Story by Amy Macavinta
Photos by Meegan M. Reid
Fred Utton’s father started out using draft horses to work his fields, but after he got a tractor, it made it hard for a 10-year-old boy to convince his dad to buy him a horse.
So Utton, who was raised on a dairy farm in New Mexico, trained a Holstein steer to lead, and then broke him to ride. After that, who could argue?
In the pasture behind his home in Young Ward, there are a few paint horses, and Utton has raised quarter horses as well. But it is the Belgian draft horses that he really likes. He has two at home, and also has some brood mares, a stallion and a couple colts pastured in Wellsville, just off the highway.
“People have known those horses before they even know me,” Utton said. “But that’s OK. Those horses are a lot more important than us people.”
Utton, a native of New Mexico, is spending his retirement raising Belgians and training them for the harness. He retired and moved to Cache Valley three years ago with his wife, Ann, and his horses. He has 17 now, although one has been sold to an outfit in Wyoming where she will haul hay for the elk in the winter and pull wagon trains in the summer.
Maize is a 9-year-old mare who doesn’t know yet that Utton is preparing her for a new home. He purchased her for a brood mare, but she has never conceived. Despite her age, she has never been trained to do more than lead. This fall Utton is training her for use on the harness so she can be used as a work horse.
Belgians are a sturdy draft horse, Utton said, so they are well suited for heavier use, such as pulling wagon trains, hay wagons or farm implements.
Utton placed the harness on her early this week. (She has only had it on eight or nine times.)
“Belgians are a lot gentler than quarterhorses,” Utton said.
Maize stood relatively still as Utton placed the harness on her and fastened all the buckles, then hooked her up to a small, two-wheeled cart. Her ears were only slightly pinned back, a sign that she is wary, but not frightened.
The llamas in the field next to Utton’s home make her a little cautious too, as do hay balers and spots in the road where one patch of asphalt is darker than the rest.
While he is disappointed to see her go — she was a good match with her sister — Utton said he plans to have her ready for a horse sale in November.