Grass Valley, California — I had the privilege of attending Grass Valley’s 25th annual Draft Horse Classic, and what an impressive event it was. Not being much of a “horse” person, I wasn’t exactly sure of what to expect. To me, a horse is a horse — big, pretty, and a creature I prefer to enjoy from a position other than a saddle.
Like Steve Martin in the movie, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, “Wow. All I can say is wow!” The Grass Valley Fairgrounds came to life with these gigantic, yet majestic, horses. I could not get over the sheer size of a typical draft horse. As I stood next to one of Arlin Wareing’s black Shires, out of Blackfoot, Idaho, the handler told me the draft horse weighed only 1,700 pounds at 18-hands high (6 feet at the shoulders), and would eventually fill out at 2,200 pounds. My curiosity got the best of me, so I asked him the weight of a standard size horse, and he smirked when stating only 1,000 pounds.
If, for no other reason, just seeing these gentle giants is enough of a reason to attend the Draft Horse Classic. Although huge, a draft horse is elegant, beautiful, graceful, and incredibly docile. I was always warned not to stand behind a horse, but I saw handlers standing in those exact spots with no apparent risk of being kicked, as they attached elaborate harnesses in preparation for show time. In the ring, these majestic draft horse creatures pranced with the grace of ballerinas as they effortlessly pulled those Budweiser-style wagons around the arena for the show judge, Jim Poole, who was the draft horse trainer for the Budweiser Clydesdales for 22-years.
On the other side of the spectrum, the power of a draft horse is nearly frightening. A draft horse can pull nearly three times its own weight. When harnessed to a weighted sled, a draft horse suddenly becomes fully aware of its chance to flex its muscles, and begins to jump and swing its head with excitement. The draft horse will dig down hard with its giant hoofs, lean its massively muscular body forward, and really show what its breeding is all about… pure strength and power.
If you have never seen a draft horse in a live setting, I recommend the Grass Valley Draft Horse Classic be marked on your calendar for September 2012. You will not be disappointed.