(Excuse my ugly leg in this pic, and focus on Klein's insane, better-than-most-light-horses knees)
This post stems from another common question I get from other draft owners that ride their draft: how did you train Klein to where she is at now?
Obviously there is no simple, single sentence answer for that. There is no magical program. The bottom line is I took my time with her and trained her like you would any other horse, except I put a huge emphasis on conditioning. There can be no slacking in that department.
The training is the same as any other horse because she thinks the same as any other horse, she doesn't see fences differently because she's a draft. Honestly, she has no idea she is a breed that you typically don't see out doing these types of things. I bought her as a two year old that was barely halter broke. She had never spent time hitched to anything, never been put to work on a farm, or anything like that. I think that plays a HUGE part in her abilities. She never learned to use her body like a driving draft.
If she had a tail and you saw this picture, would your first guess be full Percheron?
Athleticism, she's got it. She nailed her lengthenings last night.
I think a lot of people (especially draft people) think that by doing what I do with Klein, I am out trying to make some blanket statement that EVERY draft can jump like she does. That is not even remotely close to being true. That is not what I'm trying to say at all. When I breed her in a few years, I won't even be breeding her to another Perch (and no, not a TB either). I never set out with the goal of eventing her.
I have worked with Clydes, Shires, Perches, and Belgians and I fell in love Percherons and Belgians. I love their mind, their work ethic, their dispositions, etc... I knew they could be good riding horses so I bought Klein with the intention of riding her and maybe doing some low jumpers if she was up to it. If she was out there struggling and bulldozing 2' fences then we would have stayed with flat work. But, she wasn't.
From our first 2'3" course in Hawaii when she was 5. Would YOU keep THAT front end on the flat?? I didn't think so.
Her enthusiasm and athletic ability piqued my curiosity to see what this girl could really do. So, I gave her a chance.
3'9", I know, this picture keeps popping up, because it is one of my favorites. I'll get a new 3'9" favorite soon.
Here's a 3'9" blurry oxer (damn you iPhone in evening light). This one shows she has room to spare over this. The standard was doing the gangster lean because a leg was coming off, clearly not because she came anywhere close to touching it.
I knew I was in for some pretty great surprises with her over fences after I saw that 2'3" picture.
However, to this day, if there is ever a time that I start to feel like maybe she's not enjoying her work, then she doesn't have to do it anymore. I am NOT about making her do anything she doesn't want to do. But look at her out on the xc course:
That is not the face of a mare that is being pushed around a course saying fml. That is a happy mare, enjoying her work.
Warming up for dressage, happy and relaxed.
Just looking at Klein and Wes together, they are two completely different types of drafts. Not only because of the obvious, they're different breeds, but they are built completely different. There are modern type drafts and there are traditional type drafts. Wes is the latter and he is the type that I would never want to take off the ground.
Here is Klein's great grandsire (on her sire's side), Lo Lynd Joe Laet:
I think Klein gets a lot of her refinement from this guy. Now would I test him out over a course? Absolutely. THAT is the kind of Percheron I would be on the lookout for if I was in the market.
I don't have any pictures of Klein's dam or sire, unfortunately. I know her sire, Rose Hill Blayne, died about a year and a half after she was born. I believe her mom, Crow's of Rose Hill Damara is still in Canada. I think Rose Hill Blayne must have had a special, particular refined look to him as well. I have never seen him but the man I bought Klein from contacted me a few years after I bought her and said he had her half sister for sale and wanted me to get first pick if I was interested. I wish I could have. I just wasn't in a position to buy another horse, I was still in Hawaii and did not want to worry about shipping another one out there and then two back. Anyway, Westbank Paige is her name and she had the SAME refined look to her, her face especially, just like Klein. Klein and Paige shared the same sire, so there was something special about Rose Hill Blayne, and it is too bad he isn't around anymore. If anyone out there has a picture of him, I would love to see it.
Here is her full pedigree if anyone is interested:
Here is her full pedigree if anyone is interested:
Here is 7 year old Klein. She is as mature as she is going to get, and she is still not built like a tank.
Now, for comparison's sake, here is me haltering Wes, they are day and night in their build.
Here he is fresh off the street from working a busy Christmas season.
Look at his neck compared to Klein's. Look at his head compared to the head shot of Klein below. Day and night. Yes, different breeds but I use his pictures because he's mine and because there are plenty of Percherons that look just like Wes in their build.
A good head shot. Not a particularly drafty head either.
It's easy to see that there are some drastic differences in drafts. But I will say, there is a reason that most crosses out there in eventer and jumper land are Perch crosses. They are by far the most common draft cross. Did you know Perches have Arabians way back in their breeding origin? Pretty interesting.
In closing, am I saying everyone look at me, I have the only athletic Percheron on the planet, and the rest of you are out of luck? No, absolutely not. I am sure there are others out there. I am just trying to put a little education, perspective, and encouragement of a little extra thought out there and avoid having Percherons be put in situations they don't belong.