Young Living draft horse hitch settles in Chatfield for the summer

Brynn Sparrow sits atop a Percheron that's part of the Young Living show team as her father, Tim Sparrow, holds her up. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
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“Lead,” “swing” and “wheel.”

Words positively essential to Tim and Brittany Sparrow.

“The wheel team is the biggest, the swing team is in the center because they’re the most even-tempered, and the lead team is animated and athletic to catch the judges’ eye,” explained Brittany, standing back as her husband, Tim, drove a sky-high team of six shining, coal-black Percherons around the practice loop at her parents’ rural Chatfield farm in early August, preparing them for show at state fairs and draft horse hitch competitions.

Lots of people can have draft horses. Lots of people can show them in draft horse hitch competitions. But not many can be at the reins of a show hitch belonging to a worldwide company.

Brittany grew up alongside sturdy Belgians and various breeds of riding horses on the family farm, Tracy Hanson Horse Company, just off County Road 5, and that’s where she and Tim stabled the Young Living Essential Oils Percheron Draft Horse Show Hitch this summer.

The team belongs to the Young Living Essential Oils Company and the team is being prepared to show at events such as the Indiana and Iowa state fairs. She elaborated that she, Tim and their two children, Rylen, six, and Brynn, two, live on a Young Living lavender, goldenrod and sage farm just outside Mona, Utah, and are entrusted with the care of the show hitch.

“Our farm is one of 13 farms globally, and we are based in Mona, Utah. The farm has Percherons and Andalusians. We have two hitches — this is our show hitch, and we compete with it all over North America,” she said. “There’s a team that the company uses to log out with, and this team is basically the equine ambassadors to Young Living.”

A short biography on the Young Living site outlined how the Young Living essential oils company was founded, citing, “Our community of wellness started small in 1993, when Young Living founder and chairman of the board D. Gary Young and co-founder and CEO Mary Young developed their first organic herb farming and distillation operation. At the time, Gary had already discovered the incredible power of essential oils, but because the quality of available oils varied so greatly, he’d been unable to fully harness their potential. Mary’s previous experience in the direct selling industry enabled the Youngs to fulfill their vision and establish…Young Living Essential Oils in 1994. After establishing Young Living in 1994, the Youngs developed more farmland in Utah and Idaho and began cultivating lavender, peppermint, melissa, clary sage and many other herbs…headquartered in Lehi, Utah, with offices around the world as well as 16 corporate and partner farms around the world.”

The Sparrows spent three days traveling from the Young Living Whispering Springs farm in Utah to Chatfield, stopping the two semis long enough to allow the horses to rest from the miles of counterbalancing the bumps and hills, and arriving at the Hanson farm on Memorial Day weekend as the beginning of a tour of competitions and state fairs taking place throughout this summer.

Brittany cited, “We travel with two 53-foot semis, one devoted just to the horses and one just for the equipment. There are certain layover spots just for horses – they have to counterbalance as we’re traveling, so we take frequent breaks. It roughly takes us three days to get from Utah back to Minnesota. We have ten to 12 competitions a year all over, and the biggest thing we compete in is the North American Classic, a six-horse hitch competition. There are roughly 200 hitches competing in the North American Classic, and only 12 out of those roughly 200 make to the finals in Oklahoma City, Okla. It’s the Super Bowl of our industry, and then there’s the World Percheron Congress every four years. That’s basically the Olympics of our industry, with show and breeding programs, but the bulk of the shows are back here, and that’s why we came back to the Midwest. We have a show hitch and a breeding program as well as exhibitions. Jason and Rose Goodman manage the exhibitions — he’ll put the horses in a dead run, and to see horses with that mass and power shows the athletic ability of Percherons. Gary was very passionate about quality.”

“Quality” encompasses breeding the muscled, 2,500-plus-pound horses and training them to work as a team in their respective places in the hitch. As Tim, fellow driver Ivan Nisley, Beth Marshman, youth driver Bailey Riemer and Spring Valley resident Heather Apenhorst worked the horses in the training loop, Brittany outlined what judges look for as they’re watching a draft hitch in competition.

