Gene and Judy Seibert enjoy time spent with their large draft horses pulling carriages for Christmas events, weddings and community parades.
She is big and white, and weighs near 2,000 pounds. She stands 17.2 hands at the withers (one hand is 4 inches) and she eats a ton of hay and grass year-round, but don't worry, Miss Daisy is as sweet as they come. According to her owners, Gene and Judy Seibert of Macksville, Daisy and the couple's other 13 Percheron horses, are really gentle giants.
"They are like lap dogs. They just love attention," Gene Seibert said. "They don't mind crowds and noises, in fact they seem to like activity."
The Seiberts and their Percherons are often seen around the area providing horse-drawn carriage rides at weddings, festivals and Christmas events. Two weeks ago they hauled Santa Claus in a downtown Hutchinson parade. Just after Thanksgiving the EJ Seibert Hitch and Stitch team provided rides at the Great Bend night parade, and last Saturday they were in Larned getting a bride and groom to and from their wedding ceremony. Later that same day they were part of an old-fashioned Christmas parade. On December 20 they will be part of a transportation triangle in Hudson for that community's Christmas celebration and dinner.
"We just enjoy the people we meet so much," Seibert said. "And the horses, they love it too."
Gene Seibert grew up raising quarter horses, and when he and wife Judy had a chance to retire and move back to his home farm southwest of Macksville, it wasn't long before they knew they wanted to have some horses around.
"Judy found Miss Daisy on Craig's List about six years ago," Seibert said. "We got her and the whole draft horse thing has just mushroomed from there."
Four years ago the couple went to Waverly, Iowa to purchase their first purebred, registered Percheron Draft horses, and since then they have been trying to breed and raise their own stock.
"It's just in my blood as a farmer and rancher I guess," Seibert said. "There is something about being productive and raising your own that brings a lot of satisfaction."
The Seibert farm currently has four young horses waiting in the wings for pull-training. They range in age from four years, down to a foal born in June of this year.
"Raising draft horses is a lot harder than quarter horses," Seibert said. "They have an only 60 percent pregnancy retention rate, so it was a real eye-opening experience for us. Sometimes they just aren't able to hang on to those babies because they are so big and there is so much going on."
Seibert said baby Percherons are born standing about 42 inches at the withers with huge legs, bodies and heads.
"The mares get extra groceries during the time of foaling because they provide extremely nutritious milk to those babies," he said. "They grow an average of one inch per week, and are always putting on the pounds. They grow fast but they just have the best personalities. They are so sweet."
Even at a young age Seibert is working with his horses with an eye toward pulling in the future. He halters them and they learn to walk alongside their dams when they are pulling. They whole process of training is just a steady exposure to what is expected.
"They learn 'whoa' and 'go' and when to turn just from being alongside their mothers," he said. "It just does the heart good to see how they learn and love to be around humans."
Seibert said Daisy really spoiled them with her love for humans and they enjoy taking her to places where she can interact with visitors.
"A lot of times they will sense the needs of a child and just put their head down to be petted," he said. "At a fair once there was a special needs child that wanted to pet Daisy and couldn't reach into her pen. My wife just opened up the door and Daisy stepped out into the aisle and placed her head right into that child's lap. She was so gentle and knew exactly what to do. We were all in tears watching. Horses can be so sensitive."
Since Daisy is nearing 18 years of age, she does not get called upon as often for pulling occasions. Her darker colored counterparts are just as willing and gentle, however.
"The thing about Percherons is that they almost all start out black or very dark," Seibert said. "When they get to about six or seven years of age they start to lighten and gray out. They older they get the lighter color their hair is. They are constantly changing color."
Gene and Judy don't have a Facebook page or a website, though they are working on that, but they do put up business cards at feed stores or other places they think people who might need pulling horses frequent.
"A lot of our business if word-of-mouth," he said. "We just enjoy getting out with the horses so much. I can't think of a better thing I'd like to be doing. I am just fascinated with these horses."
In addition, to raising and training draft horses, the Seiberts work together with long-arm quilting and Judy does custom embroidery. Christmas is one of their favorite seasons of the year because they get to witness the connections their gentle giants make with people of all ages during holiday events.
"We just enjoy horsing around," Seibert said.