For 39 consecutive years the Southern Ohio Draft Horse Association has held a three-day horse show the second weekend after the Highland County Fair. It was originally held in Russellville, but since 1991 has been held at the fairgrounds in HIllsboro. It has been canceled for this year and probably for good.
“We always had a good turnout of exhibitors, but the preparation of the fairgrounds, from cleaning the horse barns from the fair to leveling and floating the show ring, installing rented stalls capable of holding a horse that weighs 2,000 pounds and stands 72 inches at the shoulder, and people to man the admissions booth takes a lot of man hours. Donations were raised, but every year that became more difficult, also,” said Jeff Bloom, SODHA president.
When the first show was held in Russellville 40 years ago, Hillsboro residents Ralph and Ruth Bloom were there as spectators. They participated in it the next 38 years.
“We just decided one year that we needed a hobby and we got involved in the breeding part of it,” Ruth Bloom said.
At one time they had 88 draft horses, but now time and age are catching up and they have a fraction of that number.
“I’m sorry it isn’t going on. A lot of the older people really enjoyed coming, and I feel bad for that,” Ruth said. “It was really a good thing for a family.”
“We had worked till it got built up and was a really good show, but everybody wanted to show and nobody wanted to help,” she added.
The Blooms’ interest in draft horses goes back to when Ralph was a young boy and worked his dad’s horses in the family garden near New Market until he was drafted into the service. When Ralph returned home from the service just one horse was left, the other having been struck by lightening. Ruth said it was Ralph’s memories of working with draft horses as a youngster that led them to breeding them.
Ruth said local businesses always supported the draft horse show in Hillsboro. Donations also came from businesses supported by Ralph Bloom Trucking LLC. But she said it got to the point where about a half dozen of the businesses’ employees were helping with the show, doing jobs SODHA members should have been taking care of.
Horse teams from Canada, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, New York, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and other states were attracted to the local show, largely because they could earn points in the Classic Series Six-Horse Hitch that was part of the Belgian Merit Program.
An open horse pull and farm pull was also part of the show and they’ve has been canceled, too.
The SODHA still meets every three months, Ruth said, but it’s mostly “just to visit, talk and have snacks. It’s not very active.”
She said it is kind of sad that officials for the Rocky Fork Thunder hydro plane boat races, which were also held in September at Rocky Fork Lake for 25 of the past 30 years, announced recently that the races are likely gone for good for the same reason as the horse show – a lack of help and funds.
“I just wish we were talking about a horse show going on this year rather than it coming to a close,” Ruth said. “But it was a good show and we stopped when it was still thriving. I just think you should stop something like that when it’s thriving, rather than run it in the ground.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.