I grew up in Kent where the Shire horse is King, so there will always be a little part of me that thinks that it isn’t a proper heavy horse if it isn’t a Shire. However, round these parts the Shire horse is a Big Southern Softie and it isn’t proper unless it’s a Clydesdale.
I’m not really an expert on the nuances of heavy horses, but to me the main difference between a Shire and a Clydesdale is the amount of white. Clydesdales tend to have white running up their legs and under their belly. They also often come in various shades of roan – that’s where white hairs are intermixed with dark throughout the coat. Shires tend to have less white on their faces and the white on their legs stops at the knees. It’s a fair bet they share a bit of family history.
Why am I yattering on about heavy horses? Clydesdales are a Big Thing in the rural North. There aren’t many around, but there’ll be a class or two at all the agricultural shows, and it just happens that one of the annual Clydesdale shows takes place about three miles from where I live.
Dapple farm in Tow Law breeds Clydesdales, and has hosted the snazzily titled Clydesdale Heavy Horse Area 12 NE Show for three years. This year we went along to watch the proceedings.
Everyone parked up on a lay by outside the farm, and there were several photographers and bystanders opting to avoid the £2 entry fee by watching from the verge. They certainly had the better view – Tow Law sits high over Weardale and the views looking South and East are stunning. The view North and West (facing the showground) is less exciting, as the landscape here is flat. Basically a stone wall and lots of cars.
The show itself was friendly and intimate. There were only about six horseboxes, and the competitors clearly all knew each other. They still took their classes very seriously. Never have I seen so much pampering and talcum powder. The horses, on the other hand, could not have been more laid back if they tried. In fact, the liveliest horse, a pretty grey filly, lived on site. And she wasn’t that lively.
Within two hours, all the classes had been judged and people started heading home. Just in time, as the darkening sky was looking increasingly threatening. It may have been the end of June, but Tow Law essentially sits at cloud level, and the weather usually features a vicious wind.
I’m already looking forward to next year…
Photos below – click to view large – or visit my new Ipernity site to see even more.