They’ve got a rich past, but draft horses also have a bright future.
And that was plain to see at the recent World Clydesdale Show, said Bruce Roy.
“It blew me out of the water,” said the Cremona horseman. “It was the greatest livestock show I’ve ever been to. Spectators had to be turned away because the arena was so packed.”
Roy is an icon in the industry — a breeder, show announcer, passionate historian, and the longest-serving volunteer at the Calgary Stampede, with more than a half-century on the heavy horse committee.
The success of Alberta exhibitors in the breeding, hitch, and youth classes at the World Clydesdale Show is an indicator of the industry’s health, he said.
“I see a growing niche market for all draft breeds now. Along with new corporate interest, there’s a big demand from the Amish for horses. They’re one of the fastest-growing segments of American agriculture, and they do all their farming with horses. They’re not afraid to spend on good horses.”
A Belgian gelding from Bill and Dinie Prins of Fort Saskatchewan fetched $15,500 at a recent Ontario sale. And there have been some record-setting numbers from south of the border recently, including $64,000 for a Belgian mare and $32,000 for a Percheron work horse team. At Alberta’s own Wild Rose Draft Horse Association sale in May, receipts were close to a quarter of a million dollars — the highest gross for the fewest horses the group has ever seen.
The versatility of draft horses is also creating demand, said Roy, noting the Toronto Police Service was buying at the Ontario sale because the bigger horses are better for crowd control. Heavy horses are also in demand for hay and sleigh rides, city tours, and as pack horses for guides and outfitters.