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Dana Cushman and Lenny Wiese
Iron Horse Belgians

Rhode Island

Author: Michelle Beauclair​

Dana Cushman and her fiance’ Lenny Wiese, Iron Horse Belgian owners, condition, train, and show their Belgian draft horses in cart, team, unicorn, 4-horse, and 6-horse hitch classes throughout the Northeast United States.


They’ve used Sport Innovations equine therapy products - ProSeries 3-in-1 blankets, leg wraps, and hock wraps since 2019.

In this article Dana shares the journey of how she and Lenny went from never having owned or driven hitch horses to competing at the sports’ top level. She also relates how she discovered Sport Innovations equine therapy products and the integral role the therapy plays in optimizing her draft horses’ health, well-being, and show ring performance.


And so it begins…the wagon horse ride that morphed into driving and showing two ton draft horses


The Iron Horse Belgians show hitch was conceived 7 years ago when Dana and Lenny ventured out to enjoy a ride in a wagon pulled by a draft horse team. “It all started as we went on a wagon hay ride, and he said ‘I want to do this. I want a pair,’ and I’m like ‘no’”, chuckled Dana.


Soon after that fateful hayride, the couple began their draft horse passion. Through the years they’ve purchased and learned from numerous draft driving horses including a Shire mare, a rescued team of Belgian mares, and a team of retired pulling horses towering 19.2 and 19.3 hands, respectively.  


The draft horse show bug bites thanks to Dana 


Dana reluctantly claims responsibility for igniting Lenny’s passion of showing draft horses that eventually morphed into competing with a 6-horse hitch.


“I made the mistake of one day saying to Lenny, “Really you should just go watch the draft horse show at the Big E,” mused Dana. 


The “Big E” as the Eastern States Exposition is known, is the world’s only multi-state fair, includes a full slate of draft horse show classes, and is held annually in Springfield, MA.


Attending the Big E draft horse show inspired the duo to start showing their draft horses, and soon after their retired pulling team made their show ring debut in hitch classes.


Despite their very best efforts, the pulling team didn’t fare as well in the show ring as Dana and Lenny had hoped. After asking the ring steward for advice on improving their horses’ performance, the gentleman encouraged them to sell the pulling team and buy draft horses that possessed the high stepping turbo charged action that’s desired and rewarded in today’s draft driving classes.

Dana Cushman and Lenny Wiese Iron Horse Belgians Rhode Island

Learning the “lines” *  from cart classes to the Iron Horse Belgians six horse hitch


* Lines are the draft horse driving equivalent of “reins” in horseback riding.


Dana and Lenny heeded the ring steward’s sage advice which to their delight “ended up being a fabulous relationship in the hitch world”. With guidance from draft horse world luminaries, Dana and Lenny carefully selected Belgian driving horses that would fit their show ring goals.


Dana and Lenny began showing in draft horse cart and team (2-horse) classes. Fast forward to 2020 where Lenny showed the 4-up (4 horses hitched to a wagon) for the first time, and in 2021 the couple put together their first six horse hitch.


Dana currently shows in cart, pairs (team), 4-up, and unicorn classes. The “unicorn” is a hitch configuration where 2 horses are hitched to a wagon, with a single horse hitched in front of the pair. 


Driving the four “there’s 8,000 pounds in your hands,” exclaimed Dana of the incredible power of the couple’s four fire-breathing Belgian hitch. “It’s unbelievable!”


“We’re still learning to drive the six,” noted Dana,”and have had other drivers drive the six for us at shows. It's unbelievable the work that goes into having them ready and prepared to be able to work in unison in that nature. It definitely motivates us every single day.”

Workin’ it 24/7 


Dana and Lenny do all the care for their herd of 12 horses which includes seven Belgian hitch show horses and 2 Belgian yearlings - including feeding, exercising, conditioning, stall cleaning, grooming, and Sport Innovations therapy treatments.


