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October 4, 2013

Clydesdales, broncos and cows, oh my!

Demonstrations, shows offer lots of ways to enjoy the fair's animals

The 195th Topsfield Fair is just getting started, and here’s a close look at three more events that visitors might enjoy.

Clydesdales can’t fly, but they do have feathers.

Those are the long white hairs that grow below their knees and flare over their hooves, like spats or bell bottoms.

“It’s genetic,” said Dennis Barry, owner of the Hallamore Clydesdales, which will appear in the arena each day at 1:30 p.m. from Oct. 7 to 14. “That’s one of their characteristics. Some have much nicer feathers than others.”

Barry, who owns the Hallamore Corporation in Lakeville, has owned Clydesdales since 1973, when he bought his first two.

He now owns 16 Scottish Clydesdales — there are also French, Belgian and English breeds — which will appear at the fair in teams of eight.

The horses are driven by Ned Niemiec, and they will be pulling a wagon built more than 100 years ago by the Studebaker Company.

“He’ll do a drive in the arena with them, and then he’ll do some nice demonstrations,” Barry said. “It’s quite a thing, with eight of them, to make them do what he wants them to do.

“There’s a figure eight, and he’ll dock them, and he’ll fan them in 360 degrees, the whole eight of them. The people love it.”

Docking is a complex series of moves similar to adjusting a car’s position in a parking space. In a fan, the whole team moves in a sideways, sweeping motion.

“Very few people can drive an eight-horse hitch,” Barry said. “I can’t drive them.”

Clydesdales are big, but Barry’s horses are big even for Clydesdales.

“If you looked in an encyclopedia, the average Clyde is 17 hands and 1,800 pounds,” he said. “The ones at the fair are 18 to 19 hands and weigh 2,200 pounds. The larger ones are hard to find.”

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