by Joanna Metheny
Local company Cal Crush is best known as a mobile rock crushing business that services clients throughout California and Nevada. Started by brothers Charlie and Brian Evans in 2000, the company plan did not originally include horses.
Founder Charlie Evans had never been a horse person; he wasn’t a rider growing up and didn’t know anything about caring for horses. When he first started Cal Crush, Evans set himself a goal: if the company was doing well after 10 years, he would buy himself a car. The only problem was, by the end of the company’s first decade, he’d lost interest in that car. One evening, Evans planned a special date with his wife, which included hiring out a horse and carriage to take them to dinner. The carriage was pulled by a massive black Percheron, and for Evans, there was an instant spark.
Following their fortuitous date, Evans began to research different breeds of draft horse, searching for the most docile. He kept circling back to the regal Clydesdale, made ever famous by Anheuser Busch. The first horse Evans purchased was Milestone, whom he still has today. Over the years Evans has bred a couple of their own Clydesdales, but primarily buys most of the horses. Today there are a dozen of the gentle giants residing on the farm.
Not all horses that come to the farm are suitable for exhibition. All horses selected for the hitch must be somewhat uniform in appearance, with all white socks and of a relatively similar height. Temperament also plays a major factor in which horses are selected for the exhibition hitch. Horses that are too forward (energetic) are typically better suited for competition as opposed to exhibition hitches where horses must remain very docile and calm. Evans jokes that he prefers the less bright horses as they are much easier to train.
Evans is the hitch’s primary driver. Learning as he went, he first learned how to drive one horse, then a hitch of two, then four, until finally mastering how to drive a hitch of six and eight horses. All training is done on site by Evans, his staff, and barn manager Elizabeth. They practice driving the horses five days a week. Additionally, hours upon hours are spent doing desensitization training, in order to accustom the horses to anything they might encounter during an exhibition. This can include anything from loud noises like sirens or firecrackers to unpredictable crowds or flapping flags. Evans says it can take anywhere from one month up to an entire year to train up a horse for the 8 horse hitch. It entirely depends on each horse’s individual age, temperament, and prior experience level.
Evans chose exhibition work as the horses’ primary duty, as a way to give back to the community. He receives no compensation for exhibiting his horses, and sometimes spends six months of the year travelling with them to different events, in addition to handling his regular business duties. Each exhibition is a labor of love, as it takes a small army of people to get the horses ready. Typically, one person is assigned to each horse in order to prep them. From the time they unload the trailer to entering the arena, it takes staff approximately two hours to groom, braid, and harness all the horses. The Cal Crush Clydesdales have exhibited in the Oakdale, Virginia City, and Grand National Rodeos, as well as numerous fairs, and of course our own Almond Blossom Parade. Staff even occasionally barrel races the horses at rodeos to show off the Clydesdales’ versatility. This year, the horses’ exhibition season will kick off in June with a polo fundraiser.
Some Riponites were lucky enough to have caught a glimpse of the 8 horse hitch rolling through downtown this past April, which was the inaugural drive of Cal Crush’s newly restored 10’ antique copper mining wagon that weighs in at a whopping 11,500 lbs. The dry run was used to get a feel for how the wagon handled, as well as check for any necessary adjustments before debuting during exhibition season.
For those looking to catch another glimpse of these beloved big horses, Cal Crush uses their hometown of Ripon as a soft training ground, and they could be spotted in town again in the future. For anyone wanting to get up close to the horses, stay tuned: Evans is hoping to schedule a public meet and greet at the farm sometime in the future.
About the author: For nearly a decade, Joanna Metheny has been a freelance writer specialized in the coverage of local topics and community interest stories. A Central Valley transplant and Bay Area native, Joanna permanently relocated to Ripon and hasn’t looked back once. She loves the city’s proud agricultural history and small town feel. Joanna enjoys spending her time in the community, tending her garden, and discovering local secrets along Ripon’s backroads.