Last weekend I went to visit 18 year old, Holly with her Percheron heavy horses. As well as the Percheron's, Holly's family farm rears cattle, sheep and the odd chicken wandering around the yard! I was really looking forward to this blog as I haven't done any horses yet and I especially love heavy horses. When I am at agricultural shows, however busy I may get I always make sure I go and look at the heavy horses. They are so majestic and impressive with their sheer size and presence. I was in absolute awe of Holly from the plaiting and braiding of Mable's tail and mane to the way she handled her with such ease.
Holly with her 4 year old Percheron mare, Mabel.
How long have you had Percheron horses and how did you become interested in them?
I have had Percherons for 3 years now and first became interested in the breed when my mother, Sharon, bought our first horse.
What made you choose the Percheron over other heavy horses?
Firstly the Percheron is clean legged, meaning they have not got feathered feet (hair on their legs) and although Suffolk is our home county the beautiful dappled markings of the Percheron caught my eye.
Holly with her two yearling Percherons, Bonnie and Lass.
Where do they originate and what is their history?
The Percheron is a breed of draft horse that originated in the Huisne river valley in France which is part of the Perche province and where the breed takes its name. They are usually grey or black in colour. Percherons are well muscled, and known for their intelligence and willingness to work.
How many Percherons do you have?
We have three Percherons in total, a 4 year old mare and 2 yearling fillies.
Mabel enjoying a scratch.
What do you do with your Percherons?
The Percherons are shown at both smaller fairs and county shows but more recently the oldest mare Mable we have began breaking to ride and drive, beging with leading her around in our village to get her used to different sights and sounds, then long reining her and from there pulling a tyre.
Do you hope to breed Percherons in the future?
Yes… However at the minute breaking in the eldest mare and with training the two yearling taking up a lot of time 3 is just enough!
You show your horses, why is this important to you?
Having spent many years showing the familys Pedigree Simmental cattle and my own Southdown and Beltex sheep, the show ring is a familiar sight. It just seemed natural to show the horses. Learning how to show them, plait and braid had been very challenging but with a few championship’s under my belt its all been worth it.
Over the last three years Holly has learnt how to plait and braid for the show ring.
Mabel waiting patiently while she is plaited up.
What do you look for in a ‘good quality’ Percheron?
Being a heavy horse, they are built for working, so good legs and movement are essential when carrying or pulling heavy loads. The horse must be something you enjoy looking at in the field so for me the most important part is the head, with females a fine feminine head is an essential. Along with this the horse needs a good body and to be broad throughout. But like every breed and species each person’s opinion is different.
What advice would you give someone looking to get into heavy horses?
Working with heavy horses is a dying art and without new people owning and working them the breeds will soon die out, everyone in the societies are so helpful and encouraging and will do anything to help! Heavy horses isn’t all about expensive carts like you see at the shows… you can have just as much enjoyment out of riding, showing or breeding them.
I would like to say a HUGE thank you to Holly for taking the time to introduce me to her stunning Percheron horses and for showing me round her family farm. As well as meeting the horses I got to meet the sheep, chickens and cows, including Molly the Jersey calf, who was Holly's 18th birthday present! I had such a great afternoon watching Holly work with Mabel and seeing the bond between them, it was so impressive to see Holly work alongside these gentle giants. I am looking forward to getting back to the studio to draw Mabel, I am a little nervous though!
I am Izzi, farmer’s daughter and textile designer at IzziRainey. If I am not designing or sewing you will find me out in the farmyard with my cattle. I am constantly seeking inspiration for my prints, not that I have to look very far. Growing up on the farm, I have always been influenced by my surroundings and this combined with my passion for farming is what inspires my designs. I love spending time on the farm but I also enjoy learning about other people’s animals, passions and stories, which are also influential to my design process. I hope you enjoy reading ‘Over the Farm Gate’