MOUNT VERNON — Words could not express Dean Shira’s joy upon his recent return from the World Percheron Congress held last week in Des Moines, Iowa.
Traveling through the night, and more than 700 miles from Ohio to Iowa, to compete in the weeklong event, Shira wasn’t the least bit fearful when he stepped into Jacobson Exhibition Center last Wednesday.
“It felt so good just being able to participate in this elite show,” said Shira. “It literally brings tears to your eyes when you see your own outfit out there with horses that cost $50,000 to $100,000 a piece, with harnesses that cost $10,000 per set.”
Participation in the six-horse gelding hitch class was assessed by three different judges on uniformity, hitch and gear, and breed. When the team took there turn around the ring, Shira said, “you only get about two times around to show your best.”
On two of the nights, Shira’s team placed 14th out of 17 groups from around the world.
Shira took six black geldings to the congress and participated in various classes. Two of his Percherons placed in the Five-Year-Old Halter Class: One at fifth place and another at seventh. Also in the Unicorn Class three-horse-hitch, placed ninth.
“It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever participated in,” he said. “Win, lose or draw, just to be there was impressive.”
The welcoming atmosphere of the congress surprised him with its hospitality and generosity to aid their small team of six horses, two volunteers, and Shira. Even among fellow exhibitors and spectators there was a warm comradeship.
“If there were any problems, people were there to help,” he said.
“I never dreamed we would be good enough to go to one of these shows. It was the last thing to ever cross my mind,” said Shira. “When I was a little boy, I thought if I ever made it to the state fair twice I would be lucky. And here we are have participated in a world class show.”
With all the hard work and dedication Shira and his crew, Jeremiah Litteral and Scott Love, have put into making the six-horse hitch a success, they were proud to compete among large, professional groups.
“These horses have been hitched together for about two weeks as compared to a lot of the other exhibitors who’ve had the entire show season,” he said. “For us to have gone out there and competed with such high priced horses, it’s a tribute to Jeremiah’s efforts and our ability to pick out horses. It’s the biggest feather you can get on a hat.”
Shira said his thanks and appreciation goes to his wife, Linda, and all who helped take care of his farm while he was gone.
“And my biggest ‘thank you’ goes to my two volunteers, Jeremiah and Scott,” he said. “Those two exhibited the six horses by themselves, and I helped them with the hitching and holding the line. They cleaned, washed, decorated, and harnessed the horses — with only two people whereas many other groups will have one person per horse.”
If he’s able, Shira said he will participate again.
“I can’t congratulate Jeremiah and Scott enough for all the hard work they’ve done,” said Shira.