It was the landscape that captured Jerry Peck as he drove through southern Missouri in 1996.  Originally from Michigan, Jerry was living in Georgia and was delivering a load of calves to the West Plains, Mo., area.  “I went home and told Judy, ‘I’m movin’.  Pack up if you’re comin’ with me!’”  Soon the couple was back in Howell County looking for the perfect property to buy.

The Draft Animal
The word draft refers to any animal used to pull loads, no matter the animal’s type or size.  Over time the phrase draft horse has come to refer to the heavier breeds seen plowing fields or pulling wagons, but in truth, many of these heavier horse breeds are equally talented under saddle or harness.  
Originating in La Perche, France, the Percheron is often depicted as the mount of the medieval French knight.  Due to their Arabian ancestry, Percherons carry themselves with elegance and energy, making them especially attractive as carriage horses for French royalty.  Because French stagecoaches were referred to as diligences, the horses that pulled them were called diligence horses.   
Because of their speed and endurance coupled with a docile nature, intelligence and seeming affection for humans, the Percheron has been bred to fulfill many roles throughout history.  The result is a breed with a variety of conformation characteristics dependent on the individual’s lineage.  The height range is 15.2 – 19 hands with a weight range from 1,500 to 2,600 lbs.  

Generations of Percherons
As third generation Percheron breeders, Judy and Jerry Peck had pretty specific land needs, and because they arrived with three of their six horses in tow, they needed it quickly.  After searching, the couple made an offer on 40 acres located across the road from the real estate agent who had also boarded their horses for them.  The land hadn’t been for sale but the owner found it hard to pass up Jerry’s out-of-the-blue offer.  
Jerry and Judy met in Helen, Ga., where Jerry was involved in a carriage business.  “We had four carriages on the street everyday and rented out for special occasions,” he explained.   
The Peck farm, known as High Plains Percherons, currently has 20 head of horses on their farm including their Quarter Horses and Percheron stallion, Blencathra Rurahda Mor, AKA, Ben.  “We used to breed registered Limousin cattle too, but we sold out because hay prices have gotten so high and we have to buy all our hay,” Jerry said. “We have one more colt due in July, that’ll make twenty-one so I think we’ll need to sell a few.”  (Both Jerry and Judy hold jobs off the farm, too.)
As members of the Percheron Horse Association of America, Jerry and Judy wanted to have more interaction with fellow draft horse owners. In September 2006 they started the Ozarks Draft Horse Association. With a current membership of 25 families, some located as far away as Tulsa, Nashville and Dallas, the group holds monthly meetings, trail rides and show days as well as attending events together. “We’re really excited about going to the Horse Progress Days in Ohio in July,” Judy said.  In addition, members of the group attend shows such as the draft horse show at Wild Eye Ranch in Galena, Mo. Monthly meetings often include seminars given by members who have a particular interest, such as Judy’s foaling seminar in January and Jerry’s harnessing seminar last March.

The Work Put In
Jerry and Judy offer carriage rides for special occasions.  “It takes about three hours to prep the horses and carriage,” Judy said as she washed the carriage after vacuuming the crushed velour seats. “When we get there it will take 30 to 45 minutes to hitch up.”
Because the Peck’s have no geldings and all their mares have babies, they recently teamed up with ODHA member Ron Scott to provide a carriage ride for a bride and groom from the church to the reception.  Ron’s geldings, Andre and Zeus, are a perfectly matched pair of grays with perfectly opposite personalities.  “Andre is my get-the-job-done man,” Ron said after discovering that Zeus had deftly poked his bit out of his mouth when nobody was watching during harnessing.  “Zeus is the clown.”
That day at the wedding, a roar of a group of motorcycles could be heard down the street.  Years of experience with these horses paid off. “You have to be ready for anything and know what might cause a problem,” Judy said, “And know how to circumvent it.”
The wedding was a success, and the Pecks know with their stock there are many more successful events in their future.


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