“It's a  full time job on top of a full time job. So our day starts with the horses of course. We get everybody taken care of.  We do the turnout and barn cleaning, and then we both go to work,” said Dana. “Then as soon as we get out of work, we run out the door and we harness horses and start working horses.  We truly work sunup to as late in the evening as we can possibly stay awake.”



A holistic horse care approach - PEMF therapy


Dana’s personal holistic philosophy in optimizing her horses’ health, well-being, and performance led her to initially adopt Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) therapy treatments.


“I wanted to be able to do more to help them perform better and always make the horses feel better,” emphasized Dana. After purchasing a PEMF machine and completing PEMF education courses, she was impressed with the treatments for her horses. Despite the PEMF working well, she found it challenging to budget enough time to treat all her horses as frequently as she’d like.


 “While I saw good results from it, it was phenomenally time consuming - taking around an hour and 45 minutes for each horse plus having to be with the horses the entire time to move the PEMF machine loops around to treat the various body areas,” she concluded.


Discovering Sport Innovations Pro Series 3 in 1 equine therapy blanket  (PEMF, massage, and heat) via European riders’ Instagram posts 


Dana’s introduction to Sport Innovations equine therapy products was through seeing Instagram posts of many European riders using the equipment to treat their horses. She was intrigued by  the multi-purpose approach of the Sport Innovations Pro Series 3 in 1 blanket - PEMF, massage, and heat. Given the couple’s horses live year round in New England, she definitely thought the blanket’s heat option would be a great benefit through the long, snowy, and cold northeast winters.


Discovering Sport Innovations equine therapy products and holistic benefits for Iron Horse Belgians’ health, well-being, and performance 


Sport Innovations 3 in 1 ProSeries, hock wraps, and leg wraps 


Fortunately, one of Dana’s close friends, a professional dressage rider and trainer and owner of two of the Sport Innovations blankets, told her how much he loved the results from Sport Innovations ProSeries 3 in 1 equine therapy blanket in treating his horses.


Inspired by her friend’s success with the PEMF, massage, and heat equine therapy blanket, Dana contacted Hanna Hildmann, Sport Innovations CEO and owner. After consulting with Hanna, Dana invested in two of the ProSeries 3 in 1 blankets to use for treatments for the couple’s seven Iron Horse Belgians hitch horses and 5 additional horses. 


Dana immediately noted significant benefits with the Sport Innovations ProSeries blanket therapy treatments. “I was just so phenomenally impressed with the blanket. It was such a great addition to our holistic healing approach.. I could actually see the difference in the horses - how they moved, how they felt.” 


She noted that the ProSeries blanket treatments are very effective in relaxing her high powered draft hitch horses. “Although they’re draft horses, they’re wound pretty tight,” observed Dana. She attributes the Sport Innovations treatments in keeping her horses calm and focused both when training at home and especially in the electric atmosphere of draft horse driving competitions.


Licking and chewing for the win - horses love their Sport Innovations therapy treatments!


Dana related it was amusing to see the hitch horses look at the Sport Innovations blanket prior to their first treatments as if to say, ”Oh my God, what are you trying to put on me!” compared to their relaxed responses post blanket treatments.


“Now they see the blanket coming, and their heads go down, they relax, and they fall asleep on the cross ties, and they're licking and chewing,” discerned Dana about the horses’ regular treatments . 


She appreciates that her horses enjoy the blankets, and she has peace of mind knowing their joints, legs, muscles, and tendons are getting the benefits of increased blood flow and cellular regeneration.


In addition to the regular therapy blanket treatments, Dana religiously uses the Sport Innovations hock and leg wraps. She related, “The boots have been fantastic to help them with leg swelling,” and for managing coffin joint inflammation.

Efficient horse therapy time management with Sport Innovations PEMF and massage treatments


Dana also appreciates how easy and time effective the Sport Innovations blanket, hock, and leg wraps are for PEMF and massage treatments, unlike the PEMF devices with loops that require constant attention and maneuvering.


For example, Dana will treat two horses, using two Sport Innovations blankets - one for each horse, while she’s harnessing other horses. Additionally, the therapy blankets have the option to do the PEMF and massage treatments simultaneously, so it’s ultra time-efficient.


