Horse Progress Days: An Annual Amish Horsepower Showcase

Michigan Mary attended the Horse Progress Days event this past weekend, held at Clare, Michigan (home to a small Amish community).

Horse Progress Days bills itself as “the showcase event for newly manufactured and modified horse drawn equipment”. This annual event started in 1994 in Lancaster County and rotates among locations including Leola, Pennsylvania, Arthur, Illinois, Mt. Hope, Ohio, Clare, Michigan, southern and northern Indiana, and Arthur, Illinois (here’s more on the history of the event). Previous editions have seen upwards of 20,000 attend the gathering.

If you thought there was nothing new to be seen in horse-drawn equipment, think again.

Last summer I visited friends at Pioneer Equipment in Wayne County, Ohio (you can partially see their sign in one of the photos below).  They showed off a couple of new items they had developed, including an adaptable, family-friendly people hauler design. They are constantly innovating and testing new products to serve their large market, as are other horse-drawn equipment makers, such as White Horse Machine in Lancaster County (another of the large ones).

Horse Progress Days is a chance to see field demonstrations, attend seminars, and even go on a bus tour of local Amish businesses.  Thousands attend Horse Progress Days, though from what another reader tells me, the Pennsylvania event is a lot bigger than the Michigan one.

Photo by David Arment

The mission statement of Horse Progress Days is “To encourage and promote the combination of animal power and the latest equipment innovations in an effort to support small scale farming and land stewardship. To show Draft Animal Power is possible, practical, and profitable.”

Photo by David Arment

David Arment gave us a look at the 2016 edition held in northern Indiana which you can see here. David had this description of the wide array of sights to be seen:

It is hard not to characterize the event as “carnival like”, but in the subdued and respectful manner that Amish events seem to enjoy. The food vendors, (with my perpetual favorite being the kettle corn), the demonstrations of everything from tomato growing to exotic animals (camels, lamas and the like) and oxen and donkeys in teams making what appeared to be random appearances on the grounds, all contributed to the feeling of discovery and expectation… What might I see next?

Horse Progress Days organizer Dale K. Stoltzfus elaborates on one of the pluses of horse farming:

Horse farming, by nature, is on the smaller side. One person farming large numbers of acres with horses is not practical. Small farms managed for peak performance support good land stewardship. Production per acre is generally much higher on small, intensely managed farms than on mega farms. Horse farms have the added benefit of horse manure to replenish nutrients taken from the soil when crops are harvested. Small scale farming supports the local community since it may take 10 farmers to farm 1000 acres of land rather than one. Imagine what this kind of farming will do for rural communities as horse farming becomes more commonplace again.

Photo by David Arment

Michigan Mary previously shared with us about the 2012 event, also held at Clare. A few of her photos:

Water Fountain Horse Show

Amish Horse Show

Amish Horse Whip

Mary has a lot of really nice shots here which I hope you enjoy.

Has anyone else attended a Horse Progress Days event?  Looks like a lot of fun, even if you’re not a “horse person”.

Amish Horse Exhibition

Horse Progress Days Clare Michigan

Horse Progress Days Orange Wagon

Horse Progress Days

Amish Horse Show

Horse Progress Days Pioneer Equipment

Amish Horse Drawn Equipment

Horse Progress Days Three Horses

Amish Horse Sled

Horse Progress Days Michigan

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    37 Comments

    1. Great job Mary with these pictures and I have a feeling that many non-Amish attend these Horse Progress Days as well. Kind of reminds me of a car show except its for horses! Richard http://www.Amishstories.net

    2. I was thinking the same thing as Richard – an Amish car show! GREAT pictures ~ that’s something I’ve never seen or heard of. I love the orange cart with the little ponies.

    3. Michigan Mary

      2013 and 2014

      In 2013, the HPD will be in Arthur, Ill, and in 2014 it will be in Mount Hope, Ohio. It really is worth attending one just to see the variety of activities and the breeds of horses in use. The “power ponies” are something else all together! We spent all day Friday (7 a.m. to 9 p.m.) at the event and were never bored – not once. The really interesting thing about HPD is that because it is held in a different place each year, the local committee does all of the planning (with limited oversight from a national board of directors) and therefore, the event takes on the flavor of the area in which it is held. This pratically guarantees that no two years are the same in terms of events, schedules, vendors, attractions, etc. For example, this year they had a great pony/cart parade to start the day; a kid’s playscape area; a women’s activity tent; etc. It is so worth the travel, time and money to go to this event.

