SANDPOINT – Belgian draft horses are as much a part of Don Nagle’s family as his two grandsons, a pair of taller-than-average guys who were wrestling between the haunches of the giant horses in Bonner County Fairgrounds’ big barn Friday morning.
“My Dad had horses,” said Nagle, a retired logger from Potlatch, Idaho. “The Nagles farmed in the Palouse country forever. It’s always been in the family.”
And it shows.
The Nagles were the guys who stood calmly atop a pair of logs being dragged around and through a slalom course of big orange traffic cones by a team of Belgians in the fairgrounds arena Friday morning. Most of the other contestants did a dance with their horse and mule teams, hopping off and over the logs as they maneuvered through the course.
The Nagles have been coming to the draft horse show for 29 years, since Don Nagle helped found it. And they usually corral enough ribbons to make it almost a chore to collect them all off their awning after the weekend show.
Nagle’s 18-year-old grandson, Brandon Moore, brought in the first blue ribbon of the year after winning the junior class of the log skidding competition.
Moore is an NIC student and hasn’t missed a draft horse show most of his life.
He’s been driving his grandpa’s draft horses since he entered the peewee class when he was about 5 years old, he said.
He’s only had a horse team run off with him once.
And despite their enormous size – one pair of horses measures over 18 hands, or 6 feet, at the withers – he’s never been seriously injured.
“They step on your feet sometimes,” he said.
Although Nagle used to log with his horses, now they’re just a hobby, he said, “an expensive hobby.”
With the log pulling done, Don and Betty Nagle got busy spiffing up the horses for the driving and confirmation competitions still to come that day.
Betty worked on braiding blue and white ribbons into their manes, while Don drew a big pink comb through the tails and started braiding those.
“I think they like the attention,” Betty Nagle said as she nimbly wove the ribbons through the mane of a horse named Dan.
The Idaho State Draft Horse International show continues through Sunday. Performances are at noon and 6 p.m. today, and 12:30 p.m. Sunday, although some classes are also held in the mornings. The event wraps up with an equipment auction Monday.
Parking at the fairgrounds is $3, and admission to the formal performances is $8 for adults and $7 for students or seniors.