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Local horse center specializes in Clydesdales

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Posted: Thursday, August 6, 2009 10:00 pm

Dust followed the black carriage as trainer Vernon Helmuth guided seven-year-old Cruiser around a practice track.

The Clydesdale pranced as farm owner Jeanne Williams watched from the side at the Sargent Equestrian Center, located east of Lodi.

Wearing blue jeans that covered black boots and a green shirt with ivy designs and small imprints of bucking horses, she looked petite next to the six-foot Clydesdales she loves.

"They are beautiful, majestic, strong - just a lot of great traits," she said, while walking back to the barn.

Williams moved her farm from Woodside in the Bay Area to Lodi in the past year.

Despite being around horses since she was 6, Williams never envisioned owning a Clydesdale until the day she "accidentally" met Nellie.

In 1998, Williams and her late husband, Curt, were searching for mules and farm equipment at a sale in Paso Robles. There were five Budweiser Clydesdales for sale, and Williams bought Nellie for a good price with the intention of selling her at a profit.

"I fell in love with her," she said. "We never sold her, and I haven't looked back."

Now, with 25 Clydesdales at the farm, Williams specializes in the draft horses because they are rare in the area. The West Coast does not have many farms that raise draft horses, compared to the Midwest or East Coast, she said. The farm even has its own competition, Draft Horse Fest, to feature the large horses.

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Her Clydesdales are one of the main reasons Williams moved her farm from Woodside in the Bay Area to Lodi.

"Almost all the acres here are driveable acres," she said. "When I started getting involved in big horses, we were looking for some flat ground."

The 198-acre farm houses 65 horses, which the staff board, break in, drive and breed.

Williams has had the farm for one year and when she bought it, the barns were already built on the property. The farm extends from the corner of Tully and Sargent roads, and horses graze in irrigated pastures with shaded stands. The change has been good for not only the horses but for Williams.

"It's a slower place and more low-key, but not too slow, and not too low-key," she said. "And that Delta breeze … "

The Clydesdales' first introduction to Lodi's cobblestone School Street was during the Parade of Lights this year. The horses often pull carriages for parades, special events and weddings.

"It's just a lot of fun," she said. "It's great to take them to parades, and share them with the public."

Besides being featured in several books, one of the horses, Mikey, might even see Hollywood fame. A crew shot a girl with curly hair and a cape riding him around an arena two years ago for a Pixar film. The movie company did not tell Williams any information about the film, except it could be out in 2010.

The love of Clydesdales extends to her staff. Santa Clara University student Kyle Hohu has purchased two Clydesdales from Williams since he started working for her. One of the horses then gave birth to four-month-old Captain, who was recovering from a fever and a sunburned nose Thursday afternoon.

After working on the farm, Hohu can rattle off horse terms and explain the Scottish origins of the Clydesdales.

The Clydesdales have white hair cascading from the lower leg, which is called feather. They also have docked, or cropped, tails, to prevent them from getting caught in lines while pulling carriages, he said.

The main difference in temperament of Clydesdales is they are "very quiet, very sweet," he said.

Contact reporter Maggie Creamer at maggiec@lodinews.com or read her blog at www.lodinews.com/blog/citybuzz.

Clydesdales 101

- Origins - First bred on Scottish farms more than 200 years ago.
- Height - More than 18 hands tall. A hand is four inches, so that is six feet. Horses are measured from the ground to their withers, the highest point on the horse's back.
- Weight - Between 1,600 and 2,400 pounds, which is the weight of a Volkswagen Beetle.
- Color - Mostly bay or brown, but also black or sorrel. Many are roan, which is when white is scattered throughout the coat. Judges ignore color in the show ring.
- Leg hair - The hair originally helped protect the horses' legs, but now it is primarily for show.
- Ant-like strength - A Clydesdale can pull many more times than its own weight, depending on what it is pulling. That is why the breed was so popular for pulling wagons of goods in cities.
- Large hooves - A horseshoe is about the size of a dinner plate, compared to thoroughbred racing horses, with shoes half that size.
- Food - Adults can eat 25 to 50 pounds of hay in a day, with 2 to 10 pounds of grain or other supplements.
- Birth - Mothers are pregnant for 11 months and foals can weigh 110-118 pounds. The mothers can produce 100 pounds of milk daily, and foals can grow by four pounds a day for the first few months.
- Riding the horses - Hopping on one of these large animals requires specialized saddles, bits and bridles made in draft horse sizes.
- Price - Vary in price. Bloodlines, quality size, age, color and markings all affect the price. The average price is between $2,500 and $5,000, but the top-level horses can sell for the price of a luxury car.
Source: Clydesdale Breeders of the U.S.A

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  • posted at 2:07 pm on Sat, Aug 8, 2009.


    Just love these animals in Rodeos & Parades!!!

  • posted at 5:49 am on Fri, Aug 7, 2009.


    How cool is this? I ***love*** these horses! And it's a bonus to know they're so close by!



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