Sport Innovations horse therapy treatments - working at home and showing in competitions


Dana regularly uses the Sport Innovations blanket to treat the horses prior to working them with some horses getting a second treatment after working if needed.


Dana noted one of her horses gets particularly anxious and tight at the horse shows, and she finds the blanket treatments help calm him down and put him in a more relaxed state of mind.


She emphasized the blanket treatments keep the horses comfortable at shows where the horses are often standing in small stalls and on concrete where they are more prone to leg swelling and soreness.  The treatments provide the body relaxation the horses need for optimal show ring performance.


Dana particularly likes using the Sport Innovations horse hock wraps for one of her show mares that’s prone to hock inflammation. She appreciates that the wraps help keep the mare’s hocks comfortable and enhances the mare’s show ring performance.


Sport Innovations therapy treatments for sale prepping draft horses


Another use Dana shared for the Sport Innovations blanket is in sale prepping draft horses to keep the horses’ muscles relaxed so they can show their best action in the ring on sale day.


“You have 30 seconds to a minute out there in the ring, jogging the horse back and forth, and you definitely want that horse to present itself in its best light,” advised Dana. Since draft horse show ring prospects are purchased in large part for their high stepping flashy leg action, enhanced leg action tends to significantly increase a horse’s price.

Dana Cushman and Lenny Wiese Iron Horse Belgians Rhode Island

Out of sight is not out of mind -

How the Iron Horse Belgians six-horse hitch “stole the show” at the Massachusetts Topsfield Fair


If you’ve ever wondered if horses can recognize specific human voices from afar, you’re in for a humorous horsey testimonial. Read on for Dana’s account of a recent exhibition performance by the Iron Horse Belgians.


Lenny recently did an exhibition driving the couple’s Iron Horse Belgians 6-horse hitch at the Topsfield Fair in Massachusetts. An experienced Teamster, Lance Bean, was riding with him to provide assistance if needed.


Lenny drove the 6 of Belgians around the ring to demonstrate the hitch to the crowd as the announcer explained that Lenny was learning how to drive the six. The next part of the exhibition included Lenny driving the hitch to the middle of the ring and halting the horses to wait for their next command. 


The horses stood patiently as the announcer spoke about the finer points of hitch horse driving. When it came time for the hitch to move. Lenny asked the 6 horses to “Step up”, - a command for the horses to depart, and much to his surprise none of the horses moved!


Lenny commanded, “Come on guys, let’s go!” and still no movement from the horses. Meanwhile Lenny is thinking, “please don't make me look stupid”. Despite his continued pleading the hitch remained immobile.


Dana, seated across the show ring, and not visible to the 6 hitched horses, decided to offer some encouragement, and yelled, “TEAM!”, and all the hitch horses’ ears twitched “yes, mam” and immediately took off in unison.  Amidst much laughter from the exhibition audience, the announcer, not missing a beat, observed, “Well, you know who the boss is in that family!”

And so it goes - no scientific study needed - horses do recognize specific voices and knowingly choose to accept or decline what’s requested of them.

Unicorns among us


Dana expressed how very special her draft horses are and that their extraordinary qualities were perfectly summed up in a recent text she received following a visit by her niece and niece’s young daughters.


Her niece wrote, “My girls, they do believe that you own a real live unicorn!” 


Dana concurred, “I do. I own a lot of unicorns! It is amazing how hard they try and how much they enjoy going to work.”


With appreciation to Dana Cushman and Lenny Weise, Iron Horse Belgians


Thank you Dana and Lenny for sharing your draft horse journey with us and how you use Sport Innovations equine therapy products to maximize your horses’ well-being, health, and performance.


We appreciate you choosing Sports Innovations for your horses.


Here’s to many future successes with your unicorns!

Dana Cushman and Lenny Wiese Iron Horse Belgians Rhode Island

Contact us

SportInnovations LLC 
11924 W Forest Hill Blvd 
Suite 10 A #273
Wellington, FL 33414


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