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Colorado Draft Horse Classic:

Donna Daniels
Staff Writer

Draft horses were once a common sight on the farms of the Roaring Fork and Colorado river valleys. But steam engines came along about the turn of the last century and put them out of work.

This weekend, draft horses make a comeback at the Garfield County fairgrounds in the first annual Colorado Draft Horse Classic and Fine Craftsman Festival.

The show is sponsored by Silt Revitalization Inc. and the Western Slope Driving Chapter of the Colorado Draft Horse Association.

Spectators will see the gentle giants compete in a variety of classes from single carts to six-horse hitches and farm teams.

Draft horses will also pit their strength in the traditional pulling contest.

The horses will be judged on their animation and style, said show organizer Sheila Junkins.

The competition runs from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, and continues from 3 to 7 p.m. Saturday.

Draft horses, who once pulled plows and wagons, trolleys and fire engines, stand tall, between 17 and 18 hands at the shoulders. (A hand is four inches). They weigh 1,700 to 2,000 pounds or more.

“We hope to have about 60 horses,” Junkins said, coming from the valley and as far away as California.

They’ll be wearing their finest, from patent leather harnesses to polished hooves and braided manes and tails. But there’s also a class for the regular working horse, without the trimmings, Junkins said.

“It’s nice to have both classes. It gives a broad spectrum of the horses,” she said.

However, the judges will be looking for the same thing in all the teams.

“They must have the ability to work as one unit,” Junkins said.

With the four-horse hitches, for example, the judges will look for “the driver’s ability to handle the horses and how the horses respond to the commands,” she said.

The unicorn hitch is made up of three horses, with one out in front. The foremost horse “has to want to be there,” Junkins said, or he’ll get run over.

In the draft horse pull, the horses pull dead weight, either cement blocks or sacks of grain.

Many of the most popular breeds will be represented: Clydesdales made famous as the Budweiser beer wagon horses; stately Percherons and tall Shires.

Because they were bred for work, draft horses are gentle and willing, but bold. In fact, it was the Shires who carried English knights into battle during the Middle Ages, Junkins said.

“Thank goodness they don’t realize how big they are,” she said. “They’re so docile and even-tempered.”

At the fairgrounds, food vendors will offer hot dogs, brats, sausage, smoked meat, kettle corn, burritos, tacos, snocones, ice cream, pop and of course, beer.

The show will also feature fine crafts including horse harnesses, antler art, pottery, jewelry, hand-woven rugs and handmade soap. Antique tractors and engines and miniature farm implements will also be on display.

KMTS will broadcast live from the fairgrounds.

Admission to the show each day is $5 and includes parking. Children under 12 are free. For more information about the event go to http://www.drafthorseclassic.com.

The Garfield County Fairgrounds are located at 1001 Railroad Avenue in Rifle.

Crafts show:

Friday, Aug. 30: 4 to 10 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 31: 12 to 8 p.m.

Draft horse show:

Friday, Aug. 30

6 to 10 p.m.: Ladies Cart, Farm Team, Unicorn, Jr. Team, Ride-A-Buck, Draft Horse Pull.

Saturday, Aug. 31

1 to 3 p.m.: Meet a Budweiser Clydesdale. Available for photographs.

3 to 7 p.m.: Men’s Cart, Jr. Cart, Obstacle, Show Team, 4-Up Rail, 6-Up Rail, 4-Up Driving Competition, Specialty Acts, Dressage, Minis, Reiners, Meeker Drill Mules, Carriages.

All events at the Garfield County Fairgrounds, 1001 Railroad Ave., in Rifle.


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