Cross-posted from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review at TribLIVE.com
BY JEFF HIMLER | Wednesday, March 16, 2016, 11:00 p.m.
On St. Patrick’s Day, it’s said that everyone has a bit of Irish in them. For a couple near Ligonier, that goes for horses, too.
There’s no mistaking an Irish horse, said John Hardiman of Cook Township.
He should know, having worked with specimens of the mild-mannered but athletic Irish Draught horse breed since he was a farm lad growing up in an Irish village near Galway.
John and his wife, Pam, treasure their pair of cross-bred Irish Draught Sport horses, which they ride for pleasure.
Pam enters them in dressage, jumping and cross-country competitions sanctioned by the Eventing Nation organization.
A lifelong horse lover, Pam Hardiman met her future husband 25 years ago at a local horse show, and he introduced her to Irish Draught horses.
“They’re just a really nice breed,” she said. “They’re good therapy.”
She later joined the Irish Draught Horse Society of North America to learn more about and support the versatile breed.
The Hardimans’ prized horses — gelding Flash of Diamonds, 10, and his sister, Bambi Loves Diamonds, 9, — are the products of their thoroughbred mare and an Irish Draught whose bloodline traces to King of Diamonds, a show-jumping star in the early 1980s.
While Flash resembles his Irish sire and Bambi favors her thoroughbred mother, John Hardiman said both are unmistakably Irish in their combination of gentle temperament and physical ability wrapped up in a relatively compact body for a draft horse,
The Irish Draught bloodlines were developed at a time before mechanization, when most Irish farmers had small holdings of less than 20 acres and could keep only one horse, he said. That well-rounded workhorse had to be sturdy enough to pull a plough, agile enough to go on hunts and gentle enough to safely carry the farmer’s wife and children to church.
“They were bred for their disposition over everything else,” John Hardiman said. “They’re the true definition of kindness. They have that ability to be calm when they need to be. But that athletic ability — when you ask for it, it’s there.”
John noted that many sporting horses that have carried riders such as Phillip Dutton to wins in the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event and other prestigious jumping events boasted Irish lineage.
“At least half of the U.S. Olympic team was sitting on horses with Irish blood,” he said. Continue reading »
Featured Image: Pam Hardiman, with her Irish Draught Horses, nine-year-old Bambi Loves Diamonds (left) and ten-year-old Flash of Diamonds (right) at Hardiman’s Latrobe residence on Tuesday, Mar. 15, 2016. The two horses are brother and sister and cross bred with thoroughbred horses originating from breeding stock in Ireland. Photo Credit: Evan Sanders / Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. March 16, 2016.