At Johns Hill Magnet School, a close inspection of Clydesdales
Herald & Review. Valerie Wells. April 03, 2019.

DECATUR — Clydesdales often are described as “gentle giants.”

A fully grown male can weigh more than a ton and stand more than 8 feet tall, said Dr. Linda Harmon, a veterinarian in Arthur and owner of Iron Horse Clydesdales in Lovington. Harmon brought Ava, a 5-year-old, and Ava's daughter, Roux, who is 1 month old, to Johns Hill Magnet School on Wednesday to visit students. Few city-dwelling kids have had a chance to be close to a horse nowadays.

When Roux was born, Harmon told students, she weighed 150 pounds. She's gained 120 pounds in just one month, and she's already showing interest in hay and grass, besides the mother's milk supplied by Ava.

Kids were quite willing to ask questions, such as “How can you tell a boy horse from a girl horse?”

Harmon laughed. “The same way you do with people,” she said, diplomatically, causing the teachers to share her laughter.

Iron Horse Clydesdales is home to 13 horses, and Harmon and her family and friends who came along to help brought a whole collection of ribbons the horses have won. Ava's brother, Iron Horse M.M. Steel, won World Champion at the World Clydesdale Show in Wisconsin in the fall, and Roux will show in conformation classes this summer, even at her tender age. Steel lives in Ontario, Canada now.

“We raise two to three foals a year and we show them all over the Midwest at state fairs,” Harmon said. “I've always loved (Clydesdales) and I've had them for 27 years now. I had hunters and jumpers before that.”

Though the farm does have some horses for riding, and some trained to pull wagons like the Budweiser Clydesdales do, Ava is not trained for either one. They do, however, teach foals like Roux to accept a halter and lead, almost from the moment they're born.

Iron Horse Farm has its own hay fields and will begin harvesting in May, but horses also require oats, pellets, and apples and carrots for treats. It can cost a lot to have horses.

Jane Dobrinsky is also with Iron Horse Farm and her business card reads, “Purveyor of the finest apples and clyde treats, stall custodian extraordinaire, chow line supervisor and spoiler of all.”

Dobrinsky talked about and showed the Johns Hill students the things that Clydesdales eat, including some small chunky flavored treats. A couple of the kids couldn't resist surreptitious tastes, which they instantly regretted.

“They're not for human consumption,” Dobrinsky said, as the kids spit out the tiny bites.

Third-grader Laney Barnes loves animals of all kinds, especially horses, and hopes to be a wildlife rehabilitator one day. She had the most questions for the Iron Horse Farm folks.

“I like horses because you can ride them, and I think they're really good companions,” Laney said. “I would like to have a horse when I grow up.”

She reads a lot of animal books, she said, and many of them are about horses.

“I think they're really majestic,” said Quinci Madison, also a third-grader. “They're very loving and you can count on them. They're really good animals. Horses have so many features that people don't know about.”

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