The 40th annual Britt Draft Horse Show gathered horse-enthusiast participants and spectators from across the country on Sept. 3-5.
It featured a 1980s throwback day, and quickly managed a couple of small “hitches” such as a rainy start on opening day and the customary animals seeking at times to do their own thing. In the big Sunday show, 4-hitch competition was briefly halted when Borderland Clydesdales turned around and contacted the gates, but everyone including the animals were all right.
“It was a really good show,” said said Melodie Hiscocks of the Britt Draft Horse Show Association. “Because of rain on Friday, we moved some things around a little bit and pushed the main show back to 3 o’clock on Saturday. Everything was back on schedule by Sunday. We had a good crowd on Saturday and a very nice crowd on Sunday.”
The Sept. 4 throwback day to the early years of the show, which began in 1982, featured T-shirts saying “Party like it's 1982” and “80s are back.”
Show organizers invited the hitches and crews to celebrate the 1980s by dressing up in that decade’s attire on Sept. 4. Six prizes for attire were awarded as follows: First place - Zubrod's Percherons, Second place - Hemmersbach Percherons, Reserve - Roby's Belgians, Reserve - Goodell Clydesdales, Reserve - Steffen's Belgians, and Reserve - Apenhorst Belgians.
Despite the rainy start to Sept. 3, Dean Woodbury of Illinois (with Blue Ribbon Days/Farms) could be seen washing horses for a hitch show as could 9-year-old Rylen Sparrow of Nephi, Utah. The son of Tom and Brittany Sparrow, Rylen was prepping the swing/middle Percheron draft horse of a 6-hitch team.
“He was here last year and pretty much every year since he was born, he has been here,” Tim Sparrow said while mentoring his son. “This is the fourth generation to show here.”
LaVerne Steffen of Steffen Belgians in Plainview, Minnesota, was caring for 5-year-old Belgian horse, Chet, in the barn. He said he and his family have faithfully migrated to Britt annually for at least 15-20 years.
Show participants and spectators visited the Hancock County Agricultural Museum, which was open throughout the weekend show events. The museum features farm equipment, tools, and machines from a bygone era.
“We open it up during the horse show, Hobo Days, the fair, and when groups come in here from the schools and other places,” Mike Horstman said.
The recently crowned (Hobo Days) 2021 Little Miss Britt Charlotte McNeese, daughter of Hunter and Maria McNeese, was distributing ribbons to show winners, which was one of the first large obligations of her new crown. Helping her were Hancock County District Fair Princess Bristelle Bakken and Queen Paige Roberts, both of Garner. Andrew Stalheim of Amery, Wisconsin, judged competitions all three days. He and his family have about 40 head of Clydesdales. He worked with draft horses for Budweiser for nearly a decade.
In the youth show on Sept. 3, Kynseth Zubrod of Zubrod Percherons in Oklahoma placed first in decorating, crafting an elaborate mane on her horse. Fourth-place Levi Schreiber of Schreiber’s Percherons of Plainview, Minnesota, used a non-traditional approach, sitting atop his horse and standing on the nearby gate, rather than standing on a stool.
“Most kids stand on the stool but one, in order to get closer, just jumped up on the horse’s neck,” announcer Rich Greenlee said.
Kolton Zubrod and Kynseth Zubrod of Oklahoma placed first in junior and senior showmanship, respectively. Zubrod Percherons horses, Autumn and Electra, also won the 4-and-older and 5-and-older hater competition. Welton Ridge’s Sapphire and MBS Darling Doll took first in the halter pairs.
One crowd favorite during the big Sunday grandstand show was a longtime guest at the Britt Draft Horse Shown, known best by “Bubba” (Loftin) from Louisiana. Announcer Greenlee encouraged him to let loose some of his famous hog calls, which he did and tipped his hat at rode past the grandstand. He was riding with Roby’s Belgians of Rockwell City in a 3-horse “unicorn” competition.
“When I was hitching I hated this class,” Greenlee said. “The lead horse really cannot pull the whole wagon. It takes a super, super broke horse to be up front.”
Melodie Hiscocks said the unicorn competition is when two horses are on the wagon and one is out front leading.
“That horse out there in front has to be confident and love to show,” she said. Hiscocks noted that Loftin showed Belgians for a number of years during past the Britt horse shows.
Along with the throwback day spurring memories, a number of spectators also enjoyed glancing through historical photos of old Britt Draft Horse Show programs on exhibit during the show. One of them was Marvin Hildebrandt who traveled to Britt from Sumner, Iowa.
“My uncle actually used to drive a 6-horse hitch,” Hildebrandt said. “It brings back good memories.”
Perhaps, Rich Greenlee summed it all up best, saying "draft horse people are just some of the greatest, greatest people in the world."
And they gather in Britt every year.
Rob Hillesland is community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.