Horse celebrates 30 years at fair
“Simmie is an amazing driving pony and has been a favorite of fair goers for 30 years. ” — Pam Hess, who owns Simmie with her husband
Simmie may not be competing at The Great Geauga County Fair this year, but he will still be the center of attention.
This is the Haflinger’s 30th consecutive year showing at the fair. A Haflinger is a smaller breed of horse that is often the size of a pony.
Simmie was born in 1986, and Curtis Hess purchased him in 1987, when he was first showcased at the fair as a yearling.
Curtis’s wife Pam, who is the dean of equine studies at Lake Erie College, said he is a legend at the fair.
“Simmie is an amazing driving pony and has been a favorite of fair goers for 30 years,” she said. “Last year, we officially retired Simmie and it was his
last year showing in hitch classes, but he will come to fair this year to greet fair goers and enjoy the fair from his box stall at the front of our pony tent.”
He has shown in all of the hitch classes including single cart, tandem, team, unicorn, four-pony hitch and six-pony hitch. He was also talented in the Team Obstacle class and won many ribbons, Pam said.
“This horse doesn’t owe us a day,” she said. “There aren’t many 30-year-old horses around. People always ask me because I’m a veterinarian, how long horses should live? I tell them that ‘I expect horses to live to be 20’. Anything after 25 is a gift. He really has been very healthy. I can’t remember him ever having a cold or anything.”
Curtis and Pam said Simmie is still energetic and loves being petted.
The 195th annual Great Geauga County Fair opens Aug. 31 at the Geauga Fairgrounds, 14373 N. Cheshire St. in Burton Township.
The Hess family submitted over 30 driving entries and will showcase many of their horses.
Driving horses can be dangerous and requires much skill.
“In driving a horse, a horse has to be perhaps even more responsive than even riding a horse. When you’re riding a horse, you have your feet and legs to influence and direct the horse,” she said. “When you’re driving, you’re way back in the cart or carriage, so the only way you can communicate with the horse is through your reins in your hands, your voice and you carry a whip, which is used not to spank the horse but to gently direct them. Those are called the three aids of driving. You also need good horses that are sensible and safe.”
In addition to driving horses, Curtis even designs and builds the carriages.
“He makes show wagons and single carts,” Pam said. “Actually he made the wagon and two carts that we will be showing at fair.”
Exhibiting animals at the fair is a great way to educate the public.
“Everyone comes up and ask all kinds of questions,” Curtis said. “A lot of people don’t know much about horses.”
The pony tent gives Curtis and Pam an opportunity to answer questions and share information about a topic that they are both very passionate about.
While they will continue to compete and show horses, they said this will most likely be Simmie’s last year coming to the fair.
Lake Erie College School of Equine Studies Dean Pam Hess interacts with pet horse Simmie on Aug. 28 in Claridon Township. This is Simmie’s 30th consecutive year showing at the Great Geauga County Fair. More on the fair on Page 3.