Featured Grade Horse – Cotton’s Ellie

Hazel Cotton writes about about one of the family’s mares.

Ellie demonstrating the versatility of a draught mare; ridden as well as driven

Ellie demonstrating the versatility of a draught mare; ridden as well as driven

ELLIE:  4 yr old Percheron/Suffolk X (Type 2 Mare Suffolk Breeding up Programme)

We bought both Ellie and the pure Suffolk Punch mare Capleach Eugenie from Marge and Dennis Candy of Inverell as foals.

Having bred our own Australian Draught Horses for many years, broken them in ourselves, used them for harrowing and log snigging on our own property and also competed with them at more shows than we care to remember, in both low chains and shafts, we were impressed from the very beginning with the calm, accepting natures of these two mares.

Time restraints, plus the onset of grandchildren has prevented us from competing lately, so we have concentrated on breaking Ellie in to ride (she is also broken to the slide).  Paul is an absolute beginner as a rider, preferring cart work to actually getting on their backs, but I convinced him that it was quicker to load up the truck, throw on a saddle at the beach or forest and go for a hack rather than the wearisome process of loading a buggy onto the trailer plus all the harness etc.

Ellie responded as she has always done with complete acceptance.  Paul rode her around our property for a few weeks, with me as mother hen instructor on my Australian Draught gelding, Gem. The only qualm we had was traffic, as a novice 62 year old rider with a green horse is not a good combination in that situation.  We sent her to a friend for six weeks, who does not seem to suffer from the same self- preservation syndrome as we do.   On the day we went to collect Ellie, our friend was leading her from her own horse up the central reservation of the Pacific Highway, with trucks to the left of her and trucks to the right of her.  We nearly had a heart attack, but it did wonders for Paul’s confidence!

Since then he has continued to ride Ellie, sometimes in the company of three other older ladies on ‘proper’ horses, in the State Forest and we continue to potter about together on our 100 acres.  Unfortunately a worsening back condition prevents me from doing the longer rides and it seems ironic that Paul is now gaining so much confidence when I am forced to wind down, but Ellie is a real sweetie.  If the time comes that we decide to put her in foal, we would choose a Suffolk stallion so that her offspring (if we were lucky enough to get a filly) would be classed as a Type Three Mare in the Suffolk Breeding up Programme.)

Ellie’s stable mate, the pure bred Suffolk Capleach Eugenie, is regrettably offered for sale as time (we still have two other Australian Draughts and four donkeys) and approaching old age does not allow us to do her justice. We feel she is wasted with us.

The contribution the Suffolk horse has made to draught horses in Australia is huge.  They are very well adapted to survive here, and their lack of feather, being able to exist on the bare minimum, minimal white colouring or pink skin, combined with their strength and calm nature helped to open up this vast country.  Suffolk traits can still be seen in many registered Australian Draught Horses which are a combination of the four heavy breeds plus a small amount of lighter horse.  They were used to plough and do the farm work through the week and then take the family to church in the sulky on Sunday.  All in all a very versatile animal.               Hazel & Paul Cotton

Ellie and Paul reading for the off

Ellie and Paul ready for the off

And away

And away

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