“Angel “and “Missy” prepare for World Class Show
with Ken and Sonja Airgood
In an American first, the annual world showcase event for Clydesdale horses — the big, stylish breed of draft-style animals made famous by the Budweiser hitch — will be held Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin.
“Jake” of the Budweiser Team
gets beauty treatment.
Organizers said they would have felt the show was an unqualified success with 500 horses. Well over 600 stallions, mares and geldings of all ages and from all across North America have registered to be shown in a variety of classes.
“Flower Girl” and “Penny” arrive from Alberta, Canada
with owner, Allen Gordeyko.
“It’s really a terrific opportunity to have a show of this quality here,” said Ken Airgood of rural Marshall. He and his wife, Sonja, have been breeding and raising Clydesdales for almost 10 years
Classes at the show will range from halter classes, which are like beauty pageants, to pleasure riding classes to genuinely exciting driving classes where elegant rigs pulled by the powerful animals compete against each other.
The carriages and wagons are powered by as many as six of the huge, high-stepping horses harnessed together, driven by expert drivers who handle up to 40 pounds of reins.
There’s little room for error, and drivers need to be strong, capable and confident to handle horses that average about a ton each.
As they wait for the shiny show harnesses to be carefully attached to the cart, carriage or wagon they will be pulling, the towering horses fairly dance with excitement, eager to be off.
“The breed has a reputation for being tractable. They are bigger than the light horse breeds, of course, but you handle and train them the same way you’d train any other breed, with consistency, discipline, rewards and praise. It’s important, though, not to be intimidated,” Airgood said.
“The draft horse people are so welcoming and really helpful as you begin to learn about the horses,” he said.
“If you are at a show, and you have something break on a harness, for example, three guys will trip over themselves to help you get it fixed or replaced, and these are the same people you’ll be competing against in the next class.
It’s a great community.”
Airgood believes the popularity of all the draft breeds is increasing.
While there are several other popular draft breeds of horses, including Belgians, Percherons and Shires, the Clydesdales are undoubtedly the best-known heavy horse breed, thanks to the buzz surrounding the Budweiser hitches.
“They have really made the Clydesdales, which originated in Scotland, instantly recognizable.”
Ken and his wife have always loved the Clydesdales’ appearance.
“They’re just classy-looking to me. They have so much presence and personality,” he said.