Draft horses command center ring

ALPENA – Early morning rain showers did not slow down the gentle giants on Tuesday at Alpena County Fair’s Draft Horse Show.

Showing draft horses differs from standard breeds according to Bill Mott, a draft horseman at the fair.

“You don’t ride them, you can, but they are a work horse. We take a cart, the kids in the back and one horse with a cooler and lunch. If you ride you would have to take five or six horses,” Bill said.

Bill’s history with the fair extends back to his youth and he has been bringing draft horses to the fair since 1957. Prior to that, Bill’s family was involved with small livestock at the fair.

“It’s been a good time,” he said.

The day’s judge was Susan Moffit from Memphis. Moffit is new to Alpena and plans to become a resident within the next few months.

“We hope to see what Alpena has to offer, we are so excited,” she said.

Moffit’s goal for the day was to see the horses, enjoy the fair and “to meet some good horsemen.”

“The county fair brings people together. It’s a great time for people to get together and enjoy their animals,” Moffit said.

The contenders at the draft horse show could not agree more with Moffit.

“It’s enjoyable and the fair board has really brought back the animals. Agriculture isn’t what it used to be here but they are doing a good job,” Bill said.

Mott said that more children are now involved with “saddle horses” because of the differences in present time and use of the animals.

“Drafts were for working. I cultivate my garden with them (draft horses) and do a little woodwork,” Mott said.

His favorite aspect of working with horses is never being alone out in the fields. Coming to the fair brings the agriculture into the city, which to Mott is both a blessing and furthers comradery.

“I do it for the love of horses. As long as God let’s me live, let me have a horse,” Mott said.

There were several breeds of draft horses at this year’s show including the Fjord and Haflinger that the Motts own.

“The Fjord is a breed the Vikings developed. She’s short and stocky and has got endurance I’ve never seen before. When Marcy would take her out trail riding, the (Arabian horses) and all the other horses would be walking and she’d be trotting all day long,” said Bill.

While a Haflinger may not bring to mind the traditional image of a draft horse, Merry Legs Happy Feet, shown by Marcy Mott, swept the show winning the showmanship class, the mare halter class and the grand champion class.

“She’s a smaller style draft horse, not a big one,” Marcy said.

Merry Legs Happy Feet met Moffit’s expectations.

“I was looking for a showy but stout horse with good clean legs and a nice expression on its face,” Moffit said.

In the showmanship class Moffit was also looking at the horsemen (and women) and how they handled their animals when performing two gaits, walking and trotting.

“I wanted them to have control of the horse so I could inspect the horse which is really important in looking at horseflesh. You can see the better side of the horse and I wanted to make sure they were showing me the horse,” she said.

While the draft horse show is now complete, the horses can be visited throughout the rest of the fair.

Paige Edwards can be reached via email at ptrisko@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Paige on Twitter @pt_alpenanews.