      1. Brenda Kuntz

        Golf Carts for Rent

        We are wondering if there are any golf carts for rent at the Horse Progress Days July 5-6,2013? A family member would like to attend but is recovering from a broken leg and cannot walk too far yet especially on uneven ground.

    4. Michigan Mary

      Another Thought

      Because it is such an Amish-centeric event, it drew Amish and Mennonite from many states and communities which meant that there was a very wide array of dress for the attendees. It was very easy to pick out the folks from Pennsylvania – but after that it got a little more difficult to assess where individuals were from – and it was most difficult with the men. The hats, the prayer kapps, the dresses, the suspenders, etc. were all little clues as to what community folks hailed from, but we weren’t sure on a good many of them.

      1. OldKat

        Thanks for the pics!

        Michigan Mary: What percentage of the crowd would you say were Amish versus the non-Amish? I’d always got the impression that the non-Amish were the majority in attendance, but maybe I was misreading that.

        In picture eight, third from the bottom the two Percherons on the left (as you look at the picture) could easily pass for my two girls. The one on the far right, as they are hitched, even looks to be summer bleached like my “Maggie” mare gets. The one in the middle has a face, head and even a star, from what I can see of it, like my “Rachel” mare. Their front profile is strikingly similar to my team.

        I hope to make it up to HPD in the next year or so. A little bit out of my normal range though, so it will not be an annual deal for me.

        Thanks again for posting this. Looks like everyone was having a good time.

    5. Thank-you Michigan Mary for the info. My husband is a huge fan of draft horses or working horses and I am so interested of the Mennonite and Amish culture we can’t wait for the Horse Progress Show in 2013 in Arthur, IL. Sounds and looks like a great event.

      Will ask for more info in 2013.

    6. Carolyn B

      Photo #9

      Photo #9 is my favorite as the orange/red wagon looks low enough to be ramped for a wheelchair to mount. I’m just wondering how many miniature horses I’d need to pull it because I certainly couldn’t see over a regular horse’s south end. Or maybe I could rig up a hand-bike contraption to pull it myself. Thanks for letting me indulge my silliness. 😀

      Seriously, what is this wagon actually used for, please?

      Thank you so much for sharing these photos with us, Michigan Mary. Erik, I’m glad you told us there are more to come.

    7. Michigan Mary

      Work Sled

      Carolyn, if I remember correctly, they called it a “Work Sled” or a “Load Sled”. It is just a sled that is used to move needed equipment or materials (bags of fertilizer, seed, etc.) from the barnyard out to where they are working in the fields. Or, it could be used to haul manure out of the barns and then it is pitch-forked out on the fields that are to be turned over at a later date. Our OOA friends in Ohio have a neighbor that is wheelchair bound and has created a “vehicle” that is a golf-cart front end with a drive-up ramp on the back end. He rides his wheelchair up the ramp and then drives his cart wherever he needs to go. If you would be interested, I could ask him if he would allow me photograph it for you?

      1. Carolyn B

        Re: Friend's Cart -- photograph

        Michigan Mary, I thank you for your offer to ask this friend for a photograph of his vehicle. I would love to see it. Even if it’s not the conventional Amish conveyance, I think it will still be neat.

        Erik will probably be grateful to you as well as I frequently pester him re: the lives of wheelchair-using Amish.

        I look forward to this photo. Please tell this friend of my gratitude too. 🙂

        1. Would love to share that photo if Mary gets ahold of one Carolyn. Here’s a photo of another sled in action in Ohio:

          https://amishamerica.com/summer-sled/

    8. Michigan Mary

      Picture #4

      In case y’all didn’t look close enough, picture #4 is a 12 horse hitch – 3 rows of 4 horses each. It is pulling a 4-bottom plow. It was the largest team at the show and the only 4 blade plow on the property. It was awesome to see them coming across the field!

    9. Michigan Mary

      Informal Horse Pull

      At the end of the day on Friday, they had an informal horse pull. Photos # 5 & #10 are from the horse pull. #5 is the sled being pulled by a team. #10 is a photo of one of the cement weight blocks that they put on the sled. This block weighed in at 500 lbs. The pull contest started out at 2000 pounds and 23 teams of horses. By the end, they had put enough of the 500 pound blocks on the sled to get it up to 4750 pounds and only 2 teams left. They took a draw rather than add 250 more pounds (smaller blocks that they brought out at the end of the contest). 4750 is a lot of weight for non-professional teams to be pulling – it was a great time! Even though it got to be 9 p.m., no one left until it was over and a draw was declared!

