Being that it’s the season for sleigh rides at 320 Ranch, we thought we’d write up a little something about our Draft Horses. After all, without them, there would be no sleigh rides! So, credit must be given where credit is due. Lesser known than their Clydesdale cousins (most often referred to as the “Budweiser Horses”), our hearty horses are Percherons, a sub-breed of the Draft Horse family. This French breed is a rather mysterious one in terms of its origin. According to the International Museum of the Horse, the French kept scant records of this breed’s history. With the exception of the fact that they were originally bred in the Le Perche region of the French countryside, little else was recorded.
However, much more is known regarding their American derivation. A New Jersey man by the name of Edward Harris was the first to decide Percherons to be worth importing from Europe. Sadly, the majority of the horses Harris purchased perished during the grueling Atlantic crossing. But, records from the 1876 American Percheron stud book tell us of two survivors: a Mare named Joan and a Stallion dubbed Diligence. This pair is whom we can thank for the breed’s arrival and continuation on American soil. Actually, that aforesaid stud book tells us Diligence “sired over 400 foals” in his time. At the risk of sounding cliché, what a stud!
In the late 1960s, the Percheron breed had come dauntingly close to extinction. This was mainly due to the mechanization of farm equipment throughout the former half of the century, leaving no logical reason for farmers to retain and care for these horses. However, the breed saw a lucky revival thanks to their utilitarian nature. Businesses like ours were some of the first to see reason in preserving the breed for recreationalactivities. Their overall physical strength and size make them as perfect as perfect gets for activities and/or events like hayrides, parades, and – of course – 320’s sleigh rides. Here in southwest Montana, they’re especially well-suited for regional environmental factors such as our cold winters and rough mountain terrain. Percherons are actually some of the most girthy and muscular compared to related Draft breeds. At 14.3 to 16.1 hands in height, they also stand as some of the tallest in comparison to their counterparts.
Overall, a Percheron is one of the most reliable options when it comes to operating sleigh rides on a ranch such as 320 Guest Ranch. Furthermore, they allow us to offer a varietal selection of sleigh ride packages due to the fact that Percherons can tackle a wide range of terrain. For example, our Draft Horses pull sleighs along the rocky shores of the Gallatin River to Mountain Man Campsite for our Appetizer Ride package. Moreover, they make possible our private sleigh ride package for special occasions like a proposal, a girl’s night out, or any other special reason you might like to reserve a two-horse open sleigh for.
Percheron Draft Horses are some of the most beautiful among all the Draft breeds, and certainly some of the most substantial and sturdy. Despite that substantial sturdiness, however, Percherons are really just giant softies with hearts as sweet as a sleigh ride through snowy Montana countryside.
Happy Sleigh Ride Season Everyone!