Most 6-year-olds would love to have a pony. Todd DeGasperi has a giant pony named Ace. In fact, Ace is far too big to be called a pony. He is known as a draft horse.
Before trucks and farm tractors were invented 100 years ago, draft horses such as Ace were put to work pulling coaches, wagons, farm plows and even canal boats.
How big is Ace? Horses are measured from the ground to their withers, the top of the shoulders, in "hands" -- each hand equals four inches in length. The tallest ponies are 14 hands 2 inches; a show jumper might be little taller. Ace stands 18 hands 2 inches, not counting his tall, wide neck and beautiful head. Todd is 46 inches tall (that's 11 hands 2 inches) and weighs 48 pounds. Ace weighs 2,500 pounds, about the same as a small car and twice that of a regular horse. His hooves are the size of plates, and he wears huge horseshoes especially made for draft horses. The big feet spread the weight and stop these workhorses from sinking in muddy farm fields. (The size of Ace's hoof and Todd's hand are shown on this page.)
Ace lives on a 10-acre farm in Westminster, Maryland, with Todd; his parents, Chris and Shelley; and brother Kolton, 3. Ace shares his stable with two miniature donkeys, which come up to his knees, and four ponies.
Ace is 6 years old and very handsome. He is an old breed from France called a Percheron, and he is black with a white diamond on his forehead.
Although he is a giant among horses, Ace is very gentle. He lets strangers pet him and likes to give Todd rides. With Mom holding a lead rope, Todd sits in a small saddle. Ace's abdomen is so big that Todd's legs usually stick out rather than down from the saddle.
For fun, we asked Todd's mom to take a string and measure Ace's waist and then Todd's waist. Ace's waist measured 109 inches; Todd's is 201/2. Todd and Ace have been appearing at state and county fairs this summer and early fall, competing with other draft horses for ribbons. Regardless of how he does in shows, Ace is always a winner for Todd and his family.
-- Adrian Higgins