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Adams County Pa. Related Historical Articles

Hanover Shoe Farms

John Fuss

Hanover Shoe Farms, the largest and most successful Standardbred horse nursery in the world, is headquartered in Adams County on Rt. 194 between Hanover and Littlestown. Standardbred racehorses pull a sulky with a driver. A trotter is bred so that it moves its front leg and the opposite rear leg at the same time. A pacer moves its two legs on the same side at the same time and in the same direction. It takes a great deal of training and practice to teach the horse to perform properly.

The story of Hanover Shoe Farms began when Harper D. Sheppard and Clinton N. Myers took over a struggling shoe business in 1899 and changed its name to Hanover Shoe. In 1901, Sheppard and Myers opened their first retail store in downtown York. They managed the shoe manufacturing operation during the week until Saturday noon. Then they traveled to York to help with sales at their retail store for the rest of the day. Sheppard and Myers required fast horses as the most expedient way to cover the distance between Hanover and York. They ultimately developed quite a stable of horses and entered some of them in races at local fairs and elsewhere.

Lawrence B. Sheppard joined his father and Myers in the shoe business upon completion of his education. He soon became very active with the horses. One story recounts how, when his father and Myers went away on a business trip, Lawrence sold all the horses in the stable. Soon thereafter, Lawrence convinced the two older men to invest in better quality stock. In 1926 he purchased the entire breeding stock of the estate of noted breeder A. B. Coxe for $150,000 -- an outstanding collection of stallions and broodmares that started Hanover Shoe Farms on the road to become a top-class establishment.

Many of Hanover's present-day bloodstock descend from the horses purchased from the Coxe estate. Included in the purchase was a great stallion, Dillion Axworthy, already a proven sire of early speed. One of the 27 mares purchased was Miss Bertha Dillion, recognized as the founder of Hanover's "Royal Family" of great trotters and pacers.

For as long as records have been kept by the United States Trotting Association Hanover bred horses have dominated the harness racing world.

From its inception Hanover Shoe Farms was a breeding operation. The yearlings were sold at public auction each fall at Harrisburg. The purchasers would train and race the horses then Hanover Shoe Farms would often buy back the very best, as well as other bloodlines, to improve its breeding stock. The expanded business required more acreage, so a number of neighboring farms were purchased. The buildings are all painted in a distinctive yellowish color. The total acreage now used is 3,500.

At the beginning of 2003, the farms stand 12 stallions and own over 400 broodmares. There were almost 300 yearlings born in 2002 to be sold in fall of 2003. In addition, there are many other horses on the premises owned by others that are cared for by the staff of the Hanover Shoe Farms, which numbers about 80 full-time employees.

Read other articles by John Fuss

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