François Desharnais…A Stable Personality
(extract from the Canadian Clydesdales Contact 2005)

François comes from St-Rosaire d’Arthabaska in Québec and is the oldest of five children. His parents operated a dairy farm in a small community there and at a very young age, he got involved with the horses of his grandfather and a neighbour. He liked to help with their horses and spent many hours with them…and as a lot of young boys do, forgot time, and very often arrived late much to his mother’s dismay.

He got excited about hitching and his neighbour gave him his first chance to hitch the horses all by himself. His confidence grew and this new found ability decided to take his younger brother out for a ride.

Unfortunately, it was the neighbour’s wagon and after traveling along for a while, he realized something was wrong with it but didn’t quite know what. Well, under the seat, wasps had decided to build their home and the wasps were not impressed with these two boys who had violated their territory. They attacked these two young horsemen. The horse got excited, jumped a ditch, the wagon detached from the harness, and the two drivers fell into the grass. The horse returned to the barn leaving behind a destroyed wagon and two sad young boys! That was the end of François’ hitching career!

Time passed and François became a young man attracted to a lovely young lady named Diane. In August 2005 was held a celebration for their 30th wedding anniversary. Throughout those 30 years, they raised a wonderful family of three children….Charles, Philippe, and André-Anne. Charles is just starting his career in taxation for an accounting firm, Philippe is working as an accountant in Montréal, and Andrée-Anne is studying at the University level in Industrial Human Relation.

After being a carpenter for about five years, François and Diane decided to start their own construction business called Construction Bois-Francs in Victoriaville. As of today, the company employs over fifteen working on the construction sites and six more in the office. This type of business has allowed François and Diane to travel all over the province of Québec. They build residential, industrial, and commercial properties…including their own beautiful home and barns. At present, one of his projects includes a day care center for First Nations people near James Bay, about 800 km north of where he lives. He has also built several Jean Coutu, and a few McDonalds which he loyally supports when traveling and in need of fast food!

About 10 years ago he purchased a small sugar shack that counts about 1300 taps. He operates this with his brother-in-laws. They produce top quality maple products mainly for family and friends. The sugar shack has become a special place to get the family all together to relax and fraternize while enjoying the fantastic taste of their maple products.

In 1997, looking at some old souvenirs made him remember his love for horses. He had always had a special desire to raise Clydesdales and decided that it would be interesting to get involved in this breed. He started to visit some breeders in Québec in order to learn more about them and it was then he bought his first mare, Gormsley Island April, a daughter of Clydeview Scotty Supreme. Then, he was glancing through old copies bought from part years of the Canadian Clydesdale Contact (yes!). He then noticed that the Thistle Ridge horses were often standing at the top in their respective classes. And he decided to bring his mare to Ariss, Ontario, to be bred. They got in touch with David and Wilma Cleghorn and with their very few English skills that they had at that time, managed to make the necessary arrangements to breed April to Hillmoor Fusilier. They made the long trip from Quebec to Guelph. They went through secondary roads during few hours as the 401 was closed due to a snow storm. Once arrived at Ariss, it took them an hour or more (normally a 10 minutes trip) to reach Thistle Ridge. Philippe did not know that when David said to turn right at the stop, that stop could be a light sign. However, all the extra travel was worthwhile as they met some beautiful horses, fell in love with the Thistle Ridge bloodlines, but most important, met some extraordinary people Wilma and David Cleghorn. From that visit, François got its first foal, Freedom Eaton Everest. At that time, Philippe was the interpreter as he was attending an English college. Since then, François has made a great effort to improve upon his English by attending immersion classes on several occasions, both in Québec and New Brunswick.

He and his sons wanted to experience a halter show and naturally, did not choose the smallest one! They made three entries for the World Clydesdale Show in Carp, Ontario. However, just before the show, they decided to bring only one horse, a yearling stud. After watching a few classes, neither son wanted to show the yearling due to a difference of about one hand tall. François decided that they had come too far not to show so he took the lead and went in the ring in front of the judge. Just as he did that the sole of his shoe fell off and every step he made while running with the horse was a real challenge. He thought for sure he would fall right on the grass. He said that they never knew if it was the horse or the showman that was excused from the top ten…probably both he said. However, they are not quitters and at that show they decided to move up in the Clydesdale world. David let them show the get of sire from Commander Mark Argyll composed of Avery, Molly, and Ann…and their friendship and the hobby was on!

They later purchased a group of three mares…Thistle Ridge Argyll Ann, Thistle Ridge Eaton Shawna, and finally, the Supreme Champion foal of the National Clydesdale Show in Milwaukee and the last daughter from Mark, Thistle Ridge Argyll Y.2 Kate. These three mares came home to find back the first Thistle mare that we bought the year before, Thistle Ridge Argyll Molly. These mares became their breeding base. François is the CEO of their Clydesdales operation, but it is always family first at the Desharnais’ household. Everyone at Freedom Acres has a responsibility for the horses and their learning experience over the years has been wonderful for all of them. I understand that Diane and Andrée-Anne keep the tack organized… and from what I hear, it is organized! Philippe is the farrier and the showman in the ring. He has a keen eye for conformation. Charles is the pedigree person and he keeps track of all the statistics. A little Ariss bird told me that he probably knows the pedigrees of other people’s Clydesdales better than some of them do! What does François do, you ask? Well he takes care of the everyday breeding operations…and like a lot of families…dad is in charge of paying the bills!

François says that he has a lot of things to learn about Clydesdale but he feels the future is bright with all the great people in the Clydesdale industry. He feels that with the help of friends and family, the future at Freedom is bright!

Well, François, as you are a man of many talents, I am sure that your dreams will come true!

‘’CanadianClydesdales Contact, edited by Carolyn Ridler, 2005’’