Thursday, Sept. 13 through Saturday, Sept. 15, was a horse competition few Michiganders were probably aware was taking place. At the Oklahoma State Fair Grounds, however, was a family from Bellevue, Mich. with their six horses for the Six-Horse Hitch Classic Series World Finals. Doyle and Rene had been to the competition before, and even won the previous year, but they were back for the three-day competition determined for another title. Rene is certain her horses were too.
The Dingmans have owned horses since the 80s, and shown their horses since the 90s. Both Rene and Doyle grew up around horses, and took an interest in draft horses shortly after they moved to Bellevue in 1981. Over 30 years later, the Dingmans, their two daughters, and grandchildren are still showing their horses, but they’re not the only family with claim over the six horses that went to Oklahoma.
Doyle and Rene have shared ownership with two families from Ohio. Nick and Cherie Wagner, and Mike and Tara Supers make up the ownership of the All Star Farms six-horse hitch team. The team took the title of champion at the 2018 competition, a second in a row for the team.
The All Star Farms team, like every other team at the competition, went through a series of other qualifying competitions. The points accumulated from the qualifying competitions determined who went on, but every team started out with equal footing in Oklahoma. All Star Farms points from Oklahoma truly were outstanding. The team with the least amount of points comes out on top, and after the first two days All Star Farms was the only team still in the single digits from a three-judge panel. Their total after the three-day competition was 13, and their closest runner up had 29.
The horse teams are judged on several factors, not the least of which is the uniformity among the horses, as well as decorative flare and animation. Rene was proud to share that her horses display confidence and prestige, and even enjoy the competition and showmanship.
“They all have real heart and drive,” said Rene. “The six we have really like their job. They’re evenly matched and drive well together.”
Ross and Nicole Honsberger, and Kelsey and Andy Gilbert, the Dingmans’ two daughters and sons-in-law, continue to help with the horses as well. Rene expects that competitions like the SHHCL will continue to be a family affair for the next generation.