SIDNEY — The Barhorst family, of Fort Loramie, was recently honored with 75 years of showing Belgian Draft horses at the Ohio State Fair.
“I thought I had done something wrong when they called our name over the loud speaker,” Ted Barhorst said with a smile about being called to the arena for the group picture.
Ted Barhorst, his brother George, nephew Don, and their families, have continued the family tradition of showing horses that began three quarters of a century ago with his grandfather, Bernard Barhorst, on the family’s 240 acre homestead.
Barhorst said their horses have won over 3,600 ribbons, and nearly 250 trophies or plaques over the years. He said they even built a trophy room, called the “wagon room,” to display the ribbons and up to 40 of their trophies on the hitch wagon used in parades; the remaining trophies are displayed in the basement.
“You kind of inherit it — it’s part of the family,” Barhorst said of his love for the competition.
Six generations of Barhorsts have owned and bred draft horses on the family farm that was established in 1846. His family has 12 horses at the moment.
“I’ve never been without a draft horse … But it was my uncle Joe who was the main horseman. He never drove a tractor in his life,” said Barhorst, referring to his uncle Joe Barhorst who used only horses on the farm.
Draft horses are notoriously known as the biggest and heaviest breed of horses weighing nearly a ton. Barhorst said they are known as “gentle giants” and people often mistake Belgian horses for the famed Clydesdale horses, which are both draft horses.
During shows, Barhorst said the horses are judged on conformation. According to Wikipedia, equine conformation refers to the “correctness of a horse’s bone structure, musculature, and its body proportions in relation to each other.”He said when they are showing a horse in a “halter class,” they decorate their tail and mane, “walk them a little distance, trot them and then set ‘em up” — meaning their front and back legs are in a certain position.
During the summer months, the family stays busy most every weekend attending 10 to 15 shows and approximately 10 parades a year. Barhorst said there have been weekends when half of their horses are at a horse show and the rest are in a parade, all on the same day. Then, in the fall and winter is when they buy new horses and “raise the little ones.”
Their family has shown horses as far away as Toronto, Canada at the Toronto Winter Royal Fair; in Indiana; Michigan; the Louisville Exposition and the Horse Park in Kentucky; and all local county fairs.
He said they have sold horses in up to 35 states and sold a pair of mares to people from as far away as Japan. They sold the top stallion and the top mare at the Ohio State Sale, and also the top stallion and the top mare at the Topeka Draft Horse Sale in Indiana (all at different times).
“My favorite thing is showing as a family. — It’s like a little family reunion,” Barhorst said when asked what he likes most about the horse shows. “And you meet a lot of good friends once or twice a year. You meet a lot of good people.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.