Last Thursday, Michigan State University hosted the first day of the Michigan Great Lakes International Horse Show and Pull at its Pavillion for Agriculture and Livestock Education.
The yearly event, which ran from Thursday, Oct. 12 to Sunday, Oct. 15, attracted horse trainers, breeders and drivers from around the United States and Canada and brought together around 1,200 horses to flaunt and compete.
The competition consisted of large horses pulling expertly crafted and maintained carts. Some carts were pulled by up to eight horses, each circling the pavilion’s show arena in seemingly perfect unison.
Michigan Great Lakes International, or MGLI, President Aaron Rice said the judging is based on the driver’s ability, the makeup of the harness, the horse’s feet and the height of the horses. Rice has been in charge of the show for 22 years out of the 46 years it’s been running.
“We really look at it as a family thing. It's a family sport,” he said.
For horse driver Enos Yoder, some of the best parts of participating in these shows are the collaboration opportunities and skills it provides his family.
“It teaches children a lot to work with animals,” Yoder said. “Instead of sitting on a phone all the time, they actually get to work with live animals.”
Yoder also spoke about the importance of caring for horses. He said the key to putting on a good show is not overworking the horses but keeping them interested and making sure they’re healthy.
When that happens, Yoder said, the horses "get under the lights" and "know that they're here to show off."
Yoder was one of many participants coming from out of state. He brought eight horses from Colorado, where he runs Yoder Hay Company, a hay bale business. While horse shows don't make the money, Yoder said, it’s still something his family is very passionate about.
Delmar Beechy, another out-of-state trainer and driver, believes in cultivating a similar relationship with the horses. Beechy said love for the horses is necessary to take part in these types of shows.
“That's the only way you can do it because you can't justify the amount of work that it takes,” Beechy said.
Beechy works with Oak Haven Belgians, a horse breeding company based in Fremont, Ohio, and like many others at the show, he doesn’t just compete in MGLI. In fact, Oak Haven placed first in one of the draft categories at the New York State Fair this year.