Gentle Giants : Carey family shows Belgians for 27 years

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By Anna Skinner

For six generations, the Carey family has immersed itself  in farm life. For the past 27 years, a large part of the Careys’ day revolves around Belgian horses, commonly referred to as ‘gentle giants.’

“We bought a mare in ’90, and she was bred to a stallion and had a foal in ’91, and that was the first foal we had,” Jim Carey said. “We kept breeding her, and we eventually built a herd up.”

There are 13 Belgians at the farm. On average, four foals are born each year. The farm has had has many as 24 horses at one time.

Danielle Carey Tolan, the Westfield Washington Township trustee and Jim’s daughter, began showing Belgians at the Indiana State Fair when she was 9 years old. Her son Ezra Tolan, 12, helps show the Belgians at the fair. The Carey Belgians will be shown at this year’s state fair on Aug. 18 and 19.

“The Belgian is a work horse,” Jim said. “The Amish use them a lot to plow fields and make hay and do farm work. We don’t do them that way. We use them as a performance or halter class. We (perform) just like the dogs do at Westminster. We lead them down and lead them back, and the judges judge how the horse is built, the movement and the conformation.”

The Careys have shown a national grand champion stallion and a reserve grand champion mare. In 2014, the Carey family and the Belgians were part of an Indiana State Fair commercial. The six major shows the Careys hit each year are the Mississippi Valley Show; the Indiana State Fair;  the Ohio State Fair;  the Keystone International Livestock Exposition in Pennsylvania; the North American Livestock Expedition in Louisville; and the Great Lakes International Draft Horse Show in Michigan.

The Carey show schedule spans August to November, but they start prepping horses by fitting them for shoes beginning in April.

Although the Carey farm is in Sheridan, six generations of the Carey family have graduated from Westfield High School. Jim and his wife Lynn Carey were high school sweethearts and are 1966 WHS graduates.

In addition to the awards they’ve won, the Careys learn character qualities through the horse showing as well.

“It’s just like any sport,” Danielle said. “It’s a competition against other kids and other showman, and they have to be well-spoken and know about the horse because the judge asks. It’s a community when you’re out at shows. There are people that you create these great friendships (with) over time from all over the country.”

Ezra works with the horses year-round.

“It’s work ethic,” Jim said. “He’s learned responsibility to get up and feed the horses and clean stalls and bathe them.”

The Carey family also owns Carey and Sons, Inc., a grain facility in Sheridan. In total, the family farms approximately 2,500 acres.

See the Carey Belgians at the Indiana State Fair

The Carey family will show four Belgian horses Aug. 18 and 19 at the Indiana State Fair. The Belgian Draft Horse Show is Aug. 17-20. The Careys will show in the following events:

  • The Belgian Halter Classes: Begins at 8 a.m. Aug. 18 in the Indiana Farmers Coliseum, 1202 E 38th St., Indianapolis. The Carey family will participate throughout the show.
  • The Belgian Youth Showmanship: Begins at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 19 in the Indiana Farmers Coliseum. Ezra Tolan will show the Belgians.
  • The National Belgian Futurity: Begins at 11 a.m. Aug. 19 in the Indiana Farmers Coliseum. The Carey family will participate throughout the show.
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