“When you look across the ring from the side, you want to see one horse, and as a unit, you want to see them equally-spaced and carrying their part of the load,” she said. “Synchronization is very key, as is finding the position they like. They’re tried in different order, especially the younger ones. They’re tried in different positions, and we may change that.”

Winning ribbons and trophies for Young Living’s collection is exciting, but, she noted, “It’s more important than ribbons for us. The horses are the ambassadors, and they let people know about agriculture.”

The reasons the Sparrows have chosen to spend their lives working and showing the Young Living hitch lie in the company’s commitment to family farming. Wherever Tim goes while on the Hanson farm, Rylen’s not far behind, following with his own farrier’s box and trying to figure out what he can do to learn how to do what his father has known since he was the same age.

Brittany stated, “We see a lot of family farms and opportunities to work for corporations, but it’s still our families involved.”

The family has roots-deep equine experience, and not just with little ponies like Rylen’s Petey — the Percheron hitch’s horses have hooves as big as dinner platters.

Brittany observed, “It’s great to see animals that big around kids. Our kids travel with us all the time. That’s where these horses get the nickname of being ‘gentle giants.’ Our kiddos are actually seventh generation in horses. Tim’s grandfather drove the 40-horse hitch. He had worked for 12 and a half years for the Ames Construction hitch. The draft horse industry was a small industry, but when Gary and Mary were looking to make a change, they called Tim based on his reputation and experience. This is a big hitch team, and that takes a lot of teamwork. Everybody’s recognized, whether they clean stalls or are the person up on the wagon seat.”

Pulling Brynn down off the back of one of the horses after letting her sit up high on the “pony” for a minute while holding his hand, Tim related, “I drove my first team when I was six years old.”

His biography in the Young Living hitch’s brochure shares, “Tim Sparrow, driver of the Young Living Percheron Draft Horse Show Hitch, was born into a draft horse family. As a sixth-generation teamster, he grew up surrounded by great horses and great horsemen. It was this multigenerational background that fueled his passion to one day take the lines. Early on, Tim played an integral role in the training, fitting, and showing of his family Belgian draft horses. In addition to competitions, he also stood alongside his grandfather and father as they campaigned both the Coors Brewery Hitch and the renowned 40-Horse Hitch. Building on his family’s legacy, Tim began professionally training and shoeing at the age of 18 in central Minnesota. There, he would go on to assist with winning numerous titles, including two-time North American Six-Horse Hitch Classic Series Champion and Best Shod Hitch. The North American Six-Horse Hitch Classic Series is considered the most prestigious draft horse event on the continent.”

The Sparrows’ 2018 Young Living hitch show circuit began on Memorial Day with the Indianapolis 500 parade, then on to a show in Brookings, S.D., after which they went to Shipshewana, Ind., and came back to the Scott County Fair in Jordan, Minn., then put down stakes in Chatfield until the Iowa and Indiana state fairs.

Brittany highlighted that after that, the couple’s hope was to plan for Oklahoma City. “If our points hold, then we’re going to Oklahoma City for the finals, and in the fall, at our farm, we have a festival with a draft horse show. That’s always the last weekend of September, and we have a show, two rodeos, two concerts, jousting — we have Percherons and Friesians — and the whole farm ground decked out so kids and families can come and learn about draft horses and agriculture,” she said. “That’s September 28 through September 30 this year, and we also have an Easter extravaganza, a country Christmas and retreats. The farm is really a big part of the community — we’ve done several local rodeos and parades — and it’s an honor to work for the company. The values…and working hard, having a goal for the kids. No matter what we choose, we spend our whole life working together every day.”

Brittany concluded that while she at one time questioned why she’d want to move to Utah, there’s no place like home, and that’s wherever the Percherons and her family are on tour…but one of the best places is when they’ve chosen to hunker down in the hay on the Hanson home farm.

“We’ve gotten used to being here this summer, and we plan to be back next summer. This is definitely going to be an annual tour,” she said.

For more information on the Young Living draft horse hitch, log onto Facebook by searching for “Young Living Percherons Mona, Utah.”