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Kathy Gibson grew up in Pennsylvania she spent her childhood surrounded by the Amish people. Her family would buy their fresh produce from the Amish. She remembers the many horse and carts driving to and fro, they looked as much a part of the scenery as the big oak trees.
Kathy remembers at the age of four watching the horse and carts and knowing that one day she would drive one herself. She had so much respect of the Amish and she recalls that their horses actually trained the young green horses themselves. There was no time to waste as work was just a way of life. So the Amish people hitched up a young untrained horse into the middle of a seasoned team and away they went. If there was any trouble the older horses would move in and squeeze the younger one. Kathy’s remarks that the horses did all the training, she said it was, “horses teaching horses”
Fast forward to Queensland where she ended up many years later. Having dreamed of those beautiful horses they had not yet become a reality in her life, it wasn’t until a Brisbane Ekka show that she laid eyes on the beautiful whiskey/Glenngowrie Glenn Fiddich or as she remembered him, all legs. He was a registered Clydesdale and at eighteen months he was the tallest in the class. This tall strapping leggy colt came last in his class. The Scottish judge remarked in his thick accent to Kathy “Hey Lass this one will be a Champion one day”
That was the beginning of a wonderful relationship. Kathy went on to purchase whiskey he went on to become a national grand champion. Standing at 18 hands and now 18 years old he still looks impressive. She also went on to purchase his full brother Glenngowrie Chevas Regal. I look up at these two huge majestic horses and feel impressed that someone could choose to have such a big and powerful horse as their first horse.
Kathy says they even went through the disastrous floods in Queensland where they lost all of their hair and were covered in large sores. She even remembered thinking that she could have lost them, as they were in such a bad way. Yet she persevered spending thousands of dollars and brought them back to perfect health.
I ask Kathy what she loves about draft horses and she remarks that they are so humble in their attitude to work and of course they are majestic. I couldn’t agree more.
I look down at their beautifully manicured hooves and I ask who trims them. “I do it myself” she answers. I look at her amazed those hooves are massive. I ask when she got into trimming and she says it was twelve years ago. She lived in Woodford Queensland and Whisky kept getting abscess. Kathy had spent lots of money trying every solution she could think of yet to no avail. Finally a barefoot trimmer showed up. After the first few trims Kathy saw a dramatic change in Whisky. The barefoot trimmer offered to mentor her for three weeks. She learned to trim her own and he even sent other horses her way to practice.
It was not long before she had mastered the art and she has never looked back.
I envy at the well-shaped hooves. She remarks they have never needed boots and they trot bare hooved over any surface.
Turning now to her new pride and Joy, Ace a beautiful Gypsy Cob. I admire his confirmation. Short Back strong shoulders wide chest just perfect for pulling a cart.Cathy tells me Ace is cheeky and is different to the two Clydesdales. She takes him to town once a week with the tractor. Ace happily trotting behind her. And he has started to pull a tyre. Cathy has a dream to drive a unicorn that is three in hand. She is already awaiting the arrival of two more young Gypsy cobs. It will take years she knows yet it is the journey that counts. I ask who taught her to drive and she answers that she taught herself.
She drives a mini pony and a Hackney cross pony. The little Hackney mare was a challenge that she remarks taught her so much. She acquired the mare after her owner has sadly died. The mare was very sensitive and after entering her in a driving show she had had to withdraw. She later found that the mare had needed her teeth done and body work as she was out at the poll. Kathy went on to change the mares diet and began massaging her every day. Soon she saw the little mare change. Now they are able to go out and about.
Ace has also proved a little challenging in regard to his mouth. Kathy recalls that she has tried over 12 bits and spent a huge amount of money on trying to find one that would fit him. He was always very uncomfortable and tossed his head. His mouth was very sensitive. It wasn’t until she found the Pee Wee Horse bit that Ace had instantly relaxed. They now drive in long reins without a problem. I fitted Ace up with the large size as he had grown and the medium was now too small for him
He accepted the bit perfectly. I would imagine that Ace has a low palate. The Pee Wee is the only bit that has a floating mouth piece and it can float back and forward in his mouth without putting any downward pressure on his tongue. Also the thin sweet iron mouth piece that rusts up and tastes nice in his mouth is thin enough not to contact his sensitive low palate. Many draft horses have low palates and fleshy tongues. The Pee Wee is such a relief for these horses.
I look at Kathy’s two old wymarama dogs as they roll happily at our feet. They have a huge run and live with her Alpacas and horses. It is an idyllic life yet Bill, Kathy’s husband assures me that in the last six years the property has been transformed with hard work from both Bill and Kathy. Horses are a labour of love she says.
Kathy and Bill live a stone’s throw from the beautiful
town of Sheffield in Tasmania. The awe inspiring Mt Roland towers above the
town. It is called the Town on murals and I find it very fitting that there are
two murals that remind me of Kathy. One is of her dear Clydesdales and the
other is of a town scene just like her childhood all those years ago living
amongst the Amish. It is of a horse and cart loaded up full of fresh produce.
Kathy shows me a cart she is restoring for Ace. The shafts are painted a beautiful dark green. The harness too is being lovingly polished and restored. It has intricate detail and the bridle and blinkers are very impressive.
I can picture Kathy and Ace in full show harness and that deep green sulky driving happily along the streets of Sheffield. Driving amongst the murals beneath a blue sky with fluffy white clouds with that magnificent mountain that is impossible to ignore.
I Thank her for allowing me into her life for the afternoon. I remark that I too had driven a horse and carriage many years ago in Brisbane. It was my first job and I drove these this beautiful white carriage for weddings. Kathy remarks that she was married in Brisbane on the very same year that I was working and that she had booked the white horse and carriage. I remembered driving the same carriage with the same horse. It was one of those strange coincidence that make you feel a surprised.
Dreams can come true yet I know it takes sweat, tears determination and a bucket full of love. Kathy Gibson I know has all these.