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It’s the best in draft horses

By Staff | Sep 9, 2011

SHINING STARS, of Altoona, reverses course with its six-horse hitch of black Percherons at the Britt Draft Horse Show Sunday. Shining Stars’ horses are owned by Mitch and Dianna Marquardt, and the name is taken from the two child care centers they own in Pleasant Hill. Driving the team is Mark Sparrow. For more photos see cu.messengernews.net.

BRITT – Eighteen draft horse hitches from seven states and one Canadian province showed their best form at the 30th annual Britt Draft Horse Show.

Competitors vied for honors in men’s and ladies’ cart, team, unicorn, four-horse and six-horse hitch classes as the horses trotted, walked and backed up their carts and wagons for judge Terry Pierce, of Oakland. Thousands of visitors also spent their Labor Day weekend at the Hancock County Fairgrounds watching the horses, drivers and crews.

This year, the field was almost exclusively Belgians and Percherons. The only exception was Solomon’s Clydesdales, of Osborne, Kan., which which made its second appearance at the Britt show with Brad Remus in the driver’s seat.

Aaron Mosher, owner of Rock Creek Belgians, of Prophetstown, Ill., brought his team to Britt for the first time. But most of the hitches were Britt veterans, including Ames Percherons, of Jordan, Minn., and Cape Cod Percherons, of Nova Scotia, Canada.

The two hitches have dominated the Britt competition for the past decade. The show’s ultimate success – being named the supreme six hitch – is an honor that has seesawed between Ames and Cape Cod for the past decade. One or the other has won every year since 2000, except in 2006 when Schumacher Percherons, Plainview, Minn., took the top spot.

RUMOR, A Percheron owned by Zubrod Percherons, Guthrie, Okla., gets her mane braided by Ashton Batterton, who is standing atop a step ladder. Rumor is owned by Dr. Chad and Melissa Zubrod.

Ames and Cape Cod repeated their success this year. Ames, with its distinctive dapple gray hitch, finished in the top spot for the second consecutive year, just ahead of No. 2 Cape Cod. Roby’s Belgians, Rockwell City, and Zubrod Percherons, Guthrie, Okla., were named reserve in the class.

The naming of the supreme six is one of the show highlights for spectators as well – a real display of horse power – as all 18 six-horse hitches return to the arena at the same time.

Working draft horses naturally get dirty. But in the ring, everything glistens from the horses’ coats and hooves to their harnesses and the wagons they pull.

Glossy, painted wagons are the norm, but Biren Family Belgians, of Iona, Minn., takes the opposite approach.

LeRoy Biren’s gleaming natural wood wagon, decorated with relief-carved Belgian horses, is a guaranteed crowd favorite.

SEEN CLOSE UP is the side of the Biren Family Belgians' wagon. It features relief carvings of a team of Belgians pulling a wagon decorated by relief carvings of the same. The Birens have been involved with Belgians for more than 40 years.

The wagon came from Abilene, Texas, and Biren is its second owner. When he heard the original owner, Thomas Hicks, decided to quit competing with Belgians, “one thing led to another,” Biren said.

He’s owned the showpiece wagon for two years. But Belgians have been a part of the Biren family for more than 40 years, and a third generation of Birens is involved in helping with the hitches.

“Old Betsy” didn’t compete in the ring, but grabbed attention wherever she was.

An 1883 Type 3 Silsby steam fire engine, Old Betsy delivered a pumping demonstration Sunday, in between being pulled around the Hancock County Fairgrounds by a two-horse team. The engine can pump 600 gallons per minute and has a boiler capacity of 108 gallons.

The bright red engine adorned with a gold leaf design was purchased by the city of Chariton, in southern Iowa, the same year it was manufactured in Seneca Falls, N.Y. At the time, Chariton was one of the few departments that owned its own horses to pull an engine.

The horses, said Chariton Volunteer Fire Department First Assistant Chief Barry Smith, were allowed to roam freely in downtown Chariton and would respond when they heard the fire house alarm.

Old Betsy was purchased from the city by the Chariton Volunteer Fire Department, which paid $1 for it, Smith said.

However, the old girl had seen better days and underwent a complete restoration in 2005. It is one of only three known Silsby engines still in operation. Unlike the others, which are housed in museums, Old Betsy gets out and about. Smith said members of the CVFD take the engine out whenever they’re hired to do so.

Contact Barbara Wallace Hughes at (515) 573-2141 or messengernews.net

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