      1. Crowd Pleaser

        Thank you for the coverage MM. Although I traveled to Clare during the event timeline, we were hauling sheep and couldn’t stop (hot day). However, in talking to an Amish friend, he said one of the highlights was the “auctioneer contest”, with the young men. Sounds like the entire event was jam-packed with fun for all. Our horse is in training for pulling/draft work, so it would have been awesome to attend. Next time, when it comes to Michigan again…:)

        1. Michigan Mary

          HPD IN MICHIGAN

          CP – the next time HPD will be in Michigan is 2018. Here is the schedule for the next 6 years:
          2013 Illinois (Arthur, from what I hear – but not for sure)
          2014 Mount Hope, Ohio
          2015 Southern Indiana
          2016 Northern Indiana (usually Topeka)
          2017 Pennsylvania (usually near Lancaster)
          2018 Michigan

    10. Alice Mary

      Horsepower!

      What awesome photos! And how interesting that Horse Progress Days 2013 will be in my home state…maybe I should book lodging now, if possible! It’s good to know there still IS “horse progress” in this day and age!

      I always loved horses, even though I was a city girl. The “rag man” and a few fruit & vegetable vendors used to traverse my Chicago neighborhood when I was a child, and I always was awed and very interested in the horses…they were so big! I loved their manes and tails and wanted to take care of them. Mom would scoop up their manure to spread on her garden. We never owned a car, but I wanted us to own a horse (not possible, Dad told me. I was crushed!)

      I look forward to the other photos!

      Alice Mary

    11. Michigan Mary

      To get the most/best info on the event, check out the site:

      http://www.horseprogressdays.com/welcome.asp

      Review each page and click on any available links to see additional info.

    12. Michigan Mary

      HPD VIDEO

      On the website below, there is a video of the HPD that was held in 2011 in Lancaster, PA. The almost 6 minute video features alot of great images and info about HPD.

      http://regenerativeroots.com/tillers-teamsters/

      Enjoy!

    13. Yoder

      Horse Progress Days

      Thank you, Michigan Mary and Erik, for the photos and information. It seems there are very few online articles about this event demonstrating modern farming practices. GRIT mentions the snap of leather and the jingling of harness in the article “Horse Progress Days Features Horse-Drawn Equipment and More”

      Read more: http://www.grit.com/animals/horses/horse-progress-days-zmgz12mjzreg.aspx#ixzz1zauN2Izq

      You might enjoy the photo gallery from 2010 in Indiana at http://www.horseprogressdays.com/photo-gallery.asp

      There are a few pictures from Pennsylvania at http://smallfarmersjournal.com/horse-progress-days.

      This site or forum has 52 photos from 2012 of which 4 are videos: http://forum.horse.com/tm.aspx?high=&m=32021&mpage=1#32021

      Several videos from 2012 are on You Tube:
      -a 12 horse team of Belgians, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqO8Jjg9NxU&feature=relmfu

      -baling hay, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5S0d0qFT_o

      1. Amy Jo

        Yoder, thanks for the links – there is some really good information, beautiful pictures, and entertainment to boot! and… GRIT and MOTHER EARTH NEWS – who knew… what goes around comes around.

    14. Valerie

      Thank you!

      Thank you Michigan Mary & Erik, GREAT topic and photos. We went to the one in Mount Hope OH, I think it was 3 years ago. I didn’t realize they rotated in other states so that explains why I couldn’t find it publicized again in Mt. Hope. We too, had such a great great day-was amazing. Ours had tree cutting deomonstrations and also, you could learn to be behind the reigns of a pony cart which was a blast for me who had never done such a thing. The farm equipment pulled by 12 horses (if I remember right) was astounding to watch. I’d say one of the highlights ever of our Amish area so if you can get to one of these, TRY!
      And it is fun to try to distinguish the many Anabaptists groups by their distinctive clothing-and I agree, Pennsylvania for me, are the easiest to determine by clothing.

    15. yonie wondernose

      I was at the one in Lancaster

      1. Michigan Mary

        HPD IN LANCASTER

        Yonie, tell us more about the one in Lancaster. I have heard that the Mount Hope, Ohio, one is the largest, Lancaster second, Northern Indiana 3rd; Arthur, ILL 4th; and southern Indiana and Michigan are pretty close as the smallest. That being said, there were far more Amish and Mennonite at the Clare, MI, event than there were English… probably 3 to 1, I’d say. Overall, there must have been 5000 people there.

