No horsing around: This Belgian’s big
|Jon Pearson of Webster, who’s 5 feet, 10 inches
tall, stands near his horse, Tex.
By Alex Hanson
Valley News of Lebanon
WEBSTER — In the horse world, the quest for superlatives is constant. As much
as horses are romanticized, they are still a commodity. A better horse fetches
a higher price, regardless of what it’s better at.
Jon Pearson thinks he’s got a horse that might be not merely better, but the
best — at being tall.
Tex, a 6-year-old Belgian draft horse, has been measured twice recently. One
measurement, taken by his veterinarian, came out at 19 hands 3 inches. The
other, taken by his blacksmith, at 20 hands. The reigning world’s tallest
horse is Radar, a Belgian kept in Texas, who measures 19 hands 3 1 2 inches.
A hand, the traditional measure for horseflesh, is 4 inches. That puts Tex’s
height at the withers — that’s the bump a horse’s shoulder blades make between
its neck and its back — at either 6 feet 7 inches, merely colossal, or 6 feet
8, world-record territory.
Pearson said he plans to have an impartial measurement taken — the folks at
Guinness, keeper of the book of world records, require two — before he decides
what to do. His vet is going to measure again, and some people from a school
in Massachusetts with an equine science program are stopping in on Wednesday.
If the measurements put Tex over the top, Pearson will forward them to
Guinness. If not, he might wait until spring, when he expects Tex will be
“He’s still in the gangly colt stage, I guess you’d call it,” Pearson said.
Chief, one of the other six Belgians Pearson keeps at his Webster home, was
the same age when he grew an inch and a half last winter, he said.
When Pearson bought Tex in March at an Amish horse auction in Indiana, he was
on vacation and hadn’t planned to bid. “The way the economy is and everything
else, I had no intention of buying a horse,” he said.
But Pearson saw possibility in Tex’s size. A cousin once sold a huge pair of
Holstein oxen to Anheuser-Busch. His brother has an immense pair of Chianina
oxen. The appeal of a giant animal is not lost on him. He said he bought Tex
as an investment, the sort of gentle giant who might find a home at Dollywood
in Pigeon Forge, Ten., which describes itself as “Dolly Parton’s Great Smoky
Mountain Family Amusement Park.”
“He’s got the temperament to do something like that,” Pearson said.
Standing next to Tex is a powerful experience. The average saddle horse stands
no higher than 16 hands, or 5 feet 4 inches. At more than a foot taller, Tex
seems less like a horse than a dinosaur. His head alone weighs more than a
large man. The almost vertical line of his shoulder seems impossibly long.
Horse people like to marvel that a horse has feet like dinner plates, but Tex
is one of only a few horses about which that statement is true.
If he doesn’t turn out to be the world’s tallest horse, and if Pearson doesn’t
get any worthy offers for him, Tex will learn to pull. Pearson goes to pulling
competitions almost every summer weekend, including events in North Haverhill,
Tunbrdge and Bradford, Vt. Pearson, 51, first drove a team when he was 6 and
an older cousin took him into the woods logging for a day.
“I still blame him, I guess, for being crazy about horses,” he said. Pearson,
a self-employed logger, got his first horses 18 years ago. “I didn’t even know
how to put a harness on a horse,” he said.
Pearson’s seven Belgians — Tex, Chief, Tug, Mack, Tim, Bob and Ike — live in a
board-and-batten barn with a small paddock. He trains them in a back field,
hitching them to a homemade stoneboat. Most of his horses were bought at the
same auction where he found Tex and were bred for farm work. Pearson said he
feels like an underdog at competitions, pitting animals bred to plow against
those bred to pull, but fares well because he bonds with his horses.
“If they don’t have trust in you, you’re not going to have much of a horse,”
he said. Pearson has an easy way with his horses, trusting them to walk into
the barn on their own to find their appointed spaces, but reprimanding them
sharply for nipping, a particularly dangerous habit for a horse like Tex, who
weighs more than 2,400 pounds and has jaws that would shame a bear trap.
It might be that Pearson’s horses will have to earn more than just a bit of
prize money from an agricultural fair. Pearson hasn’t had much work from the
sawmills to which he sells logs in the past eight or nine months, and just
sold his skidder. His hobby isn’t cheap. Each of his seven horses eats a bale
of hay and around 30 quarts of grain a day. “If the economy was a little
better, I’d be feeding them more,” he said. He might put them to work in the
woods, he said, if there are saw logs to cut.
If Tex is indeed the world’s tallest horse, buying and selling him might be a
financial boost, and Pearson isn’t shy about saying so. He’s been talking up
the horse’s size at the suggestion of his longtime girlfriend, Tara Gunnigle.
On Wednesday evening, he encouraged her to hold Tex’s lead rope. “You started
this program,” he said.
That “program” has brought a steady stream of visitors, from friends and
family to news media, out to Webster, a small town just northwest of Concord.
“He’s in the limelight,” Pearson said. Tex’s name was Rufus when Pearson
bought him, but “that wasn’t going to cut it,” he said. Why Tex? “The tall
Texan,” Pearson said.
Gunnigle, 54, thinks Tex might be related to Radar, the world record holder.
The white blazes down their faces bear almost the exact shape, she noted.
The title of world’s tallest horse can be fleeting. In April, Tina, a giant
4-year-old Shire mare kept in Tennessee and the world record holder at 20
hands, died as she was being prepared for surgery to correct a leg deformity,
according to a story in the Knoxville News-Sentinel. A quick scan of the
Internet turns up a story about Noddy, a Shire in New Zealand measured at 20
hands, 1 inch. There’s no word on whether Noddy’s owner plans to contact
For now, Pearson doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to vault Tex to worldwide fame
and is enjoying just having Tex around. He has faith in the future.
“Whether he makes it or not, I’m not disappointed,” he said. “He’ll make it
Article courtesy of: SentinelSource.com