Clydesdales At The Big E: About Those Fetlocks

Hitching up the team of Hallamore Clydesdales at the 2009 Big E. Photo series by Chris Brunson.Eastern States Exposition, better known as The Big E, is in full swing. Where else can a visitor see Clydesdale draft horses up close, and not just one gorgeous team, but two?

In 2009, I watched the Hallamore Clydesdales as they were groomed, harnessed and hitched at the Farm-A-Rama building amid a crowd of onlookers. This year, the Budweiser Clydesdales are also at the event to parade each day at 5 p.m. (except Monday). Look for them in a white tent near the Giant Slide.

The artistry in a farrier’s skill is evident in the workmanship displayed on each plate-sized hoof, every clinched nail.

From the well-soaped leather horse collars bright with metal trim to the polished hames and buckled girth – the rigging is performed calmly amid a sometimes noisy throng.

Hallamore Clydesdales, photo by Chris Brunson
The Hallamore Corporation, which specializes in transportation, cranes, rigging, millwrighting and specialized heavy hauling, is headquartered in Massachusetts.

The Clydesdale, according to the Clydesdale Breeders of USA, is a breed of draft horse developed in the early 19th century by “farmers in the Clyde Valley of Lanarkshire (previously Clydesdale) district of Scotland . . . to meet not only the agricultural needs of local farmers, but also demands of commerce for coalfields and heavy haulage on the streets.” Today, this versatile breed, known for its high stepping gait while on parade, also performs under the saddle as a hunter-jumper, trail horse, and in dressage.

So why do these draft beauties have those white plumes of hair above their fetlocks? The feathers (the soft brush of hair where it goes over the hoof), originally helped protect the legs. Now it is primarily for show.”

The modern Clydesdale stands between 16 and 19 hands and weighs from 1,600 to 2,200 pounds. One “cardinal feature has been retained – the breed’s substantial underpinning. The old adage ‘no foot-no horse’ has always been true, thus the importance attached to maintaining sound hooves and legs within the breed.”

Hallamore Clydesdale drivers - notice the number of reins in the driver's hands.

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