Curt Wilder’s family has been showing draft horses at the Northwest Washington Fair for 49 years, making Valley View Percherons the longest-running hitch at the fair.
“My sister and I were, as they say, born on the horse and we’re still doing it” said Wilder, who started competing at age 12 at the Calgary Stampede. “It’s a lot of work. We all work off the farm besides working with the horses. It takes a family operation to make this go.”
All the hitches at the Northwest Washington Fair are family-owned, said Charla Wilder, Curt’s mother, who started Valley View Percherons with her husband, Willard. Now, she sees her grandchildren and great-grandchildren continuing the tradition.
“We need more people in it to keep it going, otherwise the draft horses are going to eventually fade away,” Charla Wilder said.
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Handling a team of huge horses is not as easy as it looks during the daily shows at the fair. Originally developed to carry French knights into battle, adult Percherons weigh about 2,000 pounds each.
“It’s a lot of practice to get to be able to drive a set,” Curt Wilder said. “You just can’t get up on the seat and put the lines in your hands and start driving. It takes a lot of years of practice.”
After the fair in Lynden, the team will be shown at the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe and then spend nearly four weeks at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup.