Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Gentle Giants: Whispery Pines Percherons

Gentle Giants: Whispery Pines Percherons
By Gina McKnight

Archived Article from the July 2017 Issue of Florida Equine Athlete
No duplication without permission

“They are my best friends. I cannot even describe how much I love them.”

Kellie and Sam Rettinger, owners of Whispery Pines Percherons in Kingsville, OH, have been involved in the equine industry their entire lives. I ran into Kellie and Sam last Spring at the Ohio Equine Affaire. Sam Rettinger grew up with draft horses and began driving and showing at a young age. In addition to showing, Sam currently trains their horses to work at the couple’s farm and complete logging projects. Kellie Rettinger grew up riding and showing Quarter Horses in hunt seat, western pleasure, gaming, and cutting. After meeting Sam more than ten years ago, she began to drive, ride, and show draft horses in saddle seat, western pleasure, and Roman riding classes. The Rettingers bring their horses to several events each year to show in different hitch and riding classes. They also provide carriage rides with their Percherons for a variety of events including weddings, birthdays, hay rides, and winter sleigh rides.

Welcome Kellie and Sam!

GM: With an impressive horse history, your riding resume is amazing. When was your first encounter with a horse?
KR: Sam and I both have a family steeped in horses, our first encounters were as babies Sam with his grandfather and myself with my mom and dad. We were both hooked and in love with horses before we could talk.

Sam learned everything from his Grandpa Dick Stasiak. He was an amazing horseman. He had had and shown draft horses his whole life, and started Sam at two years old with draft horses. He competed at many fairs and owned Clydesdales, Belgians, and Percherons. Grandpa was a local legend and known for being a true cowboy.  The knowledge that was lost when he passed was great.

GM: Your Percherons are lovely. Describe your stable, your horses, and your daily routine...
KR: Our farm is a working farm, we have nine head total. We have about thirty acres, make all of our own hay, have tie stalls and box stalls and pasture. Our barn is full of tons of harness and collars.  Describe my horses........??????? lol…well they are my best friends, I cannot even describe how much I love them. They are our world. They all have different personalities and make us laugh on a daily basis. Several of my biggest characters are Tony, Ace, and Hawke.

Tony is the happiest horse that I have ever met! He is such a willing worker always aiming to please. He is sweet, loves attention, hates his baths, has a soft eye and sometimes is mischievous. He is loved by many people and is the leader of our six-horse hitch. He is the ruler of our pasture even though he is not the biggest. We do not have favorites in the barn but Tony is very special to Sam.

Hawke is so funny, he is quirky, loves to play and show off, and buck....A LOT! He has been my long-time cart horse and has seen me through a lot.  Hawke is also a willing worker, he lets me ride him, and he always has my back. He loves his baths, is a jack-of-all-trades horse and just fun to drive. He is in the swing of our six. Sam bought him for me and I fell in love immediately.

And then there is Ace... He is quite the legend. He was the first horse that Sam ever bought me when we first started dating twelve years ago. Ace is the horse that I learned to drive, ride, everything. He is one of the most beautiful horses I have ever seen, and still the "man"! He is famous at our local fairs where people just come to the barn to see Ace. I have put him through a lot; costumes, riding, accidents, ups, downs. You name it, Ace has done it.  He loves pulling and still performs like he is three. Ace hates his bath and is also quite mischievous. He is the wheel in our six. He was our Grandpa’s favorite, and Grandpa is buried with a piece of Ace’s mane. This horse has taught me so much.

Daily routine consists of chores morning and night. Working horses, cleaning barn, and all depending upon the weather, the horses going to the woods to log with Sam and Dylan. Dylan is the worker. I have logged with Sam before, but I also work full-time in nursing at our local hospital.

The rest of the boys are all quite amazing as well, each one of them special in their own way.

GM: So big, yet so humble; Percherons have a reputation for being gentle giants. Can you share an anecdote about one of your Percherons?
KR: After a long day of showing at the Fair - it was sweltering hot outside - we went to the midway to get some ice cream, I bought the biggest ice cream cone I could get. We went back to the barn to check on the horses, a little girl wanted to pet Ace. So with ice cream cone in hand I opened the stall door so the little girl could see him. That horse reached right around me and stole my whole ice cream cone!!!!! This thing was huge!!!!! The little girl thought that was hilarious and laughed and laughed! Have you ever seen a horse get brain freeze? Priceless! LOL! His face made us laugh so hard. Needless to say, I am careful where I take my ice cream cone!!!

GM: As a competitive rider in state and national events, what is different about showing draft horses vs. Thoroughbreds, etc.?
KR: Showing drafts vs. Thoroughbreds. Well I know there is much that goes into other riding disciplines but...there is nothing like going on the road with a six or eight horse hitch. I cannot even begin to tell you how much work goes into what we do. I started over four months to prepare for Equine Affaire! Organization can sometimes be difficult, but we make it work. We literally bring everything but the barn out on the road with us. LOL! Because we are involved in so much we require to have all different types of things. We have a semi-truck and trailer, camper, enclosed trailer, and a flatbed trailer that always goes out on the road with us. We have anywhere from six to ten people who travel with us.

There is much work that goes into all of this and it is not just Sam and myself. We have a crew of family and friends to help us. Each person plays a special role for Whispery Pines Percherons. To get ready for the six, each horse takes well over one hour of preparation from braiding, bathing, harnessing, grooming, etc. Without these people, there is no Whispery Pines Percherons.

GM: Showing in saddle seat, western pleasure, and Roman riding classes sounds fun! Which is your favorite event to compete in and who is your go-to horse for your favorite event?
KR: I love everything that I show in whether it be a ground drive obstacle or the six or riding. But if had to choose what some of my most favorite moments are. One of my first would be driving the six. That right there is a rush! I am very proud to drive it because not many women do. I know Sam also loves driving it, too. He is completely amazing when he drives, he is just natural at it. He feels the horses through the lines. It is like it is exactly what he was born to do. Roman Riding is something I have wanted to do my whole life and was just downright awesome. You feel like you are riding on top of the world. One of my favorite horses to show is Candyman. He is such a proud horse and really turns it on when we hit the show ring.  Sam loves showing Tony.

GM: Tack. Lots of large tack for large horses! How do you keep it all cleaned and polished? Does each horse have their own set of tack? What does a set of tack for each horse include?
KR: There is so much that goes into tack. Each horse has their own harness especially fitted for him. Each harness weighs well over 150 pounds. We probably have well over twenty harnesses - between work and show harnesses. Each set is used for something different, from work to parade, to wedding, to show. Much goes into cleaning and oiling the leather and keeping the chrome polished and shiny. We all take part in the cleaning. Each set includes bridle, collar, hames, 2 tugs, backpad, belly band, britchen, and chest piece. Not only that but when you start to hook multiple hitches you have different parts of harness for the different hitches. And then the lines, single, team, unicorn, four, six, eight.

GM: Taking a carriage ride pulled by a Percheron sounds enchanting. You provide carriage rides for all types of events, including winter sleigh rides, weddings, and birthdays. What is the best way to schedule an event?
KR: I love having the carriage business!!!!! We get to let someone experience our horses on a personal level, and it allows us to bring our love of horses to the world. We get to share in some peoples most important days in their lives and help celebrate holidays and birthdays! All events are scheduled through me.

GM: Let’s talk about Percherons and horse logging. Truly, it is a skill to be able to tether Percherons to a log and guide them through the forest. There must be a lot of training involved. Do the other others play a part in training novice horses for logging? When you purchase standing timber, do you use the horses to pull the logs out of the forest?
KR: My husband Sam does select harvest of mature timber. He uses the horses to skid the logs out of the woods. This method is extremely low impact on the land. It is quite amazing to watch Sam maneuver through the woods all while the horses are pulling logs that can weigh up to 8,000 pounds. Dylan Loomis that works for us also skids as well. I have also skidded before too. Sam and I train these young horses to begin a career in the woods. You have to have a smart, attentive, strong horse to work in the woods. The versatility and willingness to work is what makes the Percheron breed so awesome. They have the grace and beauty to pull a fine carriage but can also work all day in the woods or in the plow.

GM: Do you have advice for those who are new to the horse industry looking to purchase Percherons?
KR: Get in touch with the Percheron Horse Association of America. They can refer you to people who can assist. Go to your local fairs and try to meet people, check out draft horse sales. Do some research. Check out breeders, try to learn from everyone.

GM: What does horsemanship mean to you?
KR: Horsemanship means to me the ability to earn their trust, build a relationship, become a team and to truly understand what he thinks. Respect them and never lose patience. Sam and I love what we do! We love horses so much and feel so lucky to be able to do what we do. We work very, very hard, but it is all worth it. I feel like horses make us better people, everyday spent with our horses is a great day.

One of my most favorite quotes by Ronald Duncan
" The horse. Here is nobility without conceit, friendship without envy, beauty without vanity. A willing servant, yet never a slave."

Connect with Kelly and Sam…

Gina McKnight is an author and freelance writer from Ohio, USA.

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