Heavy horses keep on working

TRAINING working heavy horses is a dying tradition, but one the Purton family is determined to keep going.

For 74-year-old Warren Purton, working with Clydesdales has been a lifelong passion.

He grew up with the gentle giants and these days they still play an important role in the family’s farm at Mount Hicks.

“I’ve had them all my life and I just like working with the horses,” he said.

Last week three generations of the family gathered for their annual potato-planting day.

Each year Mr Purton uses the horses to plough and prepare the ground.

This year they were planting Bismark potatoes, which will be ready for harvesting just in time for Christmas.

As well as training and working the horses Mr Purton has also run a Clydesdale stud for many years.

Two teams of the horses were used to help with the potato planting, with all four mares bred on the property.

On average the horses can plough an acre a day.

Mr Purton works the horses most days and also uses them to plough a paddock each year to be sown with oats.

Once the oats are ready for harvest, the horses are used to cut the crop which is made into traditional sheaves before being cut into chaff for the horses.

Mr Purton said very few people used Clydesdales for work these days.

“There’s a lot showing them but not that many people actually working them anymore,” he said.

Training the horses starts at about two years of age.

“It takes a bit of time,” Mr Purton said.

“You start by mouthing them up and getting them used to that then we’ll start them pulling a sled.

After a while we can start putting the plough behind them.”

Mr Purton has passed on his knowledge about working horses to his son, Bill, who was also helping with last week’s planting.

Some of Mr Purton’s grandchildren are also involved.

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