Cyclone, Bode, Huey, Tuff, Ice, Jag, Elk, and Rocket.
These are the names of the 8 wonderful gentlemen I had the pleasure of meeting recently at the Nebraska State Fair. They all had dark hair and were well over 6 feet tall. It isn’t often I feel as if I’m in the presence of giants since I’m fairly tall myself. However, these guys have a way of making you look up and feel small.
Now, you are probably wondering who these guys are. With names like those, you may think I met some sort of band. They aren’t a part of a band, but they are all stars. These 8 gentlemen are the Percheron horses of the Young Living Exhibition Team.
Young Living is a company (you may have heard of it) that produces essential oils. Their founder, Gary Young, loved horses. It only made sense to combine his passion for essential oils and horses together. At their Whispering Springs Farm in Mona, Utah, they have over 120 horses and focuses on draft and Fresian horses.
A handful of those horses are able to travel to various fairs and shows to compete and represent the Young Living brand and products. The 8 horses I met do not compete in shows, but do show off at fairs as the exhibition team.
Each horse is filled with personality. They may look very similar, but they are each unique. Those who get to handle and care for them can tell you all about each one.
Here enters my friend Bradley Glover. Bradley and I grew up in the same county and showed livestock together. Bradley loves draft horses. He has interned with the large Clydesdales at Budweiser and helped drive wagons in Yellowstone National Park. Now he is living in Utah with the Young Living Percheron horses.
I got a text from Bradley asking how close I was to Grand Island, Nebraska. Garrett and I then made plans to drive up to see Bradley (Garrett and Bradley worked together at NCSU) and meet the horses at the Nebraska State Fair.
Bradley not only helps feed and care for each of the horses with four others on the exhibition team, but he also helps prepare each horse for their performance.
It takes about 2 hours to braid and comb the horses manes and tails. In addition, they add boots, paint their hooves and make sure they are clean. They also tack all the horses up in harnesses and gear that weighs about 100 pounds per horse. This sounds heavy, but each horse weighs around 2,000 pounds. Huey may weigh a tick more…he likes his food.
After they are decked in their purple splendor, they are practically itching to go. It was so funny to see the horses nodding their heads and straining to get into their harness. They love their job and love to perform. They were ready!
After they are harnessed up, they are hitched to the wagon. In a 6-horse hitch, there are three positions: lead, swing, and wheel. Typically the largest and most trustworthy horses are placed in the wheel position. These are Tuff and Jag. The swing horses must stay in their spots and help round corners. Elk and Cyclone are swingers. Finally, the lead horses are often the flashiest horses who really like to prance. Bode and Huey are the guys for the job.
And what about the man behind the reins? That would be Jason Goodman. He has been around draft horses about all of his life. His wife Rose, who is also on the team, has a long history with draft horses as well.
No matter what your position on the team, everyone pitches in to get the job done. That job is making those 8 gentleman looking spectacular, and that job involves shoveling manure, cleaning equipment, braiding hair, feeding, washing, and so much more.
Thanks to the hard work of all the team members, the horses do indeed look spectacular in the ring. With Jason Goodman guiding the team, they trot, make figure eights, dock, and full on run. Their time in the ring seems like a blur, and I do believe the horses wouldn’t mind one bit if they could go around the ring once or 3 times more.
They will soon do it all over again, though, showing crowds that big doesn’t mean they can’t be agile or graceful. They proved to me that, although lovable and goofy in the barns, they are all business and style when it is show time.
Cyclone, Elk, Bode, Huey, Rocket, Jag, Ice, and Tuff, you guys are amazing!
Bradley, Jason, Rose, Cole, and Henry, thank you for letting me capture your normal. I so enjoyed soaking up your knowledge and witnessing the passion you have for draft horses.
Garrett, thanks for carrying my camera bag and reaching up high for a couple of photos. I think we found your size of animal.
Young Living, kudos to you for what you do with these horses and sharing them with the public.