By BOB RIGGS
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — On Nov. 9, the North American International Livestock Exposition (NAILE) began its two-day 2012 Draft Horse Show, at the Freedom Hall Coliseum on the Kentucky State Fairgrounds. The classes included halter and performance competitions, with several for juniors, including a youth showmanship competition.
The NAILE Draft Horse Show features mostly Belgian, Percheron and Clydesdale breeds, with some Shires in halter and hitch classes. Show Superintendent Brian Westerfeld said there are two types of competition at the NAILE show: the halter classes and hitch classes.
Halter class judges look at a horse’s conformation while the horse is led by a handler with a rope. Elements of conformation during the judging include the animal’s head, feet, legs, neck, height and more. Also, the halter classes are divided along the lines of breed, age and sex of the horse.
Hitch classes, Westerfeld said, are judged according to the horse’s performance under hitch (pulling show wagons). Further, he said these are divided into several categories, including cart (one horse driving), team classes, a “unicorn” class with three horses, a four-horse class and the two six-horse classes.
Especially pleasing to the general public these days are the two open entry six-horse hitch classes.
“Six gleaming one-ton horses create a spectacle as they stomp into the arena as one, outfitted in patent leather and chrome harness, pulling the historically restored freight wagons. Crowds can literally feel the earth tremble as the massive hitches pass by!” states the North American Six-Horse Hitch Classic Series (NASHHCS) website, which is not currently associated with NAILE.
The Louisville show once operated the six-horse-hitch classes under Classic Series rules, but dropped the format a few years ago. A feature of the Draft Horse Classic Series rules is that six-horse hitch teams accumulate prize points for winning at events throughout the United States and Canada, which apply toward a final championship show.
James Rudolph has been the committee chair for all equine events of NAILE for several years. He said halter classes and the cart classes were held on the first day this year and in the afternoon there was one of the two six-horse events. Saturday was restricted to hitch events only.
Explaining a variation of the classes, Rudolph said, “All of the carts have two wheels and the hitches all have four-wheel wagons … The carts are single horses, whereas the hitches all have teams.”
The NAILE committee scheduled the crowd-pleasing six-horse hitches on both Friday and Saturday. Rudolph said, “We are examining going back to the Classic Series, which is an accumulation-type show where they use the points that they win here for a final championship at year end.”
Harold Workman, president and CEO of the Kentucky State Fair board, is top director of the annual NAILE. Although retiring, he plans to remain part of the draft show as a board member.
“There is a financial requirement to be considered in joining the Classic Series,” Workman said, “but I think for us, it is worth it. When we were a part of the Classic we would have up to 12 six-horse hitches, but since then participation has dropped.
“They like to get the points,” he explained, of the draft horse owners.