Capi is a 17.1 hand Percheron horse who weighs 1850 pounds. That means he’s one inch taller at his withers (front part of his back) than I am at the top of my head, and he weighs more than eight times what NFL Quarterback Tom Brady weighs.
I’m pretty sure this is the only time you’ll find me with Tom in a blog post.
Capi is our first draft horse, and when he arrived at the farm his mass and height were intimidating. His hooves were almost as big as my head and his head was almost half as long as my body. The idea of having my foot stepped on by him was daunting.
Horses Have Personalities
It might be hard to believe, unless you’re a horse lover, that horses have different personalities. They
aren’t just prey animals bent on self-preservation. Like people, each horse has it’s own unique character. Over time, Capi’s special personality surfaced.
Capi’s early training was with an Amish man in Iowa. This probably accounts for his good manners. With the Amish man he learned the basics of leading and handling from the ground, and he learned to drive.
The first thing I learned about Capi is that he is respectful of the human’s space (he understands the ‘bubble’ concept). The second thing I learned is the only time Capi panics is when he thinks a person might hurt him. Somewhere he developed a hatred for whips.
One day, when he was eating hay alongside a metal farm gate, I leaned on the gate not realizing it had come off the hinges. The gate fell and so did I, right underneath Capi. I will never forget the sight of his giant rear hooves lifting over me as he moved out of my way. Another horse might have panicked and kicked or stepped on me. I’m sure I was the first person to have vaulted head first underneath him. When I got to my feet, Capi was worried. He doesn’t like to get into trouble and he tries not to make mistakes. Of course, he wasn’t in trouble with me. I was grateful he’d been so gentle.
Capi ‘s exuberance has a distinct thundering sound. He loves to go into the pasture with the other horses, and when I open the gate, he bolts out with a squeal and thunders into the field. If the other horses go out before him he gallops around his pen and bucks and jumps. He doesn’t do this out of bad temper. When I watch him, I know he’s happy to be alive.
It can be unnerving to be around almost two tons of exuberance, especially when it’s combined with natural instinct. Horses are followers. A band of horses will have one or two leaders, but the rest follow the others. It’s natural for a horse to follow behind a human. If you want them to walk next to you instead of behind, you have to train them. Capi loved to walk behind me so closely that if I turned my head left or right I couldn’t actually see him. More than a few times, he’d thunder close to me as I walked to the gate to let him into the field making me feel like I could be trampled. Of course he had no intention of hurting me. He was just thrilled to go to the pasture. But Capi is a very smart horse and we solved the issue quickly.
Then there was the matter of bolting with the squeal through the pasture gate. I have to admit, I thought it was rather fun. He was like a joyful explosion of life. Until one day I took him through a gate and he forgot he was on a halter and rope. When he hit the end of the lead, we were both shocked. Since that day, we’ve worked on walking through the gate nicely, even when he’s free. I laughed the morning he squealed while walking through the gate loose, took three steps on the other side and then bolted into the pasture.
Smart & Sensitive
When I say Capi is smart I mean he’s smarter than most of the horses I work with. He learns quickly
and there’s something about him that makes you feel like someone is inside that giant body.
Capi doesn’t hide his emotions. He loves winter and comes alive with energy. He hates the heat and wilts. He enjoys snorting when he gets a little enthusiastic, but behind his snort he’s gentle. And he loves attention. We had a photo shoot that included two changes of outfits for Capi and myself. It went on for several hours. He was peaceful and soaked up the grooming and posing as if he was doing a TV ad.
The perception we have of big is interesting. People usually think that the bigger and stouter the horse, the tougher you need to be with them. Capi is very sensitive. In fact, every time he thinks you’re going to bump his muzzle, he gives a little gasp.
Bigger doesn’t mean faster either. Even though he has long legs and a big stride, Capi lifts his knees when he trots. It’s an inherent quality of his breed. When he frolics with our ex-race horses, he looks like a carousel horse. His optimum speed at gaits is different than the other horses, and it took awhile to understand.
And being bigger, you might think that Capi eats more food than our other horses, but he doesn’t. He
eats the same amount of hay our thoroughbreds eat. He’s always on a diet and only gets a handful of grain, and when he’s done with his pittance he picks up his rubber tub and waves it at you as if he’s asking for more.
Capi delights me. I love his exuberance and zest for life. He’s majestic and smart and would love to be a wild child, but his manners and intelligence won’t allow it.
If Capi were a person, he’d be enthusiastic and agreeable. He’d believe that all things are possible. And he’d be a good friend. He’d play hard and sleep in in the morning. People would pick on him because he was the big kid. And his feelings would get hurt.
And by the way, Capi has never stepped on my foot. He’s careful.