Horses · Olaf the Gentle Giant

Introducing Olaf, My First Draft Horse

I got tagged in a Facebook post a few weeks ago about 3 horses needing a home. (I have since deleted my Facebook) I get tagged in posts like that a lot, because I’ve fostered a few horses for a local rescue and found them good homes. It’s a process I really enjoy, and I’ve got a good network of horse people that can help me spread the word. It seems that someone is always looking for a horse, or they see a picture of one of the rescues and fall in love.

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In this particular Facebook post, the guy said that one of the horses needing a home was a Haflinger, and those make excellent kids’ horses. That’s a horse I would be interested in keeping. I wasn’t really looking, but I wouldn’t mind having a horse that my daughter and her friends could ride, something beginner friendly. My thoroughbred and my mule aren’t a good fit for the kids. They’re both big and athletic and not nearly as lazy as they’d need to be for beginners to feel safe on them. So I commented that I’d be interested in the Haflinger.

I ended up talking to the man who had the horses. He had rescued them from a situation where they were being neglected. They weren’t being fed and they had grazed their pasture down to nothing, so they were escaping and looking for something to eat. They were near a good sized road, and he was afraid they would be hit by a car, so he offered to bring them to his property. He has a nice, big piece of land. It wasn’t a permanent solution though, and he didn’t want to keep them forever; he just didn’t want to see them get hurt. Thank God for people like him, not even a horse person, but willing to step up and help.

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The first picture I saw of him.

He sent me a picture of the Haflinger, and my first thought was, “That’s not a Haflinger; that’s a Belgian.” The two breeds look really similar, but Haflingers usually top out around 15 hands and this horse looked HUGE in the pictures. He was big enough that they had named him Goliath. Belgians are a draft breed that usually stand around 17 hands. Haflingers are more like pony drafts, and this guy didn’t look like a pony to me. It’s hard to judge size from a picture though, so I wasn’t sure. Maybe he was some kind of draft cross.

I was told he was gentle and sweet and a joy to be around, so I asked to come meet him. I had no idea how old he was, or what he knew under saddle. I figured I would go meet him and see if he really was a sweetheart. I have room for one more, so what the heck? I love the drafty types and he was definitely drafty.

I took the tweens and my friend Karen, and drove about an hour to meet him. We brought the trailer because I had a pretty good feeling we were coming home with him. I didn’t really care if he turned out to be 25 and arthritic. My daughter hardly weighs anything, and I was hoping he would be something she could ride. We just putz around on the trails. It’s not like I’m looking for a fancy sport horse.

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Sure enough, Goliath was just as described. He was calm and sweet. We looked at his teeth to try and figure out his age, but I’m not great at aging horses. There are multiple factors to consider when looking at their teeth and sometimes it’s hard to get a good look. Older horses are supposed to have longer teeth, but my one rescue horse that had been starved nearly to death had chewed on wood and worn his teeth down so much that at first glance he appeared younger than he was. It didn’t matter to me either way because I don’t mind a senior horse, so I decided to take Goliath home.

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Coming home on the trailer.

He got right in my trailer as soon as he saw the bucket of grain I had inside. This was my first time hauling my new trailer and I hadn’t quite figured out the best way to tie horses inside, since it’s a stock and I’m used to a straight load. I had the tie way too long and he got himself turned around. I got back in with him and unhooked him before he started to panic. I adjusted the tie and then re-loaded him. He walked right back on, no problem. That alone was enough for me to fall in love because trailer loading can be a special kind of hell with an unwilling horse.

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Once we got him home, we had originally planned to put him in a smallish paddock with a mini horse so he could meet the big horses over the fence first. Unfortunately, Goliath was terrified of the mini. We ended up turning him out in the big pasture. We got some amazing shots of him prancey dancing around the paddock while suspiciously eyeing the mini. People don’t typically associate drafts with being big, beautiful movers, but I think everyone’s jaw dropped when they saw him move. He is FANCY.

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He is about 16.1 or 16.2 at the withers. That’s really too big for a Haflinger, but small for a Belgian. His feet are GIGANTIC, the size of dinner plates. They’re even bigger than Gracie’s, the Percheron cross that my daughter rides. After some intense googling and input from my barn friends, I have decided that he is most likely full Belgian. Although, I would think Gracie is full Percheron based on her looks and she is actually Percheron/Quarter horse cross. So, honestly, who knows?

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We re-christened him Olaf, like the snowman from “Frozen.” He has a wonderful temperament, just the sweetest horse you could ever ask for, which is so refreshing considering my last two (one horse and one mule) were difficult. The horse was sweet on the ground and a nightmare under saddle; the mule is fantastic to ride but is suspicious of everyone and often prefers to be left alone. Olaf is a big baby. I can touch him all over (yes, I cleaned his sheath, ewwww), I can climb underneath him, and he is gentle as can be. He follows me to the gate when I leave and already seeks me out as a safe place. He is a breath of fresh air compared to the mares I’m used to.

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Ribby with no topline.
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He’s lost a lot of muscling on his neck.

He is definitely in need of some TLC. He needs to gain a couple hundred pounds, and we’re already working on that. We stuff him full of hay and give him grazing time in the yard where the good grass is. He’s already learned which stall is his and that he has to go in it to get his chow. I cannot wait to see him this summer once he’s put on weight and lost his winter coat. He is going to be magnificent.

He was a “free” horse, but there’s really no such thing as a free horse if you’re a responsible owner. I’ve already had the dentist and the farrier out to see him, and the vet comes next week. His teeth had a lot of points that the dentist took care of, and the dentist said he is mid to late teens, probably 16 or 17 years old. His feet were massively overgrown. There will be a whole separate post about the farrier visit, but Olaf is already feeling better from the dental and farrier work.

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His personality is wonderful. He reminds me of a big, goofy dog. If he steps on my foot, it’s going to HURT, so he needs some training about keeping out of my bubble; but he is just so sweet and interested in people that he is a an absolute delight to be around. There will be many more posts about him, so stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Introducing Olaf, My First Draft Horse

  1. I loved every bit of that! Good for you for taking him home. I also have one that is old and lame-ish. I think that carting my feather weight daughter around once a week or less isn’t going to hurt him any. It seems like a good way to spend retirement. Hanging out and eating, being fussed over by a little girl once in awhile.
    I don’t know how your new trailer is set up but we have cattle and use the same trailers to haul everything. We turn the horses loose in the stock trailers when hauling. By letting them choose their positions we’ve found that they really prefer to ride facing backwards. It makes sense, they can absorb the stop with their hindquarters instead of their chests. Now even when I have to tie I tie them facing back.

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