26 Apr 2024

A love for Clydesdales - 'they just become your mates'

From Country Life, 7:28 pm on 26 April 2024
Steve Muggeridge with his Clydesdales

Steve Muggeridge with his Clydesdales Photo: RNZ/Sally Round

The Clydesdale horse has been a life-long passion for Steve Muggeridge. Now, he's returned with his small herd to the place that passion first kicked in.

At the age of 12 he began ploughing with a pair of Clydesdales under his father's watchful eye at the family farm and Clydesdale stud at Te Kiri in Taranaki.

Since then, Steve has grazed, worked and shown the heavy horse breed all around the country. 

Recently, he and his five horses moved back to the district, to graze on pasture in the shadow of Mt Taranaki, sparking plenty of memories for the 63-year-old.

Steve loves nothing better than to hitch up a pair of the draft horses to one of his vintage wagons, which is where I found myself sitting, on a bag of chaff, one early autumn evening.

It was a pinch-yourself moment, as we rounded a bend through a cutting on the rough gravel track, seeing the perfectly conical mountain ahead. 

The breed, which originated in Scotland, is known for the long hair over its hooves - known as feathers - and strong physique, perfect for hauling ploughs and other farm equipment.

"You breed the horses, you break them in, you get them working and you have them all your life," Steve told Country Life, over the sound of clopping and clinking metal.

"They just become your mates."

In his father's day, the horses were all they had on the farm. Lou Muggeridge had the same passion as his son for the breed, Steve said.

"1988 was the last year that we ever stacked hay, did everything with the horses, mowed it, rowed it."

He'd love to see the horse and plough more in use. 

"Everything gets rushed in this day and age that we live in.

"We always ended up with good crops - there's no doubt about that."

Two Clydesdales wait patiently to to be unhitched from their load

Feathery hooves are among the Clydesdale's distinctive traits Photo: RNZ/Sally Round

Steve is the president of the Clydesdale Horse Society of New Zealand and has seen the breed's popularity grow as a horse for riding among small blockholders. 

Some shows this year saw a doubling of entries in the Clydesdale class - although he'd like to see more young people get involved with the breed.

"People are keen, but from the Clydesdale Society point of view we've got to look and see if we can sort out some more classes for these people that have got one horse."

"We've started up a long reining class where you can drive your horse with long reins over a course just to get more people out there interested."

Steve Muggeridge sits on his vintage wagon hitched up to two of his Clydesdales, with Mt Taranaki in the background

Steve has returned with his horses to Taranaki where the family passion for Clydesdales first began Photo: RNZ/Sally Round

Steve used to take part in ploughing competitions but nowadays puts his horses to work for occasional weddings and funerals and shows them off at events like agricultural shows.

He still shoes them himself.

"It's jolly hard work - there's no doubt about that.

"There's not many of us left that know the old ways, working the horses and feeding them right.

"After my generation, we haven't got that many young ones coming on behind us. I just hope they can keep it going for the horse's sake."