It’s been a couple of weeks since we first introduced you to our new Gelderlander-Percheron cross, Luke. And let me tell you firsthand that his picture doesn’t do him justice. This massive beauty stands at 17.1 hands and tips the scale at an equally impressive weight.
In case you missed it—the Stables crew, our own social media team, and many of you on Facebook submitted guesses on just what that number would be. Mine was 2,083. You’ll have to check out our video to see just how far off I was. Although in my defense, numbers have never exactly been my forte!
After weigh-in, let’s just say there won’t be many Christmas treats in Luke’s stocking this year. Director of Coach & Livestock Paul Bennett tells me our newbie is on a diet and the goal is for him to lose anywhere from of 100 -130 pounds over the next several months.
He may be working on a more svelte physique but lucky for Luke, it isn’t just his stunning size that makes him a unique and valuable member of our herd. In addition to his natural “wow factor”, Mr. Bennett says this particular breed makes for excellent carriage horses due to their temperaments and athletic paces. Gelderlanders are known to be level-headed, alert, intelligent, and willing workers. We’re told Luke has already proven to be great with children.
Another unique characteristic of this breed is that greys gradually change color over time. Can you believe the horse pictured above is our same Luke?
By the time Luke started pulling carriages, he had already started to lose a lot of his grey and the majestic white coat began to shine through.
These are pictures from his glory days when he was part of a four-in-hand coach team that regularly competed at Devon Horse Show in Pennsylvania as well as The Royal Winter Fair in Toronto.
Outside of coaching season, Luke was the mount of the president of the Cochran Hunt Club. Now that he’s settling into his new home, he’s ready to give up his time in the spotlight and return to his original roots as a riding horse.
Luke is gradually getting acclimated to a slow-paced life in the Colonial Capitol and in addition to his grooming, he recently received a new pair of shoes. Ryan Bedell and Charlie White from our Productions team were there to document the process. For those of you who have grown up on farms and around livestock, the process probably doesn’t faze you. However, for this city girl—it was pretty fascinating (minus the smell of burning hair).
Luke has already made a few appearances in the Historic Area. You may have seen Taylor, Liberty’s handler, riding him to get him used to crowds, muskets, cannons, and Fifes and Drums—you know the usual background noise of our Colonial Capital that so many of us have become accustomed to but can sometimes be startling, at least initially, to our animal friends.
Once Luke is used to the sights and sounds, he’ll settle into his role as a full-time riding horse and companion for Ron Carnegie who portrays George Washington. Paul says Luke’s temperament, build, and height make the two a perfect match.
Ron agrees. And he’s been around horses a lot in his life. His mother started keeping them late in his childhood so he spent time cleaning, feeding, and caring for them. He does however admit that his riding back then was mostly limited to some bareback and western pleasure, and it was almost always in an arena.
Ron has been with Colonial Williamsburg for more than two decades and roughly ten years ago was tapped to play General Washington. He tells me that’s when he was sent to Stonehouse Stables in nearby Toano to learn basic modern English riding and eventually, with the help of Coach & Livestock, learned to drive horses as well. Many of our Nation Builders have great experience with horses and Ron says he frequently gets advice from acting and riding partner Mark Schneider, better known to many of you as the Marquis de Lafayette!
One of the very first blog posts I wrote for Making History was about Ron’s horse Nelson (the pair is pictured above). After working together for five years, Nelson was retiring to a farm in Northern Virginia. It’s taken a while but I think Luke may just be the next special horse in our General’s life. And I for one am looking forward to watching the two bond and work together to bring history to life for so many of you!
When you spot George Washington out with Luke, be sure to snap a picture and post it to Instagram using #colonialwilliamsburg. Special thanks to Darnell Vennie and Wayne Reynolds for the photos featured in this post.