Training and Conditioning for Work and Show
Most horses come to us "green broke". Some are a real light shade of green!! Some are so broke it takes a while for us to fix them! :) For a horse to be successful, he or she needs to have confidence and trust. We work to instil these characteristics in every horse we work with.
Our focus always begins with the basics. The horse must know, understand, and obey the word WHOA and to move forward when asked, with a "cluck" and the word "walk". The fundamentals come first. After the horse begins to understand how to listen, we move on to stand and back, then gee, haw and trot. All these are practiced in hand and with ground driving. If the horse is over two, we can lunge the horse and begin cavaletti work. This helps the horse learn to bend and teaches it to "think about its feet". A horse that learns how and where to place his feet is an asset in harness, whether it's logging, field work, or in a hitch class. The lunge work also reinforces the voice commands and teaches the horse to listen to his handler from all angles and under all circumstances.
Our current training rates are $200 a week. This includes full care and daily turnout. Horses in for training are worked 5-6 days a week with a schedule goal of three days work then one day off, then 4 days work with one day off. One lesson a week for the owner is included at no extra charge, and owners are welcome and encouraged to visit anytime.
How much we show depends on how the haying is going! We have 50+ acres of hayland and we do a lot of the haying with the horses. We do keep them in condition for show and when the timing is right we'll load them up for a day at a show. Most shows are in conjunction with a state or county fair and offer a wide variety of classes for both hitch and halter. We always strive to make the Shire Show at the Keystone International Livestock Expo in Harrisburg PA every fall. Our horses are consistent winners here in Maine, but its nice to compete nationally with "the big guys" and still come out in the ribbons!
On occasion our horses are available for exhibition and special events. We are especially interested in events that promote the safe and educational uses of horses in agricultural production, as well as events that introduce these "gentle giants" to the public. Our favorite annual events include Maine Farm Days in July and teaching large animal emergency rescue to first responders and horse owners alike. Many of our events, exhibitions, and shows are listed and written about in The Horses Maine, the Maine Farmer, and Rural Heritage magazine. These monthly publications also carry information about many other events, clubs, and shows.
Due to our work and show schedule dates for exhibitions and special events are limited at certain times of the year. Please call to discuss your ideas and for the latest available dates.
I spent most of my childhood trying to get close to horses! Unfortunately, I wasn't born into a "horsey" family and there weren't that many horses near our home. A break came about the 7th grade when my parents would let me get off the bus at Butternut Hill Arabians in Freeport Maine, and Sally and Phil Hatch would let me brush their horses. I'd have to leave in order to walk the mile home before dark, but this is where I got my first start with horses. They seemed to have hundreds of horses but I remember Rohan, Foxy and Dolly the most.
It was Sally and Phil who referred me to Bill Poulin, at Montsweag Bay Farms in Woolwhich. I spent two years there after high school learning farm management and horse care, along with some of my current training and instruction techniques. I met Mike Brown at Montsweag, and her horse Joshua. At that time Mike was the head riding instructor at the summer Camp Vega in Fayette Maine. Mike invited me and my horse Sierra Dawn to spend a few summers teaching riding with her at camp. I managed the stable there for three years, and continued to refine my teaching methods.
After 15 years with Dawn, I finally had to put her down due to old age. I went to college, got a degree and a "real job". . as my parents put it. I never planned to get back into horses for myself. I'd ride occasionally and often "barn sat" for those who owned horses went on vacation. We drove horses a lot at Montsweag and one day I made the mistake of telling someone, that her thoroughbred mare "would look good in harness". The conversation eventually led to driving: and how much I'd liked it at Bills, and how if I ever did get into horses again it would be for driving, and probably it would be a draft, and probably a Percheron. The lady never let me forget those words. . and she secretly went on the quest to find me a horse.
It wasn't long before a skinny run-down "Squire the Shire" stumbled into my life and brought me back into horses. It wasn't long after I obtained Squire that Frank Walker stumbled into my life too, and the business of TROIKA Drafts was officially established a few years later. Some days its hard to believe I was away from horses for 10 years! I still keep my "real job" as a cartographer for the State of Maine. In 2000 I became and certified firefighter and have since gone on to become a State Fire Instructor. My current goals include promoting the use of GIS for emergency response and helping to build a Large Animal Emergency Rescue (LAER) program for the State of Maine.
Frank grew up in a very horsey family. He often jokes about how his father would buy horses at the auction and bring them home for the kids to break, then take them back to the auction a few weeks later and bring home a new batch! His career with drafts and driving horses began well after his first experience with a horse. The first time Frank saw a Shire, he knew it was the breed for him. He has been involved with the breeding of Shires for over 15 years and has been instrumental in breeding many high calibre Shires, including the two time National Grand Champion Shire Stallion, Illusion Farms Mister Sampson.
Though always interested in drafts, his first job with them began in 1990. Frank went to work for Homestead Farms. One condition of the job was that Frank would have to learn how to shoe drafts, something Frank wanted to learn anyways. The years with Homestead, their championship driving style and the national show circuit, gave Frank the foundation for his present career. When the hitch was sold in 1994, Frank decided to start shoeing, showing and working with drafts for a living. The demand was there, and few farriers were interested in shoeing the "big guys", fewer still knew how to shoe for show.
Though specializing in drafts for work and show, Frank enjoys shoeing light horses and especially enjoys the satisfaction of successful corrective shoeing work. His current clients include many of New Englands competing dressage and eventing horses, lots of All American hitch and halter horses, as well as working carriage teams from Maine, NH and MA, and of course, the Champion horses of Troika Drafts! Frank also offers lessons for draft and farrier sciences, along with working student and apprentice programs.