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Music to Trot By

Draft horse teams strut their stuff Wednesday at the Northern Wisconsin State Fair, to musical accompaniment by longtime horse show organist, George Utphall
Dan Lea

A local musician helps put some pep in the step of horses showing off at the Northern Wisconsin State Fair.

Retired Eau Claire Memorial High School choir director George Utphall has been playing organ for horse shows for more than 3 decades, including at least 15 years at the fair in Chippewa Falls. It's one of a dozen or so shows he plays each year all over the country. Is there a trick to it?

"Well, you just play to the gait of the horse. Watch the horses and try to make it look like they're dancing," Utphall said with a laugh Wednesday after playing for the draft horse show.

Utphall plays from memory, stringing together one familiar song after another - broadway showtunes and old jazz standards. He says he played for the horses for 35 years before he ever got up the nerve to climb up onto one. Then he got hooked

"That's where it all started and this fall, I bought a horse," Utphall said.

If he ever wants to show it, he'll have to find someone else to provide the soundtrack.

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