Two dogs, three cats, an Iguana, two rabbits and three horses.
When asked if he’s an animal man, Terry Dunbar chuckles a gentle, “I guess.” If you ask what changed his life, though, he knows for sure — two Belgian draft horses named Byrd and Casey.
“I never dreamed I would own draft horses,” said Dunbar on Sunday. Now the Mt. Hood family man owns a pair, a mother and son, which he drives three to four times a week around the upper valley.
“We probably average 30 or 40 miles on our weekly trips,” said Dunbar, who took ownership of the pair last February from a friend who was getting out of the draft horse business.
“When I first got them, they were a little skittish. You could hardly open a pop bottle around them without a jump. Now, the train can drive by and blow its whistle, or cars drive by on the road, and it doesn’t bother them at all. If you watch their ears, it’s like their radar.”
Dunbar, who doesn’t really call himself a “horse man,” seems to be a perfect match for the two, guiding them with the tug of the reign or the click of his tongue.
“I remember going on a ride with Amish friends back in Pennsylvania, and thinking how neat the horses were,” said Dunbar. Now he gets his own attention while riding to town.
“I’ve met people from all over the world. They stop to take pictures, or ask about the horses. I’ve gotten a lot of digital pictures sent to me,” said Dunbar.
It’s not hard to see why the horses grab attention. Recently Dunbar took 13-year-old Byrd to the vet, so he decided to get her weighed.
“She weighed 1,750 pounds then and I would imagine Casey is pretty close,” said Dunbar.
“They don’t eat much more than a regular horse when full grown, but while they are growing they eat like teenagers.”
Dunbar’s own family includes one teenager, a daughter 14-year-old Amanda, an 11-year-old son Dylan and wife Kelli. They’ve been in the area the past 15 years.
Since last February though, Dunbar has seen the fields and roadsides of Mt. Hood from a different perspective while driving Byrd and Casey and riding in his fore cart, a cart used for pulling farm implements.
“They’ve changed my life,” said Dunbar, who works as a cook with Head Start and as a glass sculptor.
“I’ve noticed so many more things while riding, like a fence made out of boxsprings, and skulls in the ditch, or certain little ponds. It’s relaxing.”
During the winter, the horses pulled the kids on sleds and Dunbar says the team has even done a little logging.
While out and about, he usually doesn’t charge for rides, and simply enjoys the reaction most people have getting to meet his gentle giants.
“Rain or shine, we are out riding. It’s a whole new world when you get to slow down and see it.”