The economic recession has started to take its toll in the draft horse industry. This is manifest in several ways. Let us look at one.
Three well-known draft horse events have folded. American horsemen were told the 2009 State Fair would be the last held in Michigan; the 2009 Olds Fair, livestock breeders in Alberta were told, would be the last held; while the show Clydesdale breeders in Ontario have supported at London, was cancelled. These events showcased Belgians, Clydesdales and Percherons for draft horse breeders in America's Midwest, in Western Canada and in Eastern Canada. They have been a key to the success the draft breeds have enjoyed in each geographic area.
The Michigan State Fair has been held for more than a century. Many name horses–Belgians, Clydesdales and Percherons–that lifted ribbons at Michigan's State Fair became icons in their respective breed. Horses that come to mind include Progress, exhibited by Meadow Brook Farm, then at Rochester; Oakwood, bred by Chester Weston of Concord; and Sir Laet, owned by Michigan State College at Lansing.
Progress founded a dynasty which dominates the Belgian breed to this day. The horses Mrs. A.G. Wilson of Meadow Brook Farms bred did much to place the Belgian breed in favour following World War II. This celebrated sire's descendants are a Who's Who of the Belgian breed. Conqueror, Conquest, Constable, Continue, Constrico, Conelrad, Conquerais and Congolaise, their sons and grandsons, descend from Progress.
Shown by Chester Weston at Michigan's State Fair for years, Oakwood was sold to Western Canada. He bred with success for Fred Dunn of Alexander, Manitoba; then for Alex A. Mitchell of Lloydminster, Saskatchewan, and finally, for Claude Gallinger of Tofield, Alberta. Today, Clydesdales found in every Canadian province and American state are descendants of this celebrated Michigan-bred stallion.
Sir Laet, Grand Champion Stallion at the 1929 State Fair for Michigan State College, has had no less an influence on today's Percheron breed. Purchased by Agriculture Canada, his son, Chief Laet, bred with tremendous success in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan; while Corlaet, another of Sir Laet's sons, bred with great success in Ohio. Morden Chief, Morden Chieftain and Drake Farms Chief, the sons and grandson of Chief Laet, surface repeatedly in Percheron pedigrees issued in the U.S. and Canada, as does La Don, the popular grandson of Corlaet.
As draft horse breeders bid goodbye to these exhibitions, let us hope regional horsemen will take up the torch and organize new draft horse shows to replace these three in each geographic area. Breed shows are important to a breed's success. At least this is how I see it.