Draft power!! This month on YourDressage, we are celebrating Draft Horses and Draft Crosses of all breeds. Dressage riders who choose Drafts as their mounts are eligible for many Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards as there are several Draft organizations on our Participating Organization list. Here, a Region 1 trainer shares about the adventures of Eoghain, the lone Draft Horse in a barn full of warmbloods, who has made everyone a fan of Drafts!
By Maddie Piplico
Afton Stables is a dressage farm on the Charlottesville side of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Afton, Virginia. We have a small herd of mostly warmblood horses, and one draft horse. That draft horse is Eoghain.
Eoghain (pronounced Owen) is the first horse most visitors meet when they come to Afton Stables. He is by far the most curious and outgoing of all horses at Afton Stables, known for approaching people if they walk by his field, and for keeping his giant head hanging over his stall door in the barn aisle. At nearly eighteen hands high, and weighing well over 1,500 lbs, he’s also hard to miss. It may seem odd for a dressage farm to have a full-size draft horse, but Eoghain loves dressage just as much as the rest of our horses do.
In 2017, farm owners Angela and Peter Doolan went on vacation with their trainer, Maddie Piplico, to Peter’s home country of Ireland. While on vacation, they decided to check out a fox-hunting stable in County Galway, to see if they would have a suitable horse for Peter. It was love at first sight with Eoghain. He was only four, and much greener than what they were looking for, but his presence and personality were a perfect match. Peter was interested in fox-hunting at the time, but Eoghain’s training fell into the hands of Maddie, who couldn’t help but teach him to go in a frame, do a leg yield, and go through all three gaits with proper bend and flexion. Although Eoghain still loved hacking out, he began to enjoy his time in the arena as well. He really took to the stretchy trot, learning to love the feeling of reaching down toward the ground with his nose while holding a beautiful forward trot.
Over time, Eoghain became quite good at teaching lessons to Peter, Angela, our groom Emily, and one lessee. He is a gentle soul who only wants to please, but has the energy and spunk of the young horse that he is. This combination means that he is safe to ride, but also provides his riders with a bit of a challenge. Because of his drafty build, Eoghain doesn’t move too fast, and has a lot of “real estate” to make his riders feel secure in the saddle. However, because of his age and curious personality, he challenges his riders to make him focus on the task at hand. Eoghain is also very sensitive to what his rider is feeling, and is truly a mirror of your emotions. One of the most important lessons for riders is that you have to be the master of your own emotions when riding and working with horses, and Eoghain is the best for teaching that.
In his time at Afton Stables, Eoghain has done some fox-hunting, some trail riding, many lessons, and one rated dressage show with Peter. They competed at Intro Level and had a blast. Our goal with Eoghain is to respect his build, and work him in a way that will keep him as sound as he can be for as long as possible. It’s also important that he stays versatile, so he can go trail riding with Peter and do lower level dressage.
Eoghain’s personality continues to charm all that know him, except for maybe his pasture mates. Eoghain gets turned out at night with two senior geldings. His favorite game is putting his giant head on top of them as they are walking, or standing over them as they roll. He also just likes to generally stand in their personal space while they are grazing. He might be a bit irritating, but it keeps his old buddies young. Eoghain loves his work, his turnout, and he loves eating more than anything. Despite his great size, Eoghain only eats about half a pound of our whole food Biostar-based diet, but he stays full on grass and hay.
Eoghain has made everyone at Afton Stables a fan of the draft horse. Our farm wouldn’t be the same without him, and we hope more dressage farms open their doors to a draft.
Celebrating Draft Horses! Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3
Willow Was the One by Dana Peterson
Belle of the Ball – A Cinderella Shire by Jessica Park
Bob, the Accidental Dressage Horse by Jennifer Becar