It’s considered the equivalent of the Stanley Cup for Clydesdales — and one Alberta farm family has won the honour.
Willow Way Farms grabbed the title of Supreme Champion when its mare, Puzzle, was awarded the prize at the World Clydesdale Show, in Madison, Wis.
“It was something that a guy always thinks about — winning or hoping to win,” said Allan Gordeyko, who runs Willow Way Farms near Ohaton with his son Wes and daughter-in-law Kristen.
“When it comes true, it’s overwhelming. It’s a great honour.”
The Gordeykos took 12 horses down to the World Clydesdale Show, which is held in Wisconsin every few years. Puzzle, their three-year-old mare, first won Grand Champion Mare and then beat the champion gelding and stallion to capture the Supreme Champion title.
Puzzle will likely be bred next year, and the Gordeykos will continue showing her.
Puzzle beat out about 599 other Clydesdales from across North America for the title — and earned two first-place cheques for $5,000 each in the process.
“We took 12 head down, and I think out of the 12 head, we headed up with seven first prizes, a couple of seconds, and a third,” said Gordeyko. “It was a very good show for us.”
This isn’t the first time that the family has competed in the World Clydesdale Show. In 2011, they came oh so close when Gordeyko’s son’s mare was named Grand Champion mare, but was beaten by the stallion for the Supreme Champion crown.
“We’ve had the champion mare there two times in a row,” said Gordeyko.
The family used to go to the Toronto Royal Winter Fair, but doesn’t do that anymore. Instead, they focus their energies on the Calgary Stampede and a few small shows in Alberta.
They also operate a 3,500-acre grain farm and have some hay land, and have been raising Clydesdales for 50 years. They show the Gentle Giants, breed them, and sell the breeding stock.
“We started because it looked like a hobby and it grew into a part of our operation on the farm. Then we just sort of liked the Clyde horse,” said Gordeyko. “They’ve a nice temperament and we just liked the markings on them.
“They look so nice, with their bay colouring, white legs and white markings.”
Gordeyko said the Clydesdale business has been lucrative and the family has exported horses all over North America.
“We’ve got some in Australia, Alaska, Mexico, and Scotland even. It’s been pretty good to us. It turned out to be more of a business operation than a pleasure thing. But we like horses — the whole family does.”
Clydesdales, which stand between 17 to 18 hands and weigh about a ton, were bred as draft horses but nowadays are more commonly used for pulling wagons or sleighs or leisure pursuits. The horse originated in Scotland, and the Gordeykos brought some genetics over when they were first building their herd.
Budweiser beer company has a famous team of Clydesdales that featured in Super Bowl advertisements. The famous team also travels to agricultural shows like the Calgary Stampede.
“We get people looking to buy Clydes, especially strangers, who want something like Budweiser. They’re kind of a symbol,” said Gordeyko.
There are a few Clydesdale breeders in Alberta, and the industry is growing, but not terribly fast.
Gordeyko said the family doesn’t take holidays — if they go travelling, it’s to a horse show.
“Through the horses, we’ve met so many people,” he said.
Gordeyko has been to Scotland three times, and once judged one of their big shows.