There will be no room for error when more than 60 1-ton Belgian, Percheron, shire and Clydesdale draft horses trot into the Swiftel Center’s indoor show ring at the Dakota Royal Charity Draft Horse Show June 23 and 24 in Brookings, South Dakota.
Three judges will be evaluating the equines and every adjustment a driver makes to his or her lines to navigate the tons of horse power in his or her hands while driving the team through its paces in the ring.
Judges evaluate the overall presentation of each hitch and inspect for grooming of the horses, braiding of the manes and tails, along with considering the teams’ harnesses and the historic wagon quality.
The national level competition is part of the North American Six-Horse Hitch Classic Series. It will bring more than 100 draft horses and their crews from all across the U.S. to Brookings.
Spectator admission is $10 for adults and $5 for kids 11 and under. Doors open at 11 a.m., and the six-horse hitches will start at 1 p.m. each day.
Fourteen six horse hitches of Belgians, Percherons, shires and Clydesdales from more than 10 states have entered this national level show to earn points toward qualifying for the fall finals of the 2018 North American Six Horse Hitch Classic Series.
Amongst them are the 2016-2017 champions, All Star Farms (Percherons) from Ohio and Michigan. A team from Minnesota, Ames Construction-Ames Percheron Farm has championships from 2011-2012, 2007-2008, 2002-2003 and 2001-2002. Blue Ribbon Days Percherons from Missouri, Iowa and Indiana won in 2014-2015, 2013-2014.
From South Dakota, Dakota Thunder Shires will compete. From Minnesota, there’s Pittman Percherons and Schreiber Percherons. From Iowa, Shining Star Percherons and Solomon Clydesdales.
Other teams are Broken Spoke Clydesdales from Kansas, Heritage Hill Farms (Belgians) from Michigan, Hidden Y Ranch (Percherons) from Colorado, Willow Creek Belgians from Illinois, Young Living Percherons from Utah and Zubrod's Percherons from Oklahoma.
Once the six horse hitches are judged in their heats, all of the 1-ton equine athletes will return to the show ring for final placement.
Additional hitch classes of fours, unicorns, teams, carts, ladies and youth, along with farm team contests take place throughout the afternoon. Spectators are invited to sure to visit the barns after each show to interact with the gentle giant draft horses and chat with their drivers, and the crews who have traveled from across the U.S. to compete.
Judges with the expert eye are Lynn Apenhorst, of Spring Valley, Minnesota, Bob Roby of Rockwell City, Iowa, and Terry Pierce of Oakland, Iowa.
Apenhorst drove the famous 40-horse hitch for Sparrow Farms at the Milwaukee Circus Parade. He drives his own Belgian hitch of draft horses with his wife Lisa and daughters Jackie and Heather at his side. The Apenhorst Belgian hitch shows at the Steele, Mower, Olmsted and Freeborn county fairs in Minnesota, along with the Murray County Classic Draft Horse Show and the Britt, Iowa, Draft Horse Show. His favorite draft class to drive is the competition six6 when he can show off his driving talents of docking, spinning the top and stage coach run. Apenhorst spends his spare time working a full time city job, farming and tending to a herd of Gelbvieh stock cows.
Roby has shown Belgian geldings throughout the Midwest for almost 40 years. His draft horse story began in 1980, when his parents, John and Shirley, bought their first team of mares. Within a couple of years, Roby had his first team of geldings, and the family hobby began. Today, he, his wife Vicki, their two daughters, sons-in-laws, and five grandchildren travel to as many as 10 shows a year, competing in the North American Six-Horse Hitch Classic Series.
Roby takes pride in supporting his grandchildren, now the fourth generation of Roby’s Belgians, as they learn the industry. At any given time, he has eight to 10 hitch geldings along with a few young prospects in the barn. When he’s not doing chores or looking for his next hitch gelding, Roby is senior vice president and regional branch manager of United Bank of Iowa.
Pierce grew up helping his grandparents, Orval and Lavila Pierce, with their Belgian draft horse breeding and show program. He is the fourth generation to live on the Pierce family’s original homestead, known as Belgian Hill Farm.
Pierce and his wife Deb foal out, raise and show their own registered Belgians, along with standing stallions to outside mares. He also manufactures and sells a line of equipment for use by draft horse enthusiasts including wagons, shoeing stocks, training sleds and stalls.