Living Large: The Death of a Giant

The horse world lost one of its largest celebrities, literally, when the Shire gelding Goliath was laid to rest at the Northcote Heavy Horse Centre in Lincolnshire, England, on July 19. Goliath's claim to fame was that he was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's tallest horse at over 19 hands, but his real legacy to the horse world might have been the ingenious, if arcane, systems used to keep the valiant horse upright.

Goliath was almost destroyed as a foal due to his freakish size; to make matters worse, he was put to heavy work at the age of two, before his bones were fully developed. This caused future lameness problems.

While most record-holding horses might have toured with a circus, Goliath went on to a career as a show horse with Young's Brewery before becoming the main attraction at the Northcote Heavy Horse Centre. His star appeal brought thousands of people to the little farm that promoted the preservation of rare and endangered heavy horse breeds in the United Kingdom.

Goliath loved people, and his job at the farm, but his caretakers became increasingly concerned about his lameness. Three crews from the local fire brigade were unable to hoist him after one of his falls. For the last five years, local veterinarians and a boat yard helped rig the horse with special alarms that would alert crews if he went down, and a special crane with a sling was used to hoist the horse back onto his giant hooves when he lost his footing. Even with heavy equipment, it took eight minutes for Goliath to be hoisted.

The handicapped horse was especially popular on tours for handicapped humans in wheelchairs, and he was frequently seen on television in the UK. A commemorative book about the horse will be published soon in England.

About the Author

Fran Jurga

Fran Jurga is the publisher of Hoofcare & Lameness, The Journal of Equine Foot Science, based in Gloucester, Mass., and Hoofcare Online, an electronic newsletter accessible at Her work also includes promoting lameness-related research and information for practical use by farriers, veterinarians, and horse owners. Jurga authored Understanding The Equine Foot, published by Eclipse Press and available at or by calling 800/582-5604.

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