By Mark Pavilons, King Weekly Sentinel: October 20, 2015
A lovely horse is always an experience. It is an emotional experience of the kind that is often spoiled by words.
Just ask King’s Rob Wilson, who was part of the 2015 World Clydesdale Show, held Sept. 29 to Oct. 3 in London, Ontario.
The heavy horse event drew record crowds, largely from southern Ontario. Many of the individual events were standing room only, which came as a bit of a surprise to Wilson and the 20-member organizing committee. In all, 569 horses descended upon the Western Fair District Agriplex for the five-day extravaganza.
The World Clydesdale Show, which started in 1999, tends to be held every four years, and has been referred to as the “Olympics for Clydesdales.” The 2007 and 2011 shows were held in Wisconsin and organizers wanted it to return to Canada in 2015. The committee spent more than four years working on this huge event, which presented many logistical challenges, not the least of which was finding a location to house and support so many people and horses.
“We had a big event,” Wilson said. “We didn’t realize how much work was involved.” A glance at the numbers shows just how big the event was. It had 141 entrants in 86 classes, with 16 eight-horse hitches. They required 741 stalls and 2,276 shoes. With only local advertising, the crowds kept growing exponentially, from opening night through to the closing ceremonies.
Unlike other horse shows, this is a single breed event that featured the most recognizable of heavy horses. It was an unprecedented success and Wilson observed that it’s very much a social event with the Clydesdale community. Exhibitors came from all across Canada and the U.S., with a handful of spectators from Scotland, England, Ireland, Germany, France, Australia and New Zealand.
Wilson was in charge of the opening ceremonies and he was fortunate to secure the London Police Service Colour Guard and London Fire Fighters Pipe Band, both of which wowed the crowds. Wilson has had horses for decades and they included both light and heavy horses. “I thoroughly enjoyed it,” he said. Any livestock, he pointed out, requires a great deal of care and responsibility.
The Clydesdale was raised in Scotland’s Valley of the Clyde for more than 300 years. Breed records began in 1750 and The Clydesdale Horse Society of Great Britain and Ireland was founded in 1877. The first Clydesdale to enter Canada in 1840 was a stallion named Cumberland. Clydesdales have long enjoyed undisputed supremacy among the draft horse breeds in Canada.
Of all the heavy horses, Wilson finds the Clydesdale to be a “very pretty horse.”
They’re very friendly, gently and sensitive animals. Seeing them hitched, or in a parade is an amazing experience. Wilson said when you guide a team of Clydesdales out of their stall, groom them and harness them, they seem to swell with pride – a sense of purpose and duty if you will. They simply love to work. They patiently wait for the final horse to be hooked up, before the handler gives the signal to go. That moment, no matter how many times he’s seen it, “just gets you,” Wilson observed. The passion and joy in his eyes are evident. He’s overwhelmed just talking about it. If you look into the eyes of a heavy horse, while stroking its powerful neck, you may just be at a loss for words. And that’s how it should be.
To learn more about Clydesdales, visit the Clydesdale Horse Association of Canada at http://canadianclydesdales.ca/