At Hamilton County Fair
By LARRY KERSHNER
WEBSTER CITY – It’s not a horse of a different color, exactly, but it is a breed apart.
The Hamilton County Fair is offering fairgoers a chance to see the 701st registered American Cream Draft Horse, a breed that was started in 1916 in Hamilton County.
The 6-year-old male, called Clayton Moore, named after the actor who portrayed The Lone Ranger in the early 1950s, can be seen and petted in the beef barn.
A history of the breed is available to review in the pavilion in the center of the fairgrounds.
The fair continues today through Sunday.
Tim Holt, fair board president, said he asked Wendell Lupkes, of Waterloo, a breeder of American Creams, to do an educational display of the rare breed because the fair would be inundated with RAGBRAI riders this year. The riders arrived on Tuesday.
Holt said Lupkes provided a mare and a foal in 2008.
The palomino-colored draft animals were originally started in Hamilton County in 1906 when Harry “Hat” Lakin purchased a blond brood mare from a farm sale in Story City.
The horse dropped several of the cream-colored foals and it was discovered to be an actual breed. The first horse registered was named “Old Granny.”
The second was Nelson’s Buck No. 2, which became the foundation sire for the Nelson brothers – Nels, Carl, Fred and John – of Jewell.
In 1944, the Hamilton County Fair was the first to include the breed as a class in draft horse shows. Early breeders in the area of what would eventually be called American Cream draft horses included Paul Ackley, Eric Christian, William Kinsinger, Hans Jensen, Charles Knox, F. Howard Paine, John Yancy, plus Lakin and the Nelsons.
Polly Doolittle, of Webster City, a self-proclaimed horse woman, stopped at Clayton Moore’s makeshift stall. She said she had heard of the breed years ago, but forgot about them. However, she was attracted to the horse and spent a few minutes with it.
“I think it’s cool,” she said, about the breed starting in her county. “And I’m especially particular toward palominos.”
Another visitor, Carol Clagett, of Eagle Grove, who was taking in the fair with two youngsters in tow, said she’s lived around horses all her life, but added, “I didn’t know (American Creams) existed.”
Around 1957, Lupkes said, the horse breed started to dwindle. It was the result of the death of the breed’s “biggest cheerleader,” C.T. Ryerson, of Radcliffe. At the same time, “everyone had a Farmall tractor,” Lupkes said, and the need for draft horses, in general, subsided.
However, by the mid-1980s, there were known to be about 24 of the breed left alive in the U.S., Lupkes said. He and others worked to reactivate the breed in 1988 and created the American Cream Draft Horse Association. His horse, Clayton Moore, is No. 701, the 700th since Old Granny. The numbers have been expanding with possibly just 400 to 500 alive in 2012. The vast majority are in the United States.
“But economics are making it hard to expand a herd,” Lupkes said. “It’s a hobby.
“But it’s an expensive hobby.”
The American Cream is a relatively small draft horse, but Lupkes said it’s about the actual size most farmers had back in the day of draft horses on the farm.
The larger draft horse breeds, like Percherons, he said, have been bred for their huge size “because they look good pulling wagons.
“But our association is committed to keeping the breed at its appropriate size.”
The cream color, Lupkes said, is because of what is called “the Champagne gene,” which acts on a roan color, leaving the animal a beige tint, with a lighter mane and amber eyes.
“I called them Trigger on steroids,” Lupkes said.
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