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Hitching the big draft horsesby Mary Thomas

Horse Progress Days returned to Mt. Hope, Ohio, July 4-5 for its 21st edition. From its modest beginning in 1994 in rural Kinzers, Pa., it has grown into an event with international impact, drawing visitors from Europe, Australia, and Africa. The threat of the local measles outbreak did not reduce attendance with upwards of 20,000 filling the Mt. Hope Auction facility over the two days.
The purpose of Horse Progress Days remains unchanged to this day. All activities are geared to show that the use of animal power combined with the latest advances in farm equipment can lead to practical and profitable agricultural operations. The emphasis is on using draft animal power to support sustainable small scale farming and land stewardship.
Not a Mule lets onlookers know that these are donkeys!Advertised as ‘Something for Everyone,’ the grounds were full of tents and buildings offering all types of merchandise and services. Alternative energy solutions, organic products, toys and models, publications, and decorative items were squeezed in among harness vendors, equine necessities, various carts, wagons, and buggies, and a wide variety of animal powered machinery. Draft breed registries were well represented with promotional booths while an entire building was devoted to ‘Ladies Activities.’ Children weren’t forgotten and had fun in the farm animal petting zoo, on pony rides, or showing off their ponies in the Pony Express presentation.
Several areas were set aside for seminars and demonstrations. Whether interested in logging, home making skills, or growing outstanding produce, there was a full schedule of educational presentations. However, the equine programs took center stage in the main arena and in the round pen. Topics ranged from equine therapies and conformation to reproduction and training issues. Each day ended with a parade of breeds featuring entertaining displays of the various draft and driving animals.

Definitely the stars of the event were the draft animals-horses, donkeys, and mules. Well trained singles, pairs, and teams backed up to various implements, stood quietly for hitching, and moved off quietly to demonstrate a full range of newly manufactured farm machinery. (Yes, new machinery is being built for draft power!)
To put on a successful event like Horse Progress Days requires a large number of dedicated people. Daniel Wengerd, General Coordinator, oversaw more than two dozen committees working to ensure that all areas were ready. Horse Progress Days rotates between seven different locations and won’t return to Mt. Hope until 2020. For more information about Horse Progress Days check www.horseprogressdays.com.

New farm machinery was demonstrated at Horse Progress Days.

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