Hanover Shoe Farms
The Hanover Shoe Farms legacy all started in the early 1900s when Harper D. Sheppard and Clinton N. Myers rescued the Hanover Shoe Company from oblivion. Their plans were to buy or breed a few standardbreds and then race them on the Pennsylvania Fair Circuit – there were no delusions of grandeur. If a horse of exceptional standard came along, they would send him Grand Circuit, but it was unlikely that that would happen anytime soon and both businessmen had no ambition to push hard for such an accomplishment. They were more focused on making a success of what they had.
Things took a radical change for the better in 1922 when Sheppard and Myers took a vacation and came back to find their entire barn empty. Sheppard’s son, Lawrence Baker Sheppard, had taken the initiative to sell all their stock. Likely the somewhat ‘underhanded’ move by this junior partner caused an uproar amongst the partners but nevertheless, the decision was made that since young Sheppard had sold all the horses, he should replace them. Sheppard was up to the challenge and he started by replacing the original, mediocre stock with some of the finest racehorses available at that time. In 1926 he took the Hanover Shoe Farms to new heights when he bought a 69-horse package from the AB Coxe estate. The package cost $150 000 – a small fortune at the time – and the move was daring to say the least. However the move paid off and before long, the stable became the ‘largest combined breeding and racing establishment in the world’ (Trotter and Pacer). Unlike his father, Lawrence was driven, and he fought fiercely to maintain this status for the next 32 years.
Though Hanover Shoe Farms now had the stock, it took hard work and dedication to make it work. First, there were expansions that had to be made to the existing property in order to accommodate the stock. This included a stallion barn, three broodmare barns and 600 acres of paddocks and pastures. Initial victories were small and it wasn’t long before the Great Depression hit. Hanover sold few of their stock and instead concentrated on breeding and racing. In 1933, the farm made headlines when they sold the horse Lawrence Hanover for a staggering $6,800. Before long, business started to pick up and Hanover was starting to make headlines again. The farm started producing known greats and winning numerous races. In 1938 the farm received its first pacing sire, Billy Direct. Though the stallion did not live long it sired 186 horses – many of which went on become champions in their own right.
After the Second World War, Hanover Farms received the likes of horseman John F. Simpson, then a rising star and brilliant sulky driver. Simpson enjoyed driving and he raced for the farm numerous times. It was Sheppard and Simpson who decided mutually to purchase Tar Heel and Solicitor – two pacers who went on to become racing greats. In 1964, Lawrence Sheppard, now suffering health problems, urged John Simpson to honour their agreement and take over the running of the farm. John agreed and he taught his son the ins-and-outs of horsemanship whilst learning how to run the facility. Lawrence Sheppard died at age 70 from congestive heart failure and emphysema. Just eight months later Hanover enjoyed it’s first $3 million yearling sale – a truly spectacular milestone. John Simpson Senior took the initiative to increase the quality of the farms broodmare stock, thereby increasing the overall turnout of the farm’s offspring. His efforts paid off and Hanover continued to stay ahead of the game.
It only took about 50 years for the Hanover Shoe Farms to grow from a single building on a small farm to a conglomeration of 27 farms, 3,000 acres, 12,000 horses, 40 barns, 35 houses and over 100 employees. The methods used to breed these spectacular horses have been kept up-to-date and are as modern as possible. The farm is pretty, the horses are handsome and the farm is filled with people dedicated to the continued production of the finest standardbred horses in the world. Hanover Shoe Farms continues to be one of the hallmarks of the standardbred horse industry.