SCOTT – After a successful debut at the Calgary Stampede last month, the Ceys of Cey Clydesdales, whose home base is the small community of Scott, are receiving texts and calls daily from all over the world, asking about genetics, opportunities to buy specific horses and about buying semen.
Hayden, a Cey seven-year-old stallion, was named Supreme Grand Champion Clyde at the Calgary Stampede Heavy Horse Show, beating out both the previous Western Canadian champion and the Eastern champion stud who had won at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto., Ont., last fall.
The Ceys’ six-horse hitch, all black Clyde mares, also drew positive attention at the Stampede and the Central Alberta Draft Horse Classic show in Olds, Alta., in June.
Ken Cey of Scott, along with sons Derek and Kent and their families, own 60 head of purebred black Clydesdales and expect their herd to produce 27 new foals in the spring of 2016. This year, 15 foals were born. Today, they are one of the bigger breeders of black Clydes in all of North America.
Ken said his father, Bill, had always had horses around the yard so he grew up with them. In the 1980s, Bill went to purebred Clydes, and in 1988 Ken purchased his first two Clydesdale colts from his father. Ken said, “It’s grown from a hobby to a business.”
In turn, Derek and Kent grew up with horses in the yard. As teenagers, they got involved with showing the horses, with their parents helping and getting them and their sisters to shows in North Battleford, Lloydminster, Saskatoon and Regina.
In 1994, each of Ken’s four children “got to pick a colt.” The two girls soon decided they’d prefer money and the boys purchased their sisters’ horses.
Derek and Kent each have two children of their own now, ages seven to 10, growing up on the Ken Cey family farm. It’s their job to name the new foals each spring.
Starting in the early 2000s, the Ceys started “searching for genetics to enhance our gene pool.” Due to their gentle temperament, Clydesdales are a popular breed of draft horse but black Clydesdales only make up about 10 per cent of the Clydesdale population.
This year, with Hayden and four other black Clyde studs at service, the Ceys decided they wanted to show the world what they have to offer.
Knowing that in 2015, for the first time in 16 years, Canada would be hosting the World Clydesdale Show, an event only held every four years, the Ceys hired professional trainers, Brian and Colleen Coleman, of Disbury, Alta. Brian is the reigning six-time world champion teamster and judges draft horses all over the world.
Brian made many trips from Alberta to Scott to pick out horses from the field. In turn, the Ceys made many trips to Didsbury, delivering and picking up horses. Brian tried out 25 horses before he settled on the 10 that went to both the Olds show and the Calgary Stampede. For the eight-horse team of mares that will compete at the world show, key factors included not only similar markings but even the length of stride was measured on each horse.
Ten horses will be making the 50-hour drive to London, Ont., for the Sept. 29 to Oct. 3 world show. The goal is to make the top 10 in the world in the classes they enter. They especially have high hopes for Hayden.
Kent pointed out most hitches they compete against are owned by millionaires advertising their companies. “We’re just farm boys from Saskatchewan advertising our horses,” he said.
So far, there are 554 horses registered for the world show, owned by 29 different exhibitors.
Shaking his head, Derek said this time they would know what to expect. They had promised their wives and children a nice holiday in Calgary, expecting time to see some sights as well as to attend other Stampede events. Any holiday time which included the dads ended up being limited to two hours on the midway; the rest of the time they were busy helping out in the stables.
The Colemans have other clients and had 35 horses in all at the Stampede. Anyone involved with any of the horses helped with all.
Every day of the two weeks in Calgary for Derek and Kent started with the first feeding in the barn, at 5:30 a.m. The last feeding was at 10 p.m., finishing up about midnight, and then exhibitors and trainers gathered in each other’s tack rooms to visit, socialize and talk horses. In between, the 35 horses were washed and clipped daily. Manes had to be rolled and flowers placed. Stalls were cleaned. “It was an endurance test,” Derek said.
On the other hand, Ken, Derek, Kent and Heather couldn’t say enough about the fellowship in the barns. In the ring, people might be in competition with each other. Outside of the ring, a helping hand was always extended when needed, advice was freely given and the coolers kept stocked for helpers and visitors alike.
A major hailstorm during the Stampede resulted in a number of hitches all coming into the ring at once, some still partially unharnessed. Everybody who could help, including horse people from the stands, helped hold horses and do up harnesses. It didn’t matter whose horses they were, Kent said, “everybody helped everybody.”
The same help was given in the barn where two feet of water swept through their half, flooding the stalls. Bedding had to be replaced and, again, even people the Ceys were competing against pitched in to help. There were also visitors who helped out simply because of a love of horses.
Outside of helping at the shows, this is a relatively quiet time of year for the horse breeders. During February, March and April, during foaling season, they put in long days with the horses. Kent gets up every hour to check the barn monitor. If a mare is in labour, Derek gets the call and heads out to the barn to be available for any emergency. He also is the one who makes sure the foal is up and sucking within 20 minutes of being born.
With this year’s crop of foals enjoying freedom in the pasture with their mothers, some mares with the Colemans preparing for the world show and the five stallions waiting for next year’s breeding season, for now the Ceys can focus on the upcoming harvest at their grain farm. Then, if all goes well and harvest is finished in time, all three Ceys, their wives Heather, Shannon and Melissa and the four children (Ken’s and Heather’s grandchildren) will make the trip to London.
The Ceys sell horses destined for anything from chore teams to fancy show work. They also get requests for riding horses as most Clydesdales are quiet, manageable big horses. “Gentle giants,” Ken calls them.
At any given time, the Ceys have a dozen or so horses for sale and have horses all over North America. A young girl in Fort Resolution, N.W.T., has a Cey gelding she rides. A Stettler, Alta., farmer uses Cey Clydes to give sleigh rides at Big White Mountain, near Kelowna, B.C. He has bought six horses from the Ceys and keeps coming back for more, saying he likes their horses “because they don’t quit.” Acreage owners buy retired mares as “pets.”
In Missouri, the Ceys are “converting a former Shire man” to Clydes; he has purchased three of their horses so far. Kent’s first Clyde went to Quebec where he was used as the herd sire for many years. The owners even used him and seven of his sons in an eight-horse hitch. The stallion was later purchased by Express Clydesdales out of Yukon, Oklahoma and, although he died this year, they have two of his sons to carry on the gene pool.
All this before their success at the Calgary Stampede and before their exposure at the 2015 World Clydesdale Show, where – the show website says – “hundreds of the very best Clydesdales from around the world will compete.”
That being said, the Ceys are very careful to match the right horse to its future owner. Derek gets as many details as he can from a prospective buyer as to who they are, what they are looking for and how they intend to use the horse. That attention to detail has paid off for them as they have many repeat buyers and many don’t even come to see the horse before buying it, trusting it is what the Ceys say it is.
Kent pointed out that with black Clydesdale being considerably more rare than bays, sometimes they breed to a specific request for markings or size. “We can’t always go out and find a particular horse,” he said. “We have to create them.”
Derek added, “We still like our horses to be horses.” Although they’re careful as to what mare is exposed to which stallion, they allow nature to take its course in the field and do not line breed either.
For more information on these beautiful Clydesdales and the Cey family farm, visit http://www.ceyclydes.com/.