|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.81(d)|
Read an Excerpt
And Then Came Hera
Based on a True Story
By Dana G. DiRicco
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013Dana G. DiRicco
All rights reserved.
The Grandstands were packed! The cheering, camera flashing, hooting and hollering of noisy spectators that had traveled from all over the United States, Canada and South America were anxiously waiting. They wanted to capture a moment of exhilarating excitement, by merely sitting on the sidelines while anticipating the eye-catching big draft horse show to begin. The music was a fast clipped tune that introduced the rhythm of the hoof beats. Commencement of the glamorous exhibition that would take your breath away had finally arrived. It was excitement, suspense, a stampede of limitless bounds, promising a dazzling appearance. The gladiators were about to enter and give a life or death performance for the entertainment of the crowds. In the distance you could hear the jingle of traces, the pounding of earth shaking hooves and then entered the majestic beasts of burden.
One by one the single hitch "Gentle Giants" pulled a fast moving, sleek, two-wheeled cart, entering the in-gate at a fast pace. Each competitor was a colossal, stunningly beautiful draft horse driven by a woman. These women had guts of steel to go out there and master the art of driving huge draft horses in a highly competitive class called "Ladies Cart Hitch" in Loveland, Colorado. This was the warm up show, the Big Thunder Classic, for the Grand National Stock Show in Denver the following week in late January, 2007. No one could deny that each and every draft horse moved with the nobility, grace, and dignity of a royal monarch. The air was electrifying in the pavilion at that moment as the crowds held their breath and were perched on the edge of their seats. The horses and their drivers had bewitched the audience with their sense of drama which was paramount. Nothing that had come before on that day had been so enchanting or filled with inspiration to the passionate viewer.
The women competitors entered the arena and began the designated pattern set by the standards of the class. Around and around they went until everyone in the class had merged into line inside the arena. All of the beautiful draft horses were directly in front of one another, evenly spaced as they trotted along with their high stepping gait. They pulled a lustrous jazzy cart sporting an elegantly dressed lady driver, stylish hat on head with whip in hand. The judge then began the work of observing every detail of the turnout and the performance of the draft horse. The cart, the horse, and the harness combined are called the turnout. Colors are selected to enhance the appearance of the horse one is showing. They are called the barn colors, and all the equipment is painted in the chosen color to brand the ranch they represent. The carts are polished to perfection as is the brass and nickel on the thousands of dollars worth of harness that sparkle and gleam under the dazzling lights. The metal parts on the harness jingle and jangle on the backs of the drafts as they move along in step to the music. Throughout the year, hours upon hours of time, training, feeding, grooming, cleaning and practicing was undertaken, and now these few precious moments of truth were the rewards that may, or may not, come to fruition. Judgment day had arrived in the high-end draft horse business.
Everything is on the line. One false move, a slight misbehavior by the horse, or a little blunder by the driver would cost dearly on your ranking in the class. One could drop from first to third place by simply having a little too much slack on the ribbons or a little too much wrist motion of the hands. The old timer's call the lines the ribbons. Perhaps a horse had done beautifully all year in minor shows and at training time, and for some reason, the noise, lights, camera flashes, or crowds could induce a blow up and misbehavior of the animal and it would not rank in the competition at all. Worse yet, you could be excused by the ring steward and sent back to the barns. This was the worst fate for the serious exhibitor at a draft horse show. I realized, horses are notoriously known for one predictable trait. They are unpredictable!
On this particular day it was snowing outside and the temperature was seven degrees below zero. Fortunately, the entire show was indoors so the horses and hitches did not have to venture outdoors. This makes everything much more pleasant for all involved; spectators, exhibitors, and their horses. The horses are kept blanketed for months before the show; therefore, they have very little hair and absolutely no natural winter coat to keep them warm. They must have a sleek, shining, healthy coat that is brushed to a glossy brilliance, so there is very little natural protection for them in the cold winter weather of Colorado. There were certainly no shaggy coats on any of the horses in the show ring that day. Each horse was in top physical shape and as sleek as the coat on a new born seal.
The glaringly bright lights coupled with the announcer describing every nuance, as the carts whisked by the grandstand, notched up the tension for the drivers a little more. Information about the horses' traits, colors, uses, and history made excellent commentaries by the announcer entertaining the rambunctious crowds while the judging took place.
The ladies looked calm and poised on this day, as they appeared to effortlessly drive by, displaying their skills and the exemplary behavior of their horses. The horses' front feet were flying high with lots of action, noses in the air, heads and necks touching the clouds with drivers displaying perfect posture and minimal hand motions for the crowds. One could be sure the judge kept a keen eye on everything.
If one took the time to glance over at the faces of the spectator's you would see that their imaginations soared. A feverish joy ricocheted through the audience and held their absolute attention. Some were thinking what it was like to be that knight in shining armor centuries before. Others were thinking of the wars that had been waged, continents conquered, armies captured and peoples humbled to submission, all accomplished from the backs of these gigantic animals. Finally, some were just living in the moment in awe of the pure beauty and visual delight they were enjoying from the side lines.
The view from afar makes the sport look so easy, but it is not. Several breeds of draft horses were displaying their unique traits in the arena that day. All were evenly spaced, trotting in perfect rhythm to the music. Shires, with their coal black coats and long white feathering on their legs had been doctored up with baby powder, smoothly jogged along. Brown Belgians ambled by, making a display of their calm quiet motion, like a spring brook meandering along in no particular hurry or direction. The Clydesdale, one of the more familiar draft animals in America due to the Budweiser Hitches, were floating on by, very methodically, with little animation, but with amazing grace. Clydesdales are plain colored horses in varying shades of brown. Not very interesting, not very show stopping, in my estimation. They are also a rather fragile heavy horse in the draft horse breeds, for some unknown reason.
Then, there is the mighty French Percheron. They are known as the most elegant of the Draft Horse breeds. One could not expect anything less from the French. Everything they do is beautiful. The French Percherons are not only graceful and dignified, but usurp all others with their exaggerated animation. The added traits of excessive action, fiery gait, and long powerful neck always arched, head held high, eagerness to please, and overall regal presentation are why they are so superior to all the other breeds. Many would differ with me, but few can deny that a good example of a top Percheron out flashes any other type of Draft horse there is, and flash is what I love.
Excerpted from And Then Came Hera by Dana G. DiRicco. Copyright © 2013 by Dana G. DiRicco. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
I. Denver's Debutante.................... 1
II. Laying the Groundwork.................... 17
III. Telephone Calls & Emails.................... 41
IV. Needle in a Haystack-Canada.................... 57
V. The Horses Arrive Home.................... 73
VI. The Second Trip to Canada.................... 89
VII. Homeward Bound.................... 111
VIII. And, The Money Kept Rolling Out.................... 127
IX. Learn to Drive, Girl.................... 141
X. Tough Love & Professional Training.................... 157
XI. Grass Valley Draft Horse Classic.................... 173
XII. Colorado, Here We Come.................... 187
XIII. Publicity and Premarin.................... 205
XIV. Canada & The Calgary Stampede.................... 219
XV. Draft Horses Today & Every Day.................... 235
XVI. Homecoming & Grass Valley.................... 249
XVII. Sunset & The Unwritten Chapter.................... 263