Did you ever wonder where the term “work horse” came from?
That question can easily be answered during the International Draft Horse, Mule
and Pleasure Driving Show, Sept. 22-26, at the 82nd anniversary L.A. County Fair,
which runs Sept. 10-26.
Teams of 2,000-pound horses, mules and pleasure driving horses will be pulling
country surreys, carts, carriages and other rigs while facing obstacle courses
and other challenging feats depictive of their “work” back home during
the five-day event.
This show, which has been a part of the Fair for more than 25 years, draws participants
from the farming and rural communities of Montana, Idaho and Utah as well as California.
These horses are used on the farm today for tasks such as plowing, pulling large
loads and hauling carts through fields and vineyards to gathering crops at harvesting
The draft horse breeds featured at the show are Belgian, Clydesdale, Percheron,
Shire and Suffolk, which on average weigh 2,000 pounds each and average 16 hands
in height (5 feet and six inches tall) when measuring from the withers (shoulders).
They are best known for their size and work “ethic“ coupled with an
even temperament, grace and style. The Clydesdales have become the most recognizable
due to their affiliation with the promotional hitch used by the Anheuser-Busch
Co. This hitch is also paraded during various festivities including the horse
races at the Fair.
While draft horses have a rich history in providing power during the evolution
of agricultural technology and mining in early America, horse power continues
to play a role in modern agriculture. Mules are also part of this country’s
“Most people don’t realize that these horses are still active on the
farms of today,” said Sharon L. Gifford, horse show manager.
Mules, which are the offspring of a male donkey and female horse, were as important
as the heavy horses in America‘s growth, according to the American Mule
Association. Though not similar in size and height, their hardiness was an asset
as they can endure tough terrain and travel distances without much need for food
and water, which explains the term “pack” mule.
Though machinery has replaced the need for “working animals” for the
most part, draft horses and mules continue to play useful roles. The world-renowned
exhibition at the Fair offers the public a glimpse of the vast abilities of these
equine while also showing off their beauty.
This year the Draft Horse Show will be part of the Best of the West six-horse
hitch series competition. Hitches that compete at the Fair as well as Best of
the West series classes at the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar and a show in
Santa Barbara at the Earl Warren Showgrounds are eligible for the $2,000 cash
grand prize. The winner is the one who accumulates the most points from placing
at all three shows.
There is also a class for single geared for the one-horse owner.
“The Fair has been so instrumental in recognizing the owner who has one
horse. This is where many of them start, but may later own a six-horse hitch.
We recognize that people have horses for different reasons, not just for use on
the farm,” stated Gifford.
In addition, draft horses will also compete in a variety of classes such as obstacle
courses, reinmanship, under saddle, working, gentlemen to drive, ladies to drive,
pleasure, pulling, driving, dressage, showmanship, log skipping, bareback and
halter. Classes are held for single, tandem, teams of four and six-horse hitches.
Mules and donkeys are featured in classes such as pulling, figure eight flag
and keyhole courses, pole bending, pleasure, working, trail, pleasure driving
and working and halter.
Light horses, ponies and the always