When choosing a reliable mount, I’m big on plus-sized horses.
In the Western world, it’s hard not to admire a quick-footed, sharp thinking, catty little Quarter Horse that excels at his job.
Let’s face it, there aren’t too many other breeds that can be as dependable and consistent as the almighty Quarter Horse when it comes to having cow sense, strength and sensibility—both in and out of the arena. I, for one, enjoy and appreciate all of the different AQHA-registered horses that are in my string and are part of our business.
At the same time, my heart can’t help but go pitter-patter for a horse with a little bit of “heavy” to him.
Horses that have some draft blood in them often have a bit more bone than other more refined breeds. Their large heads and necks often carry dense, coarse manes, and they view the world through dark, soft liquid eyes. Although they’re not known for snappy speed or nimble agility, they do have a keen, steady way of traveling, a lot of power in their hindquarters and an uncanny presence.
No, you will probably never see me throwing my saddle onto on a full-blown Clydesdale. Although I admire the gentle giants from afar, I’m certain that my hip flexors will never be limber enough to stretch comfortably to my stirrups as I step on and off an 18-hand behemoth. However, when that feather-footed blood is diluted through a generation or two (crossed with something that is smaller, cattier and talented), I have often loved the results. I’ve been drawn to draft breeds from a young age and have been fortunate enough to own a few. Many of the draft crosses in my life were gentle, patient and kind.
When you ride a horse with a bit of bone, you can expect a fairly smooth ride. Most of them have great, wide backs that are comfortable with or without a saddle. If you’re a shy person, beware. Your draft cross will draw second and third glances from people and will probably spark a conversation.
And yes, the hay bill tends to be a bit more elevated than the “normal” sized horses.
However, when Luke and I are in the middle of colt-starting season, my heavy horse is unmatched when it comes to being a patient, steady anchor for flighty 2-year-olds. A half-Gypsy, half-Quarter Horse, Buttermilk is seasoned and wise, with plenty of endurance. I’m lucky to call her one of my best using horses. You rarely see her overexert herself, though she always comes through with plenty of stamina. If we are branding calves, doctoring something or just roping for fun, I love having the power and strength of something “drafty” to help get a bovine from point A to point B.
Truly, I admire any horse besides a heavy or a Quarter Horse that can get the job done as well. I sing praises to any mustang, Arabian, Paint, or grade horse with a good head on his shoulders that handles his rider’s needs.
I’ll compete with and enjoy my Quarter Horses for years to come. But in a world that seems to be full of prejudices and snap judgments, I believe it’s important to keep an open mind and a keen eye for any horse—no matter the breed—that has the qualities to make a good partner.
And when I stumble across one that happens to have feathered legs, a strong back, a stout frame, and the muscles to plow the neighbor’s wheat field? I might just have to make one more (rather large space) at my round bale feeder.