spent much of my life working with heavy horses and in those early
years I worked solely
with Shire horses. Although I enjoyed attending the various County
Shows and showing my
horses, I was much more interested in working my horses. During the
late nineties and early
noughties, I was finding it increasing difficult to find what I’d
describe as a traditional working
Shire horse. By that I mean something under 17hh with shorter back
and leg that I could work
and drive both socially and at competition level.
While at one such competition - La Route du Poisson (Fish Race) in
France, I came across
many alternative European breeds, the Comtois being one of them. I
loved the look of the
Comtois and so I began researching the breed. In 2006 and with great
trepidation I brought my
first two Comtois over from France, a breed that was seldom seen in
England and wasn’t really
known within the heavy horse establishment.
I certainly had no need to worry about my choice of breed, as I discovered
the breed to be
better than I could ever have imagined. They are so versatile, good
natured and learn so fast.
What really appeals to me is that they have the speed and agility
of light horses yet the
strength and power of the heavy horse. I was immediately besotted
and addicted to the Comtois!
So, let’s introduce you to my horses: Major is a 15.3hh, 10
year old Gelding, Lizzie is 16hh,
11 year old Mare and Rodeo is 15.2hh.
I brought Major and Lizzie over from France in March 2006. They travelled
so well I had to
check in the back of the lorry from time to time to make sure they
were still there!! They are just
amazing and have completely exceeded all of my expectations. I now
also own Rodeo who is
Lizzies son, and he is following firmly in her foot steps.
Major, Lizzie and Rodeo readily carry out many of the Heavy Horse
traditions. They do trade
and agricultural turnout classes; as singles, pairs and are currently
training for tandem. They
are shown in hand, give dray rides, haul timber and also plough. In
addition to the traditional
activities they also enjoy being ridden, taking part in charity rides
with cross country jumps,
dressage to music and not forgetting my favourite pastime competing
in driving trials. During
the winter months they enjoy indoor jumping, dressage and indoor driving
trails. Major has also
taken up side saddle very successfully.
Their temperament also makes them ideal for horsing weddings, school
proms and carriage
rides. They even pulled a heavy horse dray at the Lord Mayors Parade
in London in 2008.
As a contrast Rodeo also enjoys vaulting with my friend Fabien, but
I’ll leave that one to the
younger, more athletic experts!
They are great horses that have the strength and power of the heavy
horses but the speed and
agility of the light horses so it makes them such a versatile breed.
My horses have taken part in
the Beer Run in the New Forest which is a 50 mile relay race and they
returned to their Country
of origin in 2008 as part of the British Team in La Route du Poisson;
the Fish Race.
La Route du Poisson is a 200 mile relay race from Boulogne-sur-Mer
on the north coast of
France to Paris with 10 pairs of horses over 24 hours non-stop. Driving
through the night
cross-country at competition speeds can only be described as fun,
in a slightly crazy sort of way!
Both of these events have many special stages. At La Route du Poisson
in 2008 Major competed
in the ridden dressage to music and achieved a very successful second
place which helped the
British Team in the final placing.