Brew's Team Debut
by Vicki Schmidt
Spring 1998
Brew: July 1998, Ossipee Valley Fair
Photo by Pam Gauthier, Mt Hope Farm, Springvale ME

Like a kid graduating from grade school, there comes a time in every successful draft horse's life when he becomes part of a team. The days of single ground driving, practicing the whoa, walk, and trot commands, make way for more challenging roles. A Saturday in February dawned bright and sunny, and we couldn't have asked for a better day for Brew's debut.

When I talk to people who haven't seen Brew since Fryeburg Fair last fall, few can believe he's 16.3 hands tall, still growing, and finally loosing some of his yearling "disproportioness". Everyone who's ever raised a foal knows the dreaded gangly days; when you toggle between thinking its the nicest foal you ever saw, to hoping and praying no one comes that day to see him. Brew had his share of positive and negative moments when it came to growing up. He seems to have finally realized he has feet, and can actually think about where to place them! Now, to entrench this in him as he's walking down the road, totally captivated by every dog and child rushing out to greet him.

After feeding the horses, Frank and I enjoyed a second cup of coffee and contemplated the rest of the morning. I couldn't help but think out loud, "we ought to hitch Brew with Squire today". It took Frank about a second to agree, then he wondered if Vikk would be the better horse to team Brew with. Vikk and Squire are our show and parade team of Shires. The two are almost perfectly matched in color and work well together, though their strides are very different. There are pros and cons to either as a mentor horse for Brew. Vikk and Brew walk almost identically, but Vikk's not the bravest horse away from the barn, plus she's a hand taller. Squire on the other hand (no pun intended) is a serious workaholic in harness, steady as can be, and just a half a hand taller than Brew. But his walk leaves a lot to be desired as a mentor horse. Brew takes one step for every two of Squire's.

The final decision was for Squire, as Brew needs to learn to work with Squire for logging, twitch and scoot classes, and maybe even a little hitching towards the end of the year. We also thought Brew might take working with Squire more seriously than with Vikk. Vikk, being the nurturing mothering type in the herd, could enable Brew to be less attentive. While Squire, the herd protector and leader, might force him to pay attention to the task at hand.

For whatever reason, the decision to use Squire worked fine. The team stepped off without hesitation. Brew was obviously aware of the extra commotion but quickly accepted the horse beside him, the sound of extra hooves, and the jangling of a few more harness parts. As expected, he kept half a stride back, never giving himself permission to step up even with Squire or daring to intrude on Squire's space. Brew listened and responded to our requests to "step up" and after the first half mile realized it was OK for him to walk beside Squire. He began to understand that Squire wouldn't retaliate for such assertiveness in harness. The mailboxes, kids, bikes and dogs continued to intrigue him. His ears, in constant motion, signaled his ever changing attention. From Frank at the reins, to Squire on his right, to the kids, the dogs, the mailboxes.

Brew: on the day of his team debut. .

Squire covered the miles convinced some important task was at hand. With steadiness for Brew to depend on, he listened with unyielding attention to the reins and for gentle cues from Frank. Knowing all along that Brew, the little guy who will someday tower over him, would follow where ever they told him to go.

At the time this story was written, Brew was a 22 month old grey Shire gelding, obtained by TROIKA Drafts as a weanling. TROIKA Drafts is owned by Vicki Schmidt and operated with help from Frank Walker and the staff of KDM Farms in Monmouth, Maine.