Our two Clydesdale colts joined our farm in October 2016 when Duncan was just weaned at five months and Clyde a little older at almost seven months. They came from a responsible breeder in Canada and were almost as tall as our mature saddle horses (14-15 hh), though they had funny proportions: long legs, relatively short necks, and ribs that met their hips. They were (and still are) SWEET SWEET SWEET! Even though they are easy to tell apart, they are a well matched pair because of their body types and sizes. They’ll both mature at about 17 hh (around six feet tall where their mane transitions to their back). Their feet may reasonably be expected to reach twelve inches wide.
Why Our Mascots?
Why are the Clydesdales our mascots? Coming up with a logo for our farm was very challenging because of the diverse products we offer and plan to offer in the future. We are planting fruit trees and will add berries, a vegetable garden, and eventually we hope to have aquaponics veggies and fish year-round. A cornucopia would have been good for that, except we also milk sheep, goats, and cows. If we consider adding those and chickens, eggs, mushrooms, and who knows what else to our logo, it’s a cluttered mess. We needed something simple, clean, and non-biased towards one product.
After struggling with this for a couple of months, we remember the Clydesdales were supposed to be our mascots and therefore should be on our logo – they epitomize, for us, farm work. They are not simply pleasure horses, but before they are trained to pull a carriage for rides or use saddleback, they will be trained to log our forest. Then, the will learn to plow, help work the farm, and pull a wagon, carriage, or sleigh when giving tours or helping market our farm (such as in local parades). When we use them as our mascot, they don’t exclude any products by not including them in the logo, but they leave it pretty opened. They show that we are rooted in small farm traditions as that is where they are originally from – small farms in Scotland.
Yes, I know it seems like a copout to name a Clydesdale “Clyde,” but it suits him perfectly. He also answers to “Mister Clyde.” He’s a “traditionally” colored boy – dark brown body with a large white blaze, white socks over his knees, great feather on this legs, deep brown kind eyes, and dark mane and tail. Clyde’s dam was the breeder’s dressage horse, and he went around with her to competitions before he was weaned, so he was accustomed to travel and meeting new people. He still can get a little apprehensive or stressed in new situations. Rather than act up, he usually purses his lips into a little pucker – very cute.
At first, Clyde calmed Duncan and adjusted to travel very easily. So far with limited training, he’s smart and willing to please. However, when he’s out of the halter, he likes to be his own man – friendly, but free. He likes praise, but does not care for braids in his hair or tail. Of course, I do braid it because he looks wonderful, it helps protect the hair while it grows out, and he will wear it for dressier settings. He will drive on either side of the team, but will show on the right side from the driver. Every horse has a “shy” side and a more “public” side, so that puts his “shy” side in and his mane side out.
Duncan is a gorgeous russet brown with white socks that come clear up the front of his legs and fade into roan spots on his belly. He has beautiful eyes of symmetrical half blue and half brown on both sides, and a brown jag into his over-sized blaze. He has some light hair in his tail and mane and is a beautiful tall boy, friendly and curious.
Duncan clowns around a little more (may try to put his chin on the top of your head) and has turned out to be more sociable now that he is well bonded with me. He enjoys the attention of grooming and training and willing comes for it … in fact, he wants to the “lucky” one any time I take any horse from the pasture. If he's not on the lead rope, he tries to slip out the gate with us as though he does. If he’s out and I let him explore, he likes to stay nearby and check things out. He’s a smart, happy, beautiful boy.
Other Tidbits of Information
Both Clydesdales are gelded, so we will not be breeding them. That also means we get to keep them with our saddle mares without worrying about unplanned pregnancies. As they are still babies, they willing submit to the other three mares as evidenced by letting the older horses eat or drink first and leaning their heads down and smacking their lips at the others. It’s funny because they are already heavier and taller than the mares. Their proportions are off as they grow; their legs are longer than their necks so they have to step wide to reach grass on the ground.
Also as yearlings, they don’t have all their teeth yet and are more picky or sensitive to tastes. Horses love carrots, but the colts have to work to chew up pieces and may spend the same amount of time eating a 2-inch piece as it take one of the mares to eat two carrots. I also sometimes give the mares peppermints. I find it useful to train them to come to the rustling wrappers. We have one who runs and runs away from us and the other two don’t come (and don’t run away) if they’re way out in the pasture. It’s fine to walk after them, but if I call their name and rustle the wrapper, they come right away. I offer the Clydesdales peppermints, but they don’t take them. In fact, they act like they are gross. I think the mint is hot to them. For those of you with toddlers, you might recognize that sometimes little humans think mints are “hot candy.” Seems to be the same with my big four-legged boys.
For those of you unfamiliar with horses, our saddle mares are pretty average-sized at 14.2-14.3 hh (hh = hands high; 1 hand = 4 inches). Hands are measured from the ground to their withers, or the hump between their neck and back. I find it reasonably easy to get into a saddle on a horse this size. Standard horses can be started training to ride at three years old and are mostly done growing by then with some more maturing maybe into their fourth year.
Draft horses, especially heavy drafts (larger ones), mature much more slowly. Their bones are growing and they are susceptible to tendon and bone injuries that can be permanent if ridden too young, so they are usually started in a harness pulling first. I have heard other heavy draft horse owners report that their horses finish filling out around eight years old. Riding may not start for one to three years later than saddle horses depending on how much they are ridden and how they mature. And climbing into a saddle that high is a whole different story.
“Draft” when used to describe an animal means one that is used to pull heavy loads. “Drafting” is the act of pulling said load. A British alternate spelling of the word is “draught” still pronounced the same. The Clydesdale was originally found in Scotland where they were shorter than the modern version and used as farm work horses and to haul coal. This is evident as most Clydesdales are “cow-hocked.” This is unacceptable for most breeds, which is when their back legs from the hocks down touch (they stand with their back legs together). However on a farm, this is desirable as it allows them to walk within rows while plowing. Both my boys are cow-hocked. Sometimes it makes bathing them trickier as it’s harder to wash the insides of their legs.
The old Clydesdales were bred up to larger stallions and the breed grew in size overall. They are usually 16-18 hh (mine will be about 17hh) and 1,800 – 2,200 lbs each, which is considered a heavy draft horse. (A heavy team of two is over 3,500 lbs and a light draft team is less.) For reference, our quarter horses are about 1,000 -1,200 pounds (one is fat).
Budweiser has used Clydesdales as their mascots since the end of prohibition and they are very well recognized. I have even had people say we have “Budweiser” horses. Well, not really. Duncan wouldn’t make the cut because the beer company strictly selects coloring that he wouldn’t meet, and Clydesdales are really a lot more diverse than that. The traditional color of Clyde is call sabino (the Budwiser colors). Tails can be docked, though we left ours long. I consider this a remnant practice used to keep tails out of tack and such, but it’s not a problem for me to tie them up. But, that is why sometimes huge draft horses have such short tails. They all should have good feathering on their legs. Clydesdales were one of the key foundation breeds used in developing and improving the flashy Gypsy Vanner horses.
If you visit our farm, be sure to say hi to our big boys. They are currently still learning ground manners, but they are doing very well. They love visitors, too, and are our most consistently sociable horses.
Wife to Brandon, mother to Tess and Liam, farmer, entrepreneur, cook & baker, nurse, and accountant who loves to try new things, travel, and work toward greater self-reliance.