SCOTT, Sask. – It marked the end of a long journey when the big, black yearling Clydesdale stepped carefully off the truck ramp at Bill Cey’s farm Jan. 26.
The yearling colt had been travelling to the Scott, Sask., farm from Scotland for two months.
It sniffed the -20 C air and soon caught scent of other horses nearby. The colt, named Doura Dewridge Douglas, became the 12th Clydesdale to live at the Cey farm.
“He looks remarkably well for the travel. He looks a lot better than I would for travelling that far,” said 81-year-old Cey with a smile.
The colt, which will be two years old in April, stood 17 hands high and weighed 1,100 pounds.
Cey and youngest son, Gary, keep a lookout for stock that might improve the bloodline of their black Clydesdales. They decided to buy this colt after seeing an ad in a Clydesdale magazine.
“When I read that, it caught my attention. We’ve got all the black genetics that are floating around North America,” said Cey.
They contacted the sellers in Scotland, who are well-known breeders producing a line named Doura Clydesdales. The owners were wary of “tire kickers” and wanted to know that Bill was serious.
“ ‘Send me the pictures and you’ll hear from me the next day,’ ” Cey assured them.
“I looked at the pictures and I said, ‘yes, let’s proceed.’ ”
Buying an animal unseen has inherent risks, but Cey’s seasoned horse sense has honed his knowledge for Clydesdales, the large horses popularized in Budweiser beer commercials.
“Because I had pictures of him and I know what kind of horses they had, I got what I thought I was getting,” Cey said.
“They (sellers) are well-known breeders for three generations. The offspring of their horses would be the red ribbons at the Toronto Royal (Winter Fair) over the past 40 years.
“So I wasn’t too worried about the quality that I was going to get. I knew it would be pretty good. I just bought him on a picture. I didn’t see him in the flesh until today.”
The horse’s journey from Scotland began when Cey sent three cheques. The first for $5,000 put the horse into one month quarantine in Scotland, the mandatory period before export.
After quarantine, the colt was trucked to Amsterdam and Bill’s second cheque for $10,000 bought the horse a one-way plane ticket to Toronto.
It travelled in a container in the plane’s hold accompanied by two handlers.
After another quarantine near Toronto and a final cheque for $6,000, the colt was loaded on a trailer Jan. 21.
Nine stops later, including a layover in Winnipeg because of the Jan. 24 blizzard, the horse arrived safely in Scott.
“It’s a shock to any animal. Naturally they would get jet-lagged the same as a person. The movement of the truck and it took quite some time to get here. He was glad to get his feet on the ground,” said Cey.
He said he wasn’t sure of the price tag for the colt because it was a lump sum, which included all the shipping, handling and taxes. However, he’s expecting the horse will end up costing about $10,000.
The payoff, he said, comes in producing and promoting black Clydesdales.
“I couldn’t find anything unrelated to what we have. I’m really in it to keep the black Clyde genes going. The dollar signs are not the big thing for me,” he said.
“They’re two kinds: there’s the dime a dozen or the high quality ones. To get the high quality ones, on the average, you have to have the very top sire and only one colt out of 10 will be that high quality,” he said
Clydesdales have been a passion in the Cey family for more than 80 years. Cey’s father, Bruno, brought his love of horses with him when he immigrated to Canada from Poland in 1912.
He had to wait until 1929 to afford a good draft horse and bought a black Clydesdale stud named Douglas.
Enthusiasm for the black Clydesdale was instilled in his son, Bill. It remains as strong now as it was in the 1930s when, as a 13-year-old Cey worked eight horses – four up and four back to plow, cultivate and seed the family fields.
“As far as I’m concerned, for the draft horse that worked on the Prairies, the Clydes were the preferable horses to have at the turn of the last century. That’s what tilled the soil. They did a good job there,” Cey said.
“For me, the Clyde was man’s best friend in those days. When you understand them and work with them, I always found a resemblance (between) a horse and a dog. Both bond with you through your voice. You can speak to them and they can go on a command with your left and right turns, to go and to stop. And they like doing it for you. A dog is the same way.”
Today, the passion for black Clydesdales reaches into the third and fourth generations of Cey’s family.
“It’s a family thing that Great-Grandpa started. It’s been 80 years from the time the first Douglas came to the Cey farms,” said Bill’s grandson, Derek, who as it happens, recently took over as director of the Saskatchewan Clydesdale Association.