10/27/2012 7:00 AM
By Teresa McMinn Southeastern Pa. Correspondent
LANCASTER, Pa. — Charles Lindsay was 13 years old when he started farming with draft horses.
Today, Lindsay, 90, remains active at events where his Belgian horses are featured. He’s also a member of the draft horse industry’s Wall of Fame at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg.
Earlier this month, four generations of the Lindsay family, which owns Rocky Ridge Farm in Greencastle, Franklin County, Pa., were at Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum for its Harvest Days Festival to give plowing demonstrations on a four-acre plot of land.
Rocky Ridge Farm raises Belgian horses and operates a carriage business that provides rides at functions such as weddings.
“That’s all I’ve ever done,” Lindsay said. His farm at one point had 20 heavy horses. “I’ve been a horse farmer all my life.”
His son, John Lindsay, said his family raised all of the horses they own.
“Each one’s different,” he said of Belle, Rosie, Bonnie, Beth, Bart, Duke and Patsey. “The more they do, the better they get.”
The horses mean “everything,” he said.
“They keep us a family,” John said of the horses.
“Dad came to the farm at age two,” John said. At one time, the horses did all of the farm work. “We baled with them ... they did everything.”
He said the heavy horse community is a close-knit group.
“Everybody knows everybody,” John said. “If they need your help, you help them. If you need help, they help you.”
John’s daughter, Rhonda Carbaugh — who was at the harvest festival with her husband, Ed, and their daughter, Lindsay, 15 — said she was about 5 years old when she started working with the Belgians.
“It just kind of runs through your blood,” she said. “I think (the horses) are awesome.”
The Belgians, which weigh about 1,900 pounds each, can be friendly, fun and grouchy.
“They’re like people,” she said.
Every day, each horse eats about a bale of hay; two gallons of a corn, soybean and molasses mix; and drinks up to roughly 10 gallons of water.
“We still raise most of the (horses’) food on the farm, but it’s still a lot of work,” Ed Carbaugh said.
The business can also be expensive to operate, especially with the climbing costs of fuel used to transport the horses to events including fairs and farm shows, he said.
Additionally, the horses get new shoes about every two months — more often if they throw a shoe — and get vaccinations for diseases including West Nile virus, he said.
Dave Rohrbach, owner of Shartlesville-based Bee Tree Trail Carriage and Wagon Tours, was at Harvest Days with his Percherons, which pulled a wagon, driven by Lindsay Carbaugh, for folks to ride at the event.
Rohrbach has been showing Percherons for about 10 years. Bee Tree Trail also provides Percheron-drawn carriage rides for events such as proms, anniversaries, parties and weddings in areas such as Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia.
The horses “are like my children,” he said of Dallas, Ben, General, Zeke, Dave, Mack and Max.
Eric Thomas, president of the Pennsylvania Draft Horse and Mule Association, lives in Springfield Township, York County, Pa., where he owns Belgian horses. He was at the event with his horses Major and Rocky. At home on his farm, he also has Belgian geldings Royce, Buddy and Lt. Dan.
“All my friends had either Percherons or Clydesdales,” he said of his early interest in draft horses. “I just came to like (Belgians) a lot. But a good horse is a good horse.”
Thomas said this year’s Pennsylvania Farm Show is expected to include more draft horses than prior shows.
“There’s just a general interest in the heavy hitch horses,” he said. “(Farm Show visitors) will see a lot of different venues.”
The Pennsylvania Draft Horse and Mule Association will also host educational classes at the show.
“That will help a lot of beginners into the showing end,” he said. “I’m real excited about this.”
A draft horse can cost anywhere from $500 and $50,000, with the average price range falling around $1,500 to $2,000, Thomas said.
Members of the draft horse community are like “extended family,” Thomas said.
“Even when we’re chasing a blue ribbon ... we all seek to jump in and help each other and that’s important,” he said.