Specialty Classes have been offered at livestock shows for more than two centuries. They are usually found at breed exhibitions that have added significance. Breed organizations often fund them, as do interested individuals and the occasional sponsor.
America’s state fairs many times offer such classes. A special class for the Champion State Bred Stallion and the Champion State Bred Mare is offered at most state fairs. Special classes such as these have also been offered at many Canadian exhibitions.
Each North American Belgian Championship has offered specialty classes as has each World Percheron Congress. A special class offered for the Tallest Horse of the given breed is one of the first that comes to mind. However, other special classes have surfaced on occasion.
Consolation classes at the 1938 National Percheron Show held in Pomona, California, were popular with exhibitors. The premiums offered in these classes represented the amount of premium money that remained after all other classes, where premium money was awarded, were judged. Four consolation classes were offered at Pomona, those for a Stallion, Three Years and Older; a Stallion, under Three Years; a Mare, Three Years and Older and a Mare, under Three Years. Horses that failed to place in the Open Show were eligible for one of these four Consolation Classes.
Several other Special Classes were offered at the 1938 National Percheron Show for both stallions and mares. Best Head, Neck and proper Slope of Shoulder; Best Bone and Set of Front and Hind Legs, Feet and Pasterns; Truest and Best Action, were special classes offered at this National Percheron Show. Different individuals present, horsemen who were well respected in breed circles, placed these special classes.
If one looks back, many Special Classes have appeared at breed shows. The Best Shod Horse, the Exhibit Traveling the Greatest Distance; the Best State/Provincial Exhibit, to name but a few.
An interesting debate has surfaced in Ontario concerning the Special Classes offered at next year’s World Percheron Congress. Some younger breeders feel a Special Class for Best Feet, Heel and Pastern should be offered. In their opinion a Special Class for the Tallest Horse is of less importance. These young Percheron enthusiasts raise an interesting point.
The Alberta Percheron Club offered a Special Class for Best Feet at Calgary’s Exhibition and Stampede and at Edmonton’s Exhibition in the 1930s and 1940s, a class that did much to improve the bottoms on the Percheron horses bred in the province. The judge of the Percheron Show placed this special class. However, the judge of such a class would require a sharp eye today.
The classification Percheron breeders in Ontario offer at next year’s World Percheron Congress will command respect. This I know. However, I find the debate surrounding the Special Classes offered at this show both healthy and interesting. The debate suggests we have younger breeders in draft horse circles that are both enthusiastic and involved.
At least this is how I see it!