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Written by BILL RYAN Sentinel Farm Editor   
Tuesday, 13 November 2012 10:21
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Ross and Nicole Honsberger drive a six-horse draft hitch team of Percheron horses in a demonstration for a crowd of onlookers. (Photo: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
WAYNE - There are numerous world-class athletes living in Wood County - but they are not human.
Cherie and Nick Wagner operate All-Star Farms in rural Wayne, which is home to championship Percheron draft horses.
The majestic animals have earned wide acclaim and are likely better known in horse circles than they are to neighbors. The most recent honor was a second-place finish for the six-horse hitch in the North American Six-Horse Hitch Classic Series event held in September at the Oklahoma State Fair. The event is recognized as the most prestigious draft horse event in North America, perhaps the world.
It is an invitational contest for the top four draft horse teams in each of three breed classifications - Percheron, Clydesdale and Belgians. Points are accumulated over the season in 60 events across the continent with only those 12 elite teams invited. Each team competes three nights before three different judges. The placements are added together to achieve the winner. The All Star Farms team ranked first on the scorecard for each of the first two events; however, one of the mares on their team threw a shoe on the third night, so that judge ranked them sixth and they finished two points behind the champion team from Minnesota.
All Star Farms competes in a variety of events with the horses, ranging from single horses with a cart up to and including an eight-horse hitch.
"The six-horse hitch is the most sought after prize," said Cherie Wagner. "That's the premiere event."
Their showing is more impressive because they use only mares. The male horses are larger and stronger. All hitches compete on the same playing field in the Classic.
All-Star Farms has produced three national champions which were born and raised in Wayne.
As part of the annual convention for the Percheron Horse Association of America, All-Star Farms recently showcased their animals at a tour stop. The Ohio Percheron association hosted the national convention at Maumee Bay State Park, with the farm showcased Oct. 27.
Hosting visitors is nothing new for the Wagners, who have welcomed visitors from Germany, Australia as well as others from across the United States and Canada.
They do not manage the stable alone as they are partners with Ross and Nicole Honsberger, of Bellevue, Mich. Ross is originally from Elmore and worked for All Star Farms for two summers prior to joining forces in the operation. Some horses are stabled in Michigan.
In addition to having two horses named as "premiere sire" for North America, with "Rocket" earning the honor in 2010, and Rocket's offspring, "Flash" tying with him for the honor in 2011, the farm has also earned four national championships for the six-mare hitch; and two world championships for eight-horse hitch in an Olympic-type event held every four years.
The Wagners and their four children have also earned countless honors including world championships in youth classes and top state and national events.
"Some people spend their lifetime, trying to capture one national champion," Cherie said. "We are a family-run operation that is able to compete at this top level."
The Wayne couple feels very blessed to have connected with Honsberger who generally drives the hitch, and also works and trains the horses.
Blessed is a key word for the Wagners as they give all the credit for their success to God.
"Only God puts you in these places. We are blessed with the right horses and the right people," Nick said. "We make sure we give the credit where the credit is due."
The group travels to numerous shows each year across the United States and Canada.
"You wouldn't believe the tremendous job it is to load and unload the trailers," he said. "It takes five hours for a team of five to unload."
They also breed horses and use sophisticated technology to handle genetics and transfer embryos.
Vanessa Wagner, an Elmwood High School graduate attending University of Pennsylvania, was given an embryo from her parents and Honsberger for her help. The resulting Percheron, named "College Cash," became the highest selling offspring from the farm at $44,000.
Vanessa's older brother, Travis, is a student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Youngest daughter Miranda is a senior; while Matthew is a sophomore, both at Elmwood.
Both Cherie (Aufdencamp) and Nick are also Elmwood graduates.
They stable anywhere from 35 to 55 horses at any given time. Some become show mares, while others are used for breeding.
"Each one has their own personality. We can definitely tell them apart just by looking at them," Nick said.
Certain personalities and mental attitude make them quality horses for the hitch.
"They have to want to do it," he said.
The end result is All Star Farms continues to breed success.

All-Star Farms Percherons by the numbers
6,000 - miles traveled with horses to shows in 2012
3,600 - weight of wagon pulled by the horses
1,700 to 2,100 - weight in pounds of each Percheron in hitch, lightest ones lead the hitch
150 - pounds carried by each horse in the hitch for harness, collar, bridle and decorations
17 to 18.2 - hands in height for each Percheron (one hand equals four inches, so the tallest horses are more than 6-feet tall)
5 - hours for a crew of five to unload trailers for a show
1 - championship operation
Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 November 2012 13:46
 

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