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No Horsing Around, a Look Inside State Fair Horse Barn

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Horse Barn is over 100 years old and that makes it one of the longest standing buildings at the Iowa State Fair. There are over 800 horses in the barn during the fair. There are currently 272 horses in stalls.

"They are pretty darn smart animals," said Pauline Hesson, Horse Barn Superintendent. "We got Shires, Belgiums, Percherons and Clydesdales."

Hesson has been the superintendent for the barn for the past five years but involved there for over 20.

"This is where we all end up," said Hesson. "Anyone involved with horses always ends in the fair circuit and we love it."

Hesson says a lot of the horses come from within the state but a fair amount travel a long way to compete.

"We got 'em coming from all over," said Hesson. "Some are coming as far west as Idaho. As far east as Maine, north into Manitoba, Canada."

The horses are the main attraction but she keeps coming back for the people.

"The draft horse community is like a big family. That community comes together and helps. That is nice to see," said Hesson.

The hours here at the barn can be long but that is when the relationships are built.

"We stay up late shooting the breeze. Even if you are not showing you'll end up here at the office anyways," says Hesson.

The day starts early for the exhibitors as most are up before the sun.

"They are like people, they get hungry in the morning," said Hesson.

"When she gets hungry she will beat on the stall. She will let us know when she needs a drink," said Terry McElhinney, Hastings Clysdales.

McElhinney tends to Mirage, a five-year-old Clydesdale mare, early Thursday morning.

"She is a very gentle horse to be around. They get used to being messed with. She is used to being pet so we put her in the end stall," said McElhinney.

After she gets fed, the next thing they do is walk her for exercise.

Mirage weighs around 1,800 pounds and she is in good shape for her competition Thursday evening.

"She has pretty good action. Good head movement," says McElhinney.

If you would like to see Mirage compete, you can head to the Jacobson Building at 6 p.m. Thursday.