The Buggy Horse

Katherine Ryder Published:

It's not only tourists who wonder where the horses from an Amish buggy come from.

Truth be told, there are many Amish men and women who are a little vague on the history behind these animals.

These unique creatures that so many of us pass frequently on the roads have just as vast a history as the rest of us.

Naturally, there are many Amish members who take the time and care to breed these creatures. However, some may be surprised to learn that roughly 80 percent of buggy horses come from race tracks.

Unlike our traditions of stopping in to local dealerships to select a vehicle, the Amish community does not have a particular large or well-known stable to visit and buy their horses.

It would seem natural to believe that there would be. However, unlike cars which are essentially mass-produced machines, buggy horses are animals.

They are not short of anything other than an entity which must be nurtured and cared for.

When a race horse doesn't acquire enough speed, agility, or is perhaps unable to race, it is sold for the purpose (in these cases) of being a buggy horse.

In Holmes County, Mt. Hope to be specific, there is a horse auction on the second Saturday of every month. This is where Amish members can go to buy their horses.

Dealers bring these horses to the auctions. The horses are hitched and tested. Their performance and abilities are demonstrated so community members know how their horse will ride before they buy it.

An Amish man is also given the chance to "test" the horse out and get a feel for their temperament, which is most important when deciding which horse to purchase.

As nearly all horse and buggies are used on main roads and highways just as much as back roads, the horse needs to be able to handle the traffic.

A young, or anxious horse could very easily get nervous around passing vehicles.

Apart from buying a horse at an auction or breeding them yourself, some Amish men prefer to find a younger or less experienced horse and train it themselves.

Some horses, even those purchased at an auction or from a race track still have to learn how to handle the buggy. Most of this training depends again on the horse's age and temperament.

A lot of individuals, especially those outside of the Amish communities, sometimes view the treatment of these animals as cruel. This is a wide-spread misconception.

On the contrary, horses love to run and work. Just like people love to work. If they were pinned up they would get bored and anxious.

The Amish truly believe in taking care of their horses. Just as a person would take care of their bodies. A well-nurtured horse can get to be 20 years old and still work easily.

There are a few important behaviors that tourists, and locals, should keep in mind when they're near a buggy horse whether they are moving or hitched outside.

If a horse is hitched to the buggy, for example, you have to be very careful not to scare them. Depending on the horse, it is likely that it could come through the hitch easily.

If the horse is driving a buggy, it's important to leave plenty of distance while passing or following. Many people speed ahead and cut the buggy off, which can easily frighten the horse or affect their driving.

If a horse is in a pasture or field and poking its head over the fence, most Amish do not have a problem with people approaching the fence or taking pictures. However, you should always be respectful and mindful of a person's property.

A horse's history in any sense can be a fascinating story. But as our surrounding areas are filled with so many buggy horses it helps others to appreciate the Amish lifestyle even more by understanding something that is so much a part of their everyday lives.

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