A Vermont breed competes as food-shortage looms - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

A Vermont breed competes as food-shortage looms

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Vermont breeders first created the Morgan Horse during the 19th century as the all-purpose animal. At an annual show in Tunbridge exclusively dedicated to the breed, riders are battling humidity and a shortage of horse feed.

The Heritage Days Morgan Horse Show is just another day in the saddle for 19-year-old Abby Bemis and the Lippitt Morgan Drill Team. The team dates back to 2010, but this celebration of the Vermont breed's history is a much longer tradition for Abby and her family.

Bemis said her grandmother breeds Morgans and she began riding at the age of five. She never misses the Heritage Days show, now in its 23rd year. "Every Fourth of July weekend we come," said Bemis.

About 90 horses and more riders are expected to perform at this year's Heritage Days. "Morgans were bred to be a versatile horse," said show organizer Nancy Harvey. "They could work in the field, they could pull the logs, plow the fields and then they could take the family to church in the Sunday carriage."

She said staging a variety of events, which began Friday and run through Sunday, will allow horses and riders to show off that range.

Friday's events briefly paused to allow a thunderstorm to pass and Harvey says the town is keeping them updated on forecasts. "You know, it's not snowing," she said.

"It's so hot, it's miserable," said Bemis of the weather. "The horses actually don't do too bad." She said the horses are cooled with fans and get plenty of water.

However, excessive rains are dampening horses' food supply. Recent record levels of rain are preventing farmers from harvesting hay. "We haven't heard from our supplier yet, if we're going to get any or not," said Bemis. "So, pretty much a lot of people have been buying it from others who have extra in their hay barns."

Bemis' family owns six horses. With about 30 bales remaining, they currently only have enough for the next 20 days before they'll need to find more.

Steve Davis with UVM's program say they're well-stocked and will be able sell more surplus once soggy fields dry out. But for now, the focus remains on the reins and the rain.

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