They flew past me with a heavy rhythmic pounding; hooves, breathing, and the jangling of harnesses synchronized. I love this! I try to make it to the draft horse finals at the Carp Fair every year. The horse show there is considered to be the finest one in eastern Ontario. That differentiates it from the many fairs in towns across the country at this time of year.
Carp is a village of just over 2,000 people on the outskirts of western Ottawa, Canada, and this is the 155th year of its fair. Like most country fairs, they have all kinds of agricultural competitions and demonstrations, a midway, entertainment and food, but they redesigned things a few years back to make it safer for the big horse teams. Visitors are no longer allowed in the barns or hitching areas and I think this extra security has attracted more teams.
Not all the horse competitions are for draft horses, incidentally spelled "draught" in Commonwealth countries. They have western style barrel racing and other competitions too. It's just that, for me, the bigger the better when it comes to dogs and horses.
Last Sunday, I arrived later than planned and parked my car in a makeshift farm field lot. I wondered if the show was on schedule. On the previous Friday night after a sudden tornado warning, everyone was herded into the arena while a tornado passed a mere 10 kilometers away. They're on schedule.
Six-Horse Hitch Class
As I took my seat in the stands, the finals for the "North American Six-Horse Hitch Classic Series" were being judged. It was open to any breed of draft horse and here the common ones are Belgians, Clydesdales and Percherons. I will point them all out for you.
All of the teams were lined up in the previous photo and now the announcer is calling out how they placed in reverse order. When your name was called, you claimed your ribbon and left the ring. In the end, the first place team was left and did a lap of the ring.
I love the look of grey percherons.
Percherons originated in the Huisne valley in western France in the former Perche province. They are usually grey or black in color. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Arabian blood was added to the breed making them a more elegant draft horse. This next team of black Percherons won the class. Look at the front legs on the first two, very elegant.
There was a short break after the class. The team competitions start small. Often they leave the ring long enough to add one or two more horses to the team to compete in the next class. This all started four hours ago.
Eight-Horse Hitch Class
During the break, I wandered around, saw a sheep class and a shearing demonstration then quickly found a place when the horses entered the ring again.
These horses are Belgians. The Belgian comes from the Brabant region of Belgium, a reason why one of its several common names is the Brabant. Most Belgians in North America are this pretty light chestnut color with flaxen manes and tails with or without the white blaze and socks. Dressed for show like this, the mane and tail color aren't obvious. They are a slightly shorter and stockier horse than the Clydesdale which is the tallest breed of the three here, I say 'here' because a Belgian named Big Jake is currently the tallest horse in the world at 82.75 inches or almost 7' (210.19 cm) at the shoulder.
My favorites are the Clydesdales in the next two photos. When they're trotting along, their "feathers," that long hair around their feet, is just flying. This is the breed of horses made famous in the Budweiser beer commercials.
Clydesdales are one of the more popular and recognizable breeds in the world. They originated in the River Clyde valley in Scotland, an area once known as Clydesdale but since renamed to Lanarkshire.
Wow! It's exciting close up but tough to get the whole team in one shot. I want you to see the fancy wagons too.
I mentioned earlier that sometimes they just add two horses to the team. Here, the Percherons that won the six-horse hitch class are back competing in the eight-horse hitch. Do you recognize any of them?
Now the hitches are lined up in the middle of the field waiting to find out the winners. You can compare this to the six-horse class where I couldn't fit them all in one photo. There are fewer competitors as the hitches get larger because... well, imagine feeding just one of these big horses!
The Clydesdales won!
Next, we have a special event. This is the first time I have ever seen a ten-horse hitch.
Ten-Horse Hitch Class
I think the announcer said they put horses together from two teams to make it. They know this sort of event really impresses the crowd. They went around quite a few times, and yes, when you are the only entry, you win.
The wagon made several trips around the large ring both walking and trotting so we could all see it. I was lucky that it stopped in front of me at one point. Count them; there really are 10. Aren't they gorgeous?
The horse show is over. I took a walk through the exhibit buildings and a few photos of the midway before walking back to my car. It was parked on the other side of a corn field. Now where is my car?
If you like the big draft horses, see my previous posts, below, the 2015 World Clydesdale Show where they let you get up close to those amazing horses.
All photos from the iPad of @kansuze.
I hope you enjoyed the horses!