These horses are putting their best hoof forward at parades across the country.
When you first gaze upon the cream draft horses at their ranch in Auburn, they seem almost regal—which makes sense if you talk to ranch owner John Schwartzler. He says that although the horses were historically used for farming and hauling freight, he believes their lineage can be traced back to the royal horses once used by the British royal family. But today there's no fancy castle or palace for these horses. Home is 60 acres of open pasture at Greenwood Ranch in Placer County.
John, who grew up on a farm, has been raising draft horses for about 30 years now. His labor of love is becoming a family business, with his kids and grandkids often taking part in parades around the country. They've got plenty of photos and a lifetime of memories of them at the Rose Parade in Pasadena and at other parades and shows nationwide. Good-looking and good-natured, these 5-foot-plus horses are surprisingly difficult to startle.
"We've even had them at the Indianapolis 500 car races and they've handled that very well, even as a car went by them at 150 miles an hour," John said. "They're just very solid horses."
It's hard to believe that these horses, which were used to pull things like fire wagons, were once almost extinct. But in the 1980s, horse lovers in the Midwest decided to help start a breeding program. John, who teaches horse clinics at UC Davis' Animal Sciences Program, got involved a few years ago. Although it's been a slow process, it's safe to say we could be enjoying these magnificent beasts for a long time to come.