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Shawn and Mitzi Gordon bought their first draft horses in 1999 as pets. A decade later, their business, Shires for Hires, is going strong offering horse-drawn carriage rides.
Shawn and Mitzi Gordon bought their first draft horses in 1999 as pets. A decade later, their business, Shires for Hires, is going strong offering horse-drawn carriage rides.

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As customers climb aboard a wagon pulled by shires, there is quickly little doubt the massive horses will easily pull them up any hill or through any obstacle. The draft horses are bred for pulling and are cousins to the better-known powerful Clydesdales.

Shawn and Mitzi Gordon bought their first draft horses in 1999 as pets to raise on their Brighton farm north of Springfield.

At that time, they had no intention of using the horses as a business venture.

“It started off as a love for the horses,” Shawn Gordon said. “We’ve been horse people most of my life. We kind of grew into the hobby a little further.”

Later in the year, the Gordons identified a revenue opportunity with the horses and started Shires For Hire LLC, which offers rides for weddings, birthdays and anniversaries as well as hayrides and carriage rides. The Gordons run their hobby-turned-business on their 30-acre farm.

About the breed
One of the largest horses in the world, the shire originated in the counties in England known as the “shires” and is a descendant of the Old English Black Horse, according to the 125-year-old American Shire Horse Association. Shires stand up to 19 hands, weigh on average 1 ton and are capable of moving a 5-ton load, though they’re known to have a gentle demeanor.

The horses can cost up to $40,000, but Gordon estimates each of his cost around $10,000. His 12 shires are helping Shires For Hire generate an estimated $70,000 in revenue this year, up 43 percent from last year’s $49,000.

The main reason for the spike is Rutledge-Wilson Community Farm Park, Gordon says. Shires For Hire bills the Springfield-Greene County Park Board $30,000 for providing seasonal wagon rides at the park.

The use of the wagons has proven popular with farm park visitors and came from surveys of services citizens wanted to see offered at the park, says Jodie Adams, Springfield-Greene County parks director.

The bulk of Gordon’s business, 60 percent of which Gordon estimates to be wagon rides, falls between June and Christmas. The remaining business, he said, is evenly split between funerals and weddings. Two-hour rides are scheduled year-round at a rate of $500.

Gordon estimates operation costs for his operation at $75 a day. “And that’s providing nothing goes wrong,” Gordon says.

Steady interests
Other steady customers include funeral homes and a local church.

Klingner-Cope Family Funeral Home in Springfield and Holman-Howe Funeral Home in Lebanon use Gordon’s services for a horse-drawn hearse for funeral processions.

At Klingner-Cope, the $1,095 service is used about three times a year, according to funeral home manager Lenny Cope.

“We’ve been offering that between six and seven years,” Cope says. “All we have to do is call him and tell him what we need.”

Cope says the funeral home used the shire service during the funeral processions of former Kickapoo High School girls’ basketball coach Stephanie Phillips, who died of cancer in July, and CoxHealth North security guard Monte Ruby, who was killed on the job in 2008.

South Haven Baptist Church uses Gordon’s horses three times a year, he says, during its fall festival and twice for its Carpenter’s Kids Preschool, which has about 250 students.

“It’s one of our favorite activities. The families and kids just love it,” says Robin Reed, South Haven’s minister of discipleship and family life, adding that Gordon has been bringing his horses to the church for about 10 years.[[In-content Ad]]

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