by James Rada, Jr., photography by Amy McIntyre Devilbiss
Hanover is known for its snack foods, but in the horse racing industry, it is also known for being the home of champions.
“We are the leading breeder of any Standardbred horse in the world,” said James Simpson, president of Hanover Shoe Farms.
Standardbred horses are the breed of horse used in harness racing. Instead of riding atop the horse, a driver is pulled around the course in a two-wheeled cart called a sulky.
Hanover Shoe Stables was originally founded in the early 20th century by Harper D. Sheppard and Clinton N. Myers, who owned the Hanover Shoe Company.
“It helped promote the shoes,” Simpson said. “Horses were like stock cars today.”
Lawrence Sheppard, Harper’s son, started managing the stable in 1922. He purchased 69 horses in 1926 and began breeding them, turning Hanover Shoe Stable into a breeding farm for Standardbred horses.
“We only breed horses now,” Simpson said. “We don’t race because we don’t want to be racing against our buyers.”
The Kentucky Harness Horse Magazine has called Hanover Shoe Farm “one of the largest and most prominent horse nurseries in the world.”
Simpson watches the harness races for promising horses. When he finds one, he will approach the owner to see if he or she wants to syndicate the horse. Syndicating a horse means selling shares (usually 120) of the horse to other breeders. One share means that the stallion can be bred with one mare each year. As the hosting farm, Hanover Shoe Farm gets 15 shares. The horses are bred through artificial insemination.
The farm is home to hundreds of stallions, yearlings and broodmares. Each year, around 400 foals are born. The 3,000-acre farm also has 240 miles of fence, 200 buildings and employs 90 people.
- Hanover Shoe Farm will celebrate its 90th anniversary in 2016.
- Hanover Shoe Farm’s most-successful stallion, according to Simpson, was Albatross. The stallion had more than 2,600 offspring, is known all over North America and is in all of the pedigrees.
- Hanover Shoe Farm set the all-time breeder earnings record regardless of breed with $21,372,418 in annual progeny earnings in 2001.
- Besides being president of Hanover Shoe Farm, Lawrence Sheppard served as the president of the United States Trotting Association from 1950–1958, honorary life president, first chairman of the Pennsylvania Racing Commission, an amateur driver and founder the Hall of Fame of the Trotter.
- Hanover Shoe Farms has spent more than $16 million in the past decade on mare purchases.
- Harness racing horses race at a specific gait (a trot or a pace).
- The Triple Crown of Harness Racing for trotters is made up of the Hambletonian at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey; the Yonkers Trot at Yonkers Raceway in Yonkers, New York; and the Kentucky Futurity at The Red Mile in Lexington, Kentucky.
- Since the United States Trotting Association began compiling breeders’ statistics, Hanover Shoe Farms has led the annual money-earnings totals every year.
- Hanover Shoe Farm sires have produced many winners of harness racing’s most prestigious events, such as the Hambletonian, Kentucky Futurity, Little Brown Jug and Breeders Crown.