range in color from a light gold to a golden chestnut with a white or flaxen mane and tail — are so darn affectionate.

“They love attention,” he said, adding, “but they do get jealous of each other.”

Case in point: As Mr. Miller took some visitors on a tour of his pasture fronting Route 221, where most of the horses run year round, several of the ponies immediately fell in line behind him. And when he stopped to point out a mare that originally came from Canada, they zoom in for a nuzzle.

“Big babies,” he good-naturedly complains, as he shoos them away.

Mr. Miller and his son use their Haflingers primarily for harness and combined driving. But they also make excellent trail and show ring horses, for both English and Western style. Increasingly, the breed is also being used for dressage.

Linda Thoms, president of the Pennsylvania Draft Horse & Mule Association, agrees that Haflingers have come on in popularity in the past 10 years as more people discover the breed. (They didn’t arrive in the U.S. until the late 1950s).

No doubt that they’re sweet. But what many people also find so appealing, she said, is that they can be mischievous.

They’re just like kids,” Mr. Miller agrees with a laugh. “They’ll mess with you.”

Yet while the number of registered Haflingers is steadily climbing (the American Haflinger Registry represents more than 20,000 horses), the breed has a long way to go before it catches up with the big guys.

The most numerous of all draft breeds is the Belgian, Mrs. Thoms said, followed by the Percheron, the type of horse that made up the now-defunct Heinz Hitch, and the Clydesdale, the breed made famous by the Budweiser beer company.

In readying Mikey and Stateman for the fair, Victor, who belongs to the Golden Hoofs 4-H Club – and his father have been working the horses on rural Cracraft Road, pulling a stripped-down, utilitarian version of the elegant cherry-red wagon with white axles they’ll be hitched to in the grandstand.

Up and down they go on a quarter-mile stretch of road, again and again, until both are dripping with sweat. Relatively new to the game, Stateman has a hard time settling down and is apt to let Mikey do most of the work.

But Mr. Miller is nothing if not patient, occasionally tapping Stateman’s hind quarters with a crop when he lags behind, and pulling ever so gently on the reins to keep his head positioned forward.

Most horses are broken to cart when they’re about 2, in a process that takes a matter of just a few weeks, he explained. Victor, who’s been driving since he was about 7, is typically at the reins. It takes many more months, though, for them to work as a unified force.

“Just because you have two horses doesn’t mean you have a team,” notes Mr. Miller. “Some will step a little faster than the other no matter how much you work them, while another will lay back. But you want them to work together.”

The horses’ physical similarity with regard to color, shape and size is important, of course, along with the appearance of the wagons and harnesses.

But judges will also be looking at how well the two animals work together. “From the side, they should see only one horse,” said Mr. Miller.

Though technically ponies, these gentle giants are know for their sweet dispositions and athleticism.

“It’s an animal that almost anyone can ride,” says Mr. Miller. “And it also appeals to older folks who can’t ride but can drive.”

Story Link:   News Story – Haflinger Teams

Earlier Post:  Famed Heinz Hitch Now History

Tenn. Horse Could Be World’s Tallest

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 Tina, a 3-year-old mare only one inch shy of world record

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Read Latest News Bulletin !!

A Niota, Tennessee horse may soon have the honor of being the tallest horse in the world.

Jenson’s Diplomat Tina, an English Shire, was about 6 feet, 4 inches tall at the shoulder the last time she was measured, owners Jim and Marge Williams said.

That’s just an inch under the record currently held by Radar, a Belgian from Texas, according to the 2006 Guinness Book of World Records. He is eight years old, and Tina is only three years old and has more growing to do, Marge Williams said.

Tina will be measured by representatives of the Guinness World Records on July 28.  

“She is like a teenager, a gangly, growing filly,” Mrs. Williams said. Tina comes by her height naturally — both her parents were also extremely tall. 

If Tina breaks the record, they will send statements of four witnesses, a newspaper story on the horse, and a veterinarian’s examination to Guinness to establish the new record.

Tina is the same breed as the all-time world record holder, Sampson, who was measured at 7 feet, 2 inches and 3,360 pounds in 1850.

In her Niota pasture, Tina towers. When she gallops, the ground shakes, and her steps sound like thunder. 

Her pasture mate, Dolly, another Shire, is a robust 5 feet, 4 inches and 2,400 pounds, but she can almost walk under Tina’s neck.

When they bought Tina from a breeder in Blair, Neb., the Williamses were looking for a horse they could match with Dolly to form a pulling team.

Though Shires’ ancestors were medieval war horses, the modern breed was used primarily as pulling horses in England. 

But Tina grew and kept growing. That’s forced some adjustments in the barn, Mrs. Williams said. 

A normal stall in their barn is 12 by 12 feet. Tina can’t turn around in that space, so they built her a 12- by 24-foot box, Mrs. Williams said.

Even with their large size, Mr. Williams said Shires are “people pleasers” and very gentle.

“I can crawl underneath her and work on her feet without fear,” Mr. Williams said. “I have been on her back, but I have to climb on a fence to get on her.”

Holding the title carries obligations. The Priefert Web site shows that the current Guinness record-holder, Radar, maintains a regular and widespread touring schedule. 

The Williamses have plans to train Tina to pull a show cart at fairs and horse shows in Tennessee. They realize that if the record is broken, Tina and the Springbrook Inn will soon become internationally known.

“We didn’t plan it this way,” Mr. Williams said. “She just kept growing.”

A Stroll With Luke and Larry

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Team of 3 year old Belgian Geldings With Their Little Friend.

Photo Source: