Horse Power!

What’s my favourite event at the Royal Horse Show in Toronto? Dressage? Show jumping? Nope. The class I like the best is the six horse hitch.  This is where the heavies get to strut their stuff. This year I saw the Percheron Six Horse Hitch.

One of the great advantages of the Royal Horse Show is you can go into the Horse Palace and see the horses. I wanted to get some more information about the Percherons and I was lucky to be introduced to Taylor of Glencal Percherons.   I got to their area of the stabling and the massive (averaging 2,250 lbs. weight) black horses were lined up being prepared for their competition.   Taylor was standing on a step ladder holding the halter of one of the horses, to steady him, and another young  woman was seated astride the horse braiding in the colored cloth ribbons into the horse’s mane. These ribbons are braided down the length of the mane and then decorative elements can be inserted into the braiding. I stood in between two of the horses to speak to Taylor. There was not a lot of space in between these black giants, and even as a horse person, I was aware that I was just a snippet of a human, small and insignificant. I had some questions for Taylor.

Q. How many horses do you need to bring to the show if you are competing in the six horse hitch?(I asked this as I knew it would be more than six to ensure they would have six in case one horse was lame or not well.  )

A. We bring seven horses. We also compete in the eight horse hitch classes but they are not offered here at the Royal . For that we would  bring  nine horses. We have a horse transport that can take nine horses.

Q. How do you arrange the horses in the hitch?

A. We put the two strongest horses nearest to the wagon. They do most of the pulling so they need to be stronger. The two lead horses are the ones with the fanciest movement.

Q. Is there a temperament difference between breeds of heavy horse? Are the Clydesdales and Percherons more or less the same?

A. The Clydes are quieter. The Percherons are the most excitable of the draft horses.

At this point, there was a man on my left who was starting to get the harness on the horse,Taylor and the  young woman were almost finished with the ribbon braiding on the horse on my right. It was clear to me that both horses knew they were getting ready for the show ring. They were anxious to get going. Time for me to let everyone get on with their work!


Once the  teams are hitched up they come to the collecting ring and wait to go into the arenarwf-1307

Here last minute adjustments and polishing up can be done. Then they wait until the horses from the previous class come out. On this evening it was Roadster Ponies!


Then the big horses are driven into the arena.


They circle the arena and the judge watches : the movement of the horses. their presentation,the wagons. You can see in these photos the coordination of the braiding colors and the harness and the wagons.



The harness is gleaming and polished. The horses are  groomed to perfection and their hooves are mirror glossy.  The braiding work matches the harness details and the wagon.

Once the judge has seen the horses and wagons go around in both directions , the Ring Master calls them into the center to line up.


The judge then walks around and between the horses and wagons, taking  a close look . Then…..the winner  is announced and the presenters place a ribbon on one of the  lead horses.


Then the others can also come forward, on the Ring Masters order, to receive their ribbons. The Ring Master is in the top hat, at the bottom right, of this  photo.


The horses and wagons will all leave the arena and the winner will go round one more time for a victory round.  What a pleasure it is to see these magnificent horses  so beautifully presented.



15 Comments Add yours

  1. kutukamus says:

    Never crossed my mind that the strongest ones ought to be closest to the wagon.. Nice explanation 🙂 🍸


    1. anne leueen says:

      I didn’t know this either until i spoke with Taylor. Glad you found it interesting.


  2. (HorseLover4Ever) Elizabeth says:

    That is so wonderful that you got to see the horses up close too!!! I really enjoyed all the pictures–what beautiful and majestic creatures draft horses are (and horses in general!!!);)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      It is nice to be able to see them. It makes you realize how big they are. I’m glad you like the post and thank you for commenting.


  3. Alli Farkas says:

    Michigan has a similar event, though I think it’s probably quite a bit smaller. In October the Michigan Great Lakes International Draft Horse Show takes place at Michigan State University in East Lansing. In addition to the 6- and 8-horse hitches, they have cart classes and drafts under saddle classes, not to mention the pulling competitions which, although not elegant, are amazing to watch. They also have plowing matches but I’ve never seen them because when I was at the show it was as a vendor, and the plowing matches were in a field a ways across the street. Luckily for me many of the drafts are stabled in the same huge building as the main ring and the vendor area, so I was able to roam about and watch some of the same things you saw. I’m always dumbfounded at the talent required to get those braids and ribbons in! And the hooves–yes–aka “dinner plates”!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      Oh my that draft horse show sounds wonderful. I know there are pulling competitions in Ontario I just need to get organized to see them. Thanks for sharing the info on the Michigan show.


  4. Great photos Anne, thanks for sharing them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      You are most welcome, it was fun to take the photos.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. sandyjwhite says:

    Draft horses are magnificent. Growing up in St. Louis, we often visited Grants Farm
    where Budweiser housed and trained their Clydes. Wonderful images, Anne!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      I love the Clyde’s. Thanks for sharing that part of your history.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. sscribner07 says:

    Drafts are so amazing. Zac (boyfriend) got his first up close with drafts at the fair this year when we went to the Belgian stalls. He was in awe at the size of their hooves!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. anne leueen says:

      The hooves are HUGE! Thanks for telling me about your connection to the heavy horses.


  7. JGomez says:

    Wow! This would be really nice to see in person. The horses are beautiful…it most be hard to judge who will be the winner. Awesome post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. anne leueen says:

      It is really something to see. The sound of the hooves clattering over the pavement in the stabling area as they go to the collecting ring and the jungle of the harness as they go around the ring are all part of it. Thanks so much for your appreciative comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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