Kay Nelson – Walking the Line

Article by Ingrid Edisen, Photos by Alice

Kae Nelson didn’t mean to get so involved with breeding Shire-Thoroughbred sporthorse crosses, at least not at first.   Over twenty years ago, still a schoolteacher and finding herself desiring her own warmblood but unable to afford the quality or size she needed, she was remarking on her dilemma while shopping one day at The Leading Rein in Austin, Texas.  Her friend, Dianne Smith, who breeds nationally ranked show mules, suggested she breed her own.  Kae’s problem is that she is tall, 5’10.”  And that’s what started it all.  

From there, she began a quest that put her into some very interesting situations and took her down some unusual paths of inquiry.  For example, how do you call up a stranger, a “little ole man in Ohio,” that Texas A & M told her to contact and ask him about what he uses for an breeding dummy?  But more on all that later.

On a whim, Kae had opened a Burberry coat catalogue and seen a model with two gigantic horses peering over her shoulders.  Those look like nice horses, she told her friend.  They were Shires, considered the Cadillac of the draft breeds due to their movement and temperament.  They are good movers from the shoulder and usually stand 17-2 to 18-2 hands high and sometimes weigh as much as a ton.  The English Shire was bred as a riding horse to carry armed knights.  Later Kae would get to experience that weight in some awfully funny predicaments.   She decided to start crossing Thoroughbreds with Shires and began researching her new idea immediately.  The Anglo-Shire warmblood (which is what she aimed for) was considered the original Irish Hunter that evolved by accident when English Shires were pastured with race horses.

At the time, she as best she could discern, only two folks in the country bred Anglo-Shires—one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast.  Kae visited both farms and pooled all her money to buy a gigantic grey purebred Shire stallion that became known as “K.P.”

As she and Dianne drove the stallion home from the West coast, a grey Porsche passed them on the highway.   “I’ve always wanted a Porsche,” she remarked gaily to Dianne.  Dianne reminded her that her “Porsche” was standing in the trailer hitched up to their truck, hence he became known as “Kae’s Porsche” or K.P. for short.  “Forget it,” Dianne said.  “You’ll never have a Porsche.”  Most horse people can relate to that.

Today, she stands his great grandson, Tuxedo Affair, who is seven years old and three-fourth’s full Shire.

But first she had to learn more about breeding horses.  She comes from a ranching family in the Bastrop area and owns a 30 acre place of her own.  Now she had to take things to a higher level.  After all, this was business and she had much to learn.  She built a custom stock that had a lambswool lined chest plate.  As luck would have it, K.P. hurt his back and Kae exhausted all vets and chiropractors looking for help.  Finally, A & M told her that to make the animal (K.P.) be able to breed, she’d have to train him to allow her to collect “on all fours.”  Stallions, in nature, mount mares.  But K.P. was unable to do that.  So, she called “the little ole man in Ohio” and he explained the process he’d gone through to get collection done on all fours.  He also admitted that for a collection device he just used a plastic baggie and that when the stallion heard the crinkling of the bag, he got “very happy.” 

Kae and Dianne were ready.  She had all her research done, the stallion was primed and ready.  They brought a mare around to tease him.  He was placed in the stock with its wool lined chest plate.  They held their breath and suddenly, he forgot his back and reared instead!  Kae had not expected this.  In doing so, he got one of his legs hooked around the uprights of the stock and then slipped down, awkwardly pinned within the confines of the structure.  Fortunately the stock was not fully sided but still, Kae knew they were in pickle.  The horse weighed 2000 pounds.  He lay there, looking at Kae as she nervously stroked his head, trying to assure him they’d figure something out.

Dianne’s cool thinking saved the day. 

“Anyone in the breeding business has barrel gallons of KY jelly,” Kae told me.

“We were going to have to pull him out one way or the other.  But he weighed so much.  Simply to get his foreleg unhung from the stock took both women all their might and shoulder strength as they hoisted it up and over.   Now the animal was simply pinned and a bit more comfortable.  So, they lathered him up, spread the KY all over him.  Dianne told Kay to get her truck and they hitched him by a halter to the bumper of the truck.  With slow increments, and much back and forth coaching by Dianne, Kae put the truck into gear and inch by inch pulled him out of his predicament.  K.P. lay there for a moment, stunned.  Kae envisioned her investment was now all for naught.  But suddenly he caught wind of the mare who they’d tied to a tree not too far off.  He jumped up and began calling for her.  He was ready all over again. 

Despite their size, “they really are careful” when they are breeding, Kae explained when describing her stallions.  She’s made sure that the current stallion she stands who does do live cover, “Tucker” is the nickname for Tuxedo Affair, has never been kicked by a mare.  That alone has helped ensure that he does not feel the need to bite down and clamp onto a mare’s neck and to be defensive about the whole matter.  

For marketing, she’s mostly relied on word of mouth and accepts usually up to 3 outside mares a year.  What she gets from her breedings are Anglo Shires who might be 3/8ths Shire, and 5/8ths Thoroughbred when she uses her own mares.  Her babies normally command a $3500 purchase price.  Currently she has two in foal and three youngsters for sale.  In 2006 she will be showing Tucker in dressage.

Valerie Young of Leander, TX, has a grandson of K. P. that she successfully shows as Shadowfax.  Bentley is owned by Sue Newbury of Connecticut and shown as a fox hunter and in jumping.  Los Angeles is home to Bo (Bodacious Affair), a 17.2 hands high fellow who is still growing and will be evented by owner Anna Howell who is even taller than Kae.  Meanwhile in Dripping Springs, Bailey is working under the guidance of owner Jamie Farmer and dressage coach Irene Hill.  April Jones who also hails from Dripping Springs, is awaiting the maturation of her 16-hand yearling Calli (Clandestine Affair), while Cas (Casino Affair) is being pastured at Kae’s as his new owners, Kerri and Kenny McFarland, complete their move from Boston to central Texas.   

Kae Nelson of Kaesen Farms can be reached at 228 Glass Lane, Bastrop 78602; phone (512) 231-2931.  Her website is www.kaesenfarms.com; email is kaehansen@kaesenfarms.com.

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