By DL PERRIN
THE GOSHEN NEWS
The auctioneer’s stuttering chants echoed throughout the massive exhibition hall. Horses whinnied and people meandered slowly while eating, talking and looking at the best of the best of North American clydesdale horses.
This was the National Clydesdale Sale at the Michiana Event Center in Howe Saturday.
It is the second year Howe has hosted this gathering after organizers moved it here from Illinois. “We are very happy with the move,” said Cathy Behn, secretary for the host association, Clydesdale Breeders of the U.S.A.
“This is a very special event for the breeders. It is a happy reunion for us old timers and it gives new and old breeders a chance to shop, sell and share stories about our favorite breed, the clydesdale.”
Dozens of prize-winning American horse breeders arrived in massive semis hauling hundreds of the world’s best clydesdales from as far away as Quebec, Canada and Lubbock, Texas. The horse breeders all shared a passion for the big, gentle giants.
Anheuser Busch Inc. was well represented. The company had nine horses to sell and its stables were decorated like a Hollywood star section, with custom red awnings complete with hanging flowers. Company representatives hosted a social gathering at the end of the second day and parked their bright red semis conspicuously at the entrance. Since the brewery opened its doors in 1860, the clydesdale have been an integral part of the company’s marketing.
Behn said the clydesdale is distinct from other draft breeds because of their “feather” leg. That is the huge mane of hair that drapes from their knees to their hooves. As they prance they make each feather dance, creating a delightful, rhythmic vision.
Daniel and Michaud Gingras own Gingras stables in Quebec. They have 50 head and six stud stallions. They were selling 12 horses at the sale. She does not like to say goodbye to her horses, but that is the fate of a breeder. Through a translator she expressed in French her admiration for the breed. “I am attracted to the clydesdale because of their elegance. They are large, yet so graceful and beautiful. I enjoy being around them.”
“What makes clydesdale’s attractive to many, is their desire to work. They really enjoy performing tasks,” said Sebastien Boutain, a trainer for Gingras. “You put the harness on and they are ready to get to work.”
He, along with others, also praised the breed for its patience and easy-going temperament. “You tell the horse to “stay” and it will stay put for hours and wait for you. You tell it to get going and it will pull all day long for you.”
The majority of the breeders said they enjoy having the show in Howe because of the extra amenities. The Gingras’ said they appreciated having hot water. “Not even horses like a cold shower,” they said.
Many attendees also liked everything being under one roof. The only complaint mentioned was the flooring. Some said the thick rubber mats were great but they needed to “entirely” cover the concrete floor. The way the masts were laid out, the horse’s hooves were sliding off the edge of the mats onto the slippery concrete, causing them to lose their footing. It was suggested that carpeting be spread under the mats to lessen the chance of slipping.
Karen Cobbs and her husband Shannon own Grandview Clydesdales in Huntington.
“We are thrilled that the show moved here. It is so close and convenient. My family has been breeding clydesdales for three generations. In fact, we are the largest family-owned and operated clydesdale breeders in the United States.”
As she spoke she was smoothing the leg feather on one of her six sale horses. “We haven’t decided if we are going to shop. It depends on if we see one we like,” she said.
The sale was bitter sweet for Cobbs. “When we are getting ready for this, I don’t let anyone around the barn use the word “sale.” We tell them they are going to a “show.” I swear they understand English and I don’t want them to be upset.”
Her husband leaned over her shoulder, winked and pointed to the horse she was patting. “This one is to cover the new house in Florida.” Ah, pragmatism.