    16. Joanne C.

      Are the dates for the Horse Progress show in Arthur, Il., set yet? Erik: If not, can you let us know ASAP about the dates? There is only one 12 room motel in Arthur but more scattered around the area. I would think they would fill up fast once the date is announced. Thanks

      1. Marcus Yoder

        There are 4 motels in Arcola, which is just east of Arthur about 8 miles. Tuscola has several motels but is a little further. It is north,and east of Arthur.
        Marcus Yoder

      2. Horse Progress Days 2013 - Arcola/Arthur, Illinois

        Joanne the dates are already set. Horse Progress Days will be held July 5-6 in the area of Arcola, Illinois (the town on the east side of the Arthur Amish settlement), at the Vernon J. Yoder farm, a couple miles outside of town. You’ve got some info on location and other items at this website: http://horseprogressdays.com/

        As to lodging Marcus is right, Tuscola is a larger town not too far off. Arcola is right off the interstate so may be some other motels north or south from the exit. You’ve also got the much larger towns of Mattoon and Charleston about 20 min away.

    17. Karen Dewey

      Hpd

      Hi
      There is a group of us from England who would love to come over for the horse progress days, where can I find out more information about it please
      Many thanks
      Karen

    18. Karen Dewey

      Also , is there anything else in the area that might be of interest to us ?

    19. Alice Mary

      Karen, here’s a link I found to the 2013 Horse progress Days in Arcola, IL (near the Amish settlment in Arthur):
      http://horseprogressdays.com/schedule.asp

      How wonderful that your group will be visiting my state! If I ever make it down there (Arthur/Arcola) during the event, I’d hope to run into you and say “hello”! I hope you’ll let us know (via this blog) what your impressions were (and perhaps, share some photos?). I’m sure a lot of us here would love to hear from you (and the Amish call US “English”!)

      Alice Mary

    20. Linda

      It’s time for the Horse Progress Days in Arthur, Illinois! Here’s an article about it:
      http://www.news-gazette.com/living/2013-07-04/horse-progress-absolutely-%E2%80%94-just-ask-amish.html

      1. Erik Wesner

        I was about to go, but the van got full. Maybe it’s just as well…the van leaves in less than 3 hours (2 AM).

    21. OldKat

      2014 Horse Progress Days

      21st Annual Horse Progress Days July 4th & 5th Mt. Hope, Ohio.

      Thursday July 3rd: Manufacturers & Farms Tour. Friday July 4th & Saturday July 5th: HPD, see schedule;

      http://www.horseprogressdays.com/welcome.asp

      I had said in the comments to the original thread, above, that I would be going to HPD in the next few years or so. Still haven’t made it up there, yet. I did find out, however, that there are a couple of guys in the teacher education department at my alma mater that are interested in draft animals. One of them has attended nearly every HPD, and I plan to go with him in July of 2015 to southern Indiana for HPD #22.

      I also found out that he will be speaking about draft animal motive power at this year’s event. If anyone is going this year, let me know and I will get his name to you so that you can be sure to attend his presentation. Haven’t met him in person, but have talked with him on the phone and he seems like a darn nice person.

      1. Great to hear you’ll make it in 2015 Oldkat. Southern Indiana sounds like it might be Daviess County. That’d be a nice location.

        I hope we’ll hear from anyone who makes it this year as well.

    22. Michigan Mary

      Mt Hope 2014

      Erik, longtime, no write! LOL…. Darrell and I will be going to HPD this year. I’ll be sure to send you photos from the weekend.

      1. OldKat

        I'm NOT Erik ...

        but I think that is a FANTASTIC idea. Please do post HPD photos, that would be very nice of you.

        I am so looking forward to HPD 2015. The bride and I are going to pack up the wiener dog, some clothes, an ice chest and head up to Indiana for HPD. Then we plan to tour the two RV manufacturers that we have narrowed it down to, as far as which 5th wheeler we intend to purchase. Two birds with one stone sort of deal …

      2. Horse Progress photos

        I agree with Oldkat, looking forward to them. Have a fun time and say hello to L.M. for me 🙂

        1. Michigan Mary

          HPD 2014

          Erik/OldKat, thanks for the votes of confidence! We are looking forward to being there and I will try to do you proud!