Draft horses are a blending of power and self-restraint in one super-sized package. These extra-large horses emerged in Europe during the ice age and were known to exist at the time of Caesar. By the early medieval period, when they toted iron clad knights; the breed was a deciding factor in many battles. Those same traits, massive, yet good natured, rendered Drafts indispensable in both town and country, whether pulling a plow, a wagon, or a carriage.
They helped settle the new world, hauling families across the frontier and tilling their land. From the tallest shire, who is just as comfortable pulling a wagon as ridden in fine gear, to the compact and mighty Suffolk Punch, a horse developed in England for farming in small quarters (and is nearly extinct), the presence of Clydesdales and Percherons commands attention. Thus the reason why they have become a great marketing tool for companies like Budweiser, Express Ranches and Jackson Fork Lodge.
The symmetry, teamwork and control with which the large hitches must be maneuvered are feats to be admired. Draft horses have found their place in movies, most recently Warhorse, Elf, The Mask of Zorro and Dracula. Their widebacks make a perfect platform for circus acts and cavalla or ballet on horseback.
You'll find mounted police who rely on their massive size and docility, and they are used at renaissance festivals and re-creations of medieval battles.
Away from the spotlight, on farms around the world, hearty Belgians and other Drafts pull the load; they are particularly popular with Amish and Mennonite farmers and others who are committed to the land, with a renewable source of power.
RFD-TV announces Gentle Giants, a new series beginning in January that will spotlight the diverse world of draft horses. Pam Minick and Kadee Coffman will host the show. Both Minick and Coffman are familiar faces on RFD-TV. Pam hosts The American Rancher as well as the Tournament of Roses Parade® and various specials for the network. Kadee is the host of Superior Sunrise and The American Dairy.
Gentle Giants will feature farms across North America that raise draft horses, to see the horses at work and at play. They will cover draft horse competitions from The Calgary Stampede to the Nebraska State Fair, from the North American 6-Horse Classic Series World Championships in Oklahoma City to local competitions. Breeders have opened their gates to allow a glimpse at the one-ton wonders and the people who own them.
No story on draft horses would be complete without an inside look at the Budweiser Clydesdales. There will also be stories on the craftsmanship of wagon and harness makers as they continue a skill more than a century old.
"I know that RFD-TV viewers will be just as awestruck as we have been to learn how agile and gentle these giants can be," said Kadee Coffman.
Whether it's the connection to heritage, the massive power, the quiet temperament, or willingness to please, there is camaraderie among those who share a deep love for these gentle giants.