How ridiculous, I thought, when I saw the schedule for the draft horse show at the DeKalb County Fair. Nobody rides a draft horse.
But there it was, "Draft Horse Under Saddle," listed near the end of the daylong event.
Next thought: That is a long way up.
Draft horses are usually harnessed to wagons or farm implements and the teamster drives them from the comfort of a seat. At twice the size of an average quarter horse, a draft horse presents several challenges for a rider: finding a saddle to fit, getting on such a high mount, and then dealing with the discomfort of sitting on such a broad back.
A couple of the 4-H members who show our Belgians for their projects decided to ride Daisy and Hazel, our 13-year-old mares, in the Draft Horse Under Saddle class. The horses are our most experienced team, but they've never been ridden.
Brooke Snyder and Shelby Dibling are experienced riders in the DeKalb 4-H Horse & Pony Club. Wisely, they decided they should come over and introduce the concept to Daisy and Hazel.
The girls brought several saddles to try on for size, and eventually settled on the English saddles because they are flexible enough to fit over the Belgians' backs. Getting cinch straps and reins that were long enough required some creative thinking.
The girls were soon ready to mount up. Daisy and Hazel seemed puzzled at first but responded to the girls' "step up" commands for a few turns around the yard. The Belgians, used to working as a team when they are being driven, walked completely in tandem even though they weren't attached to each other in any way.
And yes, the perspective is different from that height, the girls said.
Daisy and Hazel soon figured out what they were supposed to do, which gave the riders enough confidence for a trip around the block.