Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Clydesdales gather in Madison for world show

Photo furnished by Clydesdale USA
Four years ago, Clydesdale Breeders of the USA decided to hold a "world" show. The first-of-its-kind show was a success, drawing together not only Clydesdale breeders from around the world but also turning out a significant public attendance.

"You may only get to see this kind of thing once in a lifetime," said Cathy Behn, association secretary in Pecatonica, Ill. "There are 600 head of Clydesdale horses signed up this time from all around the United States and Canada."

The equine spectacle is set for Oct. 20-23 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, with a complete schedule of events, activities, competitions, seminars and a trade show. The famous Budweiser Clydesdales are scheduled for daily exhibition during the world show, Behn said.

"Most of the Clydesdales in the United States are concentrated in the Midwest," Behn said. "But Madison is centrally located for breeders everywhere, and it's a good location for our Canadian breeders."

A Clydesdale breeder in British Columbia, Canada, may be making the longest trip. The journey for that particular breeder is a community event, Behn said, with the entire county chipping in sponsorships and support in exchange for photo and video updates.

"Right now we're expecting visitors from seven different countries," Behn said. "There's growing interest in China for the breed, and we'll have some people here from Scotland where the breed originated."

Prior to 2007, there hadn't been an international Clydesdale gathering in more than 100 years. Such an event is a huge undertaking, Behn said, but the association was hoping to create something very special for the breed and make a public impression.

"We have our various regional shows around the country, but we wanted to have a very high-level event where everyone could see the results of their work," Behn said. "And really, from a breeder's perspective it takes time. Four years is about right to see results in a breeding program."

To draw the public out to the Alliant Energy Center, Behn said they have worked hard to make the whole show family friendly. There are hands-on activities for children in case parents need a break, and there is a model horse competition for youth.

The real stars of the world show are the horses themselves. For visitors interested in having a look, Behn said that the schedule has something for everyone. Mornings are generally for halter classes and are probably of the greatest interest to breeders and Clydesdale enthusiasts. Afternoon and evenings are for the shows the public may enjoy. Hitch shows with the Clydesdales pulling carts and wagons are impressive to everyone, Behn said.

For those unfamiliar with the breed, a short history is found on the association website: "The Clydesdale is a breed of heavy draft horse developed in the early nineteenth century by farmers in the Lanarkshire (previously Clydesdale) district of Scotland. It was bred to meet not only the agricultural needs of the local farmers, but also the demands of commerce for the coalfields of Lanarkshire and for all the types of heavy haulage on the streets of Glasgow. Due to its fine reputation, use of the breed soon spread throughout the whole of Scotland and northern England."

A Clydesdale can weigh more than a ton and stand 19 hands tall. The most common body color is bay, followed by black, brown and chestnut. The roan trait (solid body color with white hairs throughout the coat) may be found in all the colors.

"The Clydesdale World Show is really the Olympics of our business," Behn said.

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