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Draft horse event shows Michigan State program
Michigan Correspondent

EAST LANSING, Mich. — While Michigan State University (MSU) and the Michigan Great Lakes International Draft Horse Show (MGLI) may be the big picture, the little stories reflect the detail in the canvass of this event.

The MGLI originally started in Detroit at the Michigan State Fairgrounds. The show moved to East Lansing in the middle 1990s, and with the venue change, the crowds returned. This year’s MGLI, the 30th in the event’s history, drew about 35,000 people - after falling to 3,000 or 4,000 in the later years in Detroit.

While MSU now has many horses on campus, from 1963 until 1999 there were no draft horses wearing the green and white. MSU began offering draft horse classes when that first Belgian team matriculated in 1999.

The latest report is that there are now Percherons at MSU. Cara O’Connor, who heads MSU’s draft horse program, is working on a four-horse hitch that will be Belgians when it is coming one way and Percherons when it reverses direction.

With draft horse students and the MGLI on campus, a close relationship has developed between the students and their neighbors who work with draft horses.

In fact, at this year’s MGLI, the Eaton County, Mich. Horse and Pony Club presented a walking plow to MSU so the students could practice plowing. The green-and-white plow with the school’s green Spartan logo was displayed at the MSU Pavilion and attracted attention.

During the presentation, Mike and Lynn Loveland drove their Belgian team, pulling the plow, into the Pavilion Arena, where they unhitched their horses and drove them away. The Lovelands are members of the Eaton County club. O’Connor and her students drove the MSU team in and hooked up and hauled their new plow out of the arena.

The weather didn’t cooperate with the show schedule this year for the plowing competition. The plowing plots were separated from the Pavilion by a field of corn, so the plowing teams couldn’t be seen from the Pavilion grounds.

Don Banks had a loose Belgian chomping on some corn when he came out of the arena in the dark. The horse decided there wasn’t any better eating anyplace when it slipped the halter after people thought the animals were settled for the night.

Slogging around in the mud, Loveland was the guy to beat this year. Loveland and his wife, Lynn, are accomplished draft horse owners who seldom miss a plow day. Other names on the horse fieldwork roster include: Dave Beck, Bruce Bosserd, David Cox, Ken Flanders, Seymour Gould, Jim Greenman, Don Brown, Ed Martin, Bruce Daman, Neal O’Bryant, Riley Wyant, Tracy Thomas and Blake Griffin.

The Arena Parade is the only opportunity those working in the field have to smile and wave to the show visitors, unless they enter the Barnyard Horse Pull, but that parade has a personality that reaches out beyond the wagons. Then, the ribbons and trophies are awarded.

The Barnyard Horse-Pulling Contest was fast moving and competitive until the end. The two-dozen teams in this event were fierce fighters.

All of the weights brought to the pull were loaded on to the stone boat; and on the final load, two men were added to the load for the two teams trying that final hitch.

The Fred Herr team of Belgians won the contest, with Jim Vanderwall driving. They crossed the 27.5-foot marker, and when that whistle blew, 11,370 pounds became the heaviest load they had ever had on that boat in competition. That weight included the two men riding along.

Oct. 18-21, 2007 has been reserved for the next MGLI. For more details about this event, visit

This farm news was published in the Nov. 8, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.