The mighty Irish Draught Horse! We are celebrating them as our January Breed of the Month on YourDressage!
Dressage riders who choose Irish Draughts as their mounts are eligible for special awards through the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards program, as the Irish Draught Horse Society of North America is a participating organization.
By Amara Packwood
I imported Cappa Irish Charmer (Cappa Cassanova x Cappa Ava) from Ireland as a weanling from his breeder. I was looking for a stallion with the potential for Grand Prix jumping at the time, to replace my aging Appendix jumper. It was a tall order, as I’d won several AQHA World Jumping Championships as well as jumped to the Grand Prix level on this special horse. I had originally wanted another Quarter Horse, but decided I wanted my next horse to be a stallion that was marketable as well as able to perform and, realistically, the two just weren’t going to come together.
At the time, I already owned my Irish Draught Sport Horse mare, “RIDSH Shoulda Been My Sports Car” (by Grange Augustus RID), and just loved her wonderful personality, athleticism, and soundness. Grange Augustus was owned by my friend and mentor, Kenne Saxon, so although I didn’t know the breed, I loved what he was producing out of a variety of mares over the years. Many people in my hunt club (Fort Leavenworth Hunt) rode Irish Draught Sport Horses, many of which were sired by “Gus”, so I was familiar with their mannerisms and way of going. Just from observation at the time, I decided to invest in a potential breeding stallion.
So my next search was for an Irish Draught–Irish Draughts are known for their athleticism, but most of the upper level performers are Irish Draught Sport Horses, so I knew I had to find a VERY special horse. I spoke to many breeders over two years and inquired about several horses, but I had just started looking abroad when I came across Jimmy Quinn of Cappa Stud, in Ireland. He had a large number of weanlings for sale at the time, one of which, as you can guess, I had already spotted as my top prospect. I emailed him with a tall order- I wanted a purebred Irish Draught colt, correct enough for stallion potential, and athletic enough to jump Grand Prix. I’d sent this email out several times in the past to other breeders without much favorable reply. This time, to my delight, this professional horseman wrote right back and said I have your horse! And there were pictures of Charmer- which just reaffirmed that this colt was the one.
As fate would have it, a freak riding accident shortly after my purchase of this stunning young Irish Draught resulted in a broken skull and my riding career being turned upside down. It’s an accident I shouldn’t have survived (statistically 1%), and was advised to never ride again, but like all dedicated equestrians all I wanted to do was get back on a horse. I spent six months in a head/neck brace before I was told my skull had healed enough that I could take my brace off, while being advised that another impact that soon, even a small one, would be deadly… but us horse people are stubborn, aren’t we? I was prepared for death (not riding already felt like it), but I wasn’t prepared for the vertigo and lack of balance my injury had brought me. If my injury had happened today, there are tons of medical advances that would have immediately been put into place. But a decade ago, I was told “You are lucky you lived, good luck!”
Fast forward a few years later and true to the nature of this wonderful breed: this tall, lanky, now 3-year-old, was the best thing that could have happened to me. There was an old toy called a Weeble Wobble when I was a kid. You could knock them down but they would always sit back up. The advertising slogan for these things was, “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down!”. I, at best, was a Weeble Wobble on the ground, let alone put on a horse! But Charmer’s incredible care and kindness for his “less than perfect” owner assured that I stayed safe, no matter how bad of a day I was having.
I also have to give a lot of credit to my husband (and my students!) who helped me tack, mount, and dismount to make sure I at least got in and out of the saddle without incident. This incredible young stallion was so careful to stay under me (hippotherapy at its best!) that my ability and strength slowly started to return (and admittedly my overconfidence). However, my husband, family and friends, seeing the potential for lingering disaster, didn’t want me to ride anyone BUT my stallion. I think that really says a lot for both him and this wonderful breed!
It’s been almost a decade since that fateful day, and although it’s slowed our progress to the Grand Prix ring (we’re getting there!), it’s been a delight to venture into other disciplines. Cappa Irish Charmer was inspected and fully approved as a breeding stallion in 2016. He flourishes in the jumper ring, as expected, but Charmer and I have also branched into the hunter ring and he just started showing off his dressage talent this past year!
Cappa Irish Charmer has received many year-end awards with the Kansas Hunter Jumper Association, as well as Championships and year-end placings with the Irish Draught Horse Society NA (the only stallion who’s placed for the last five years). He has over 140 foals on ground with several showing in-hand, hunters, jumpers, dressage, eventing, and out fox hunting! We are continuing his career this year with showing rated hunters,jumpers, and dressage, while covering his duties in the breeding shed.
His puppy dog personality and reputation for passing on his great athleticism and mind has gained him a great following. I really feel that without his special care and attention, I would not have made it as far as I have after my injury. That same care and attention is something he passes onto his get and it’s amazing what they can do. Buying Charmer was a risk with high expectations, but he has met and surpassed every one of them from every point of view. I’m looking forward to this show season and seeing his upcoming crop of foals succeeding in every discipline!
Owner/Trainer Tally Ho Equestrian Centre in Leavenworth, Kansas
More information on Charmer
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