The coliseum shook as 11 mare six-horse hitch teams entered the ring on the final night of the 16th World Percheron Congress. Except for the elegance of the horses, their drivers and their carriages, it could have been a scene from the Wild West of yesteryear with the drivers wearing cowboy hats, working the reins hard. However, there was no scruffiness allowed here. The judges looked for not just how well the teams were matched, but also how well they worked together as they chose the World Champion Mare Six-Horse Hitch Team at the Eastern States Exposition Center in Springfield, MA on Saturday, Oct. 11.
The competing teams thundered into the ring in groups of three to spin around the track, trot, walk and complete a figure-8-curve around the ring as another team cut in from the opposite direction. Each horse had been meticulously groomed, their mane braided and set with ribbons or decorations and their tails set in a bob. Each team obeyed its driver’s orders, and mares picked up their wide hooves in tandem. At the end, all the teams were lined up — 66 magnificent Percheron mares in all. The judges started at the head of the team and worked their way down. A set of independent judges assessed the teams.
The judges unanimously chose Blue Ribbon Days, owned by the Albert Cleve and Jim Day Families and driven by Dean Woodbury, as Supreme Champion Mare Six. Second place and reserve champion was Trippcrest Farms owned by Jane Gray of Harrison, Maine and driven by Chad Cole. Third was All-Star Farms, driven by Ross Honsberger. Fourth was Zubrod’s Percherons LLC, driven by Chad Zubrod.
Just before the mare six-horse hitch judging was the MSC-4 Costume Judging Class. One contestant parading round the ring was a white horse decorated with black spots and draped ears to resemble Pongo of 101 Dalmatians fame while his owner, Melanie Morrison, wore the signature black and white wig and carried a long cigarette holder just like the villainess Cruella De Vil.
Alice in Wonderland, who rode a horse dressed as the White Rabbit, and her entourage represented Down South Carriage Service and won the Costume Class at the World Percheron Congress. Brittany Edgerton, the team’s driver, was dressed in a Johnny Depp-style rendition of the Mad Hatter, complete with wacky hair and wild make-up. The White Queen, who wore a spectacular white gown and white wavy hair, was Rebecca Riddle, who had traveled from North Pole, AK to accompany Edgerton in the Congress. The Queen of Hearts was portrayed by Gala Rogacheva of Siberia.
Second place winner of Costume Class was Tyrone Fields, riding Jen’s Danny Boy of Mossy Creek Stables. Third place went to Eugene Sweeney of Historic Runnymede Farm and fourth place was awarded to Stormie Shelton. India Nichols and her horse, which was dressed as a pegasus, was fifth.
As October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, more than 40 people rode in Drive 4 The Cure Charity Cart Class in loving memory of those lost to cancer. Proceeds of the class and monies raised over three years culminated in a total of $6,000 that was given to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Massachusetts. Those recently lost to cancer within the vast Percheron community include Vicki Mulligan of Skyline Farm Percherons of Earlville, NY, Gayle Wilkins of Terra Cotta Percherons, of Salina, KS and Cindy Noble of Britt, Iowa. The mother of Bill Clark of Delanson, NY is a cancer survivor. He drove his horse Gaby, one of a set of twins, in her honor, accompanied by his wife, Terri.
Soon afterwards, Shining Stars Percherons driven by Gary Miller, and owned by Dianna Marquardt placed first in the Six-Hitch Gelding category, making them 2014 World Champion Gelding Six. Ames Percheron Farm driven by Travis Shaw placed second and Eaglesfield Percherons owned by Brian and Randi Thiel placed third.
After the entrants exited, the once-roaring coliseum fell into stunning quiet.