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Pulling a weighty contest

SKOWHEGAN -- Standing 17 1/2 hands tall, Charles Blanchard's Belgian draft horses Stubby and Mark look like they might be a couple of those "super-charged" horses you hear about on the fair circuit.

But they aren't.

"They ain't big; they're just the right size," Blanchard, 65, of Freedom, N.H., said Tuesday during the horse-pulling competition at the Skowhegan State Fair. "They're just tall."

Blanchard and his young partner Josh Battles were competing in the 3,100-pound class, signifying the total combined weight of the horses. The animals pull a flat skid with 6,200 pounds of weight on it -- the team that pulls the longest in five minutes wins.

"We always liked Skowhegan," Blanchard said.

Blanchard and Battles earlier in the day had come in first in the 3,000-pound class. They took first place at the Presque Isle Fair last week and came in second at international pulling events in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, before that, said Blanchard's girlfriend, Darlene Tibbetts, who also has been around horse pulling all of her life.

"It's kind of our family thing," she said. "I've been coming since I was born; my father was Robert Tibbetts -- he used to pull here."

The key to bringing a winning horse to the fair is hard work, Blanchard said. A horse might stand up a little taller that the others, but it's muscle tone that brings home the cash premiums, he said.

"You've got to pull 'em and pull 'em and pull 'em; work 'em and work 'em," he said. "We started the first of April and everybody else started in June -- so that makes ours look better. Guaranteed, you pay more for the good ones than you do the poor ones and you only get back what you give 'em and that's time.

"You got to do it every day to build them muscles; see this is endurance, actually, time against the clock and you've got to keep going or the clock's going to run out. You've got to make them muscles."

Blanchard said Stubby and Mark are geldings, 11 and 12 years old, and when they are not competing on the fair circuit, they pull hay rides, and also wagons for weddings.

He said all the talk about super-charged horses is just that -- talk, that doesn't amount to much. A "super-charged" horse is supposed to be one that is not an ordinary work horse, but one bred to be a winner. Blanchard said hard work is the only "charge" his horses get.

In the end Tuesday, Blanchard and Battles took second place in the 3,100-pound class. Stubby and Mark pulled the load 462 feet, 9 inches. The winner was Justin Libby of East Corinth. His Belgians Sam and Mike pulled 500 feet, 1 inch in the allotted 5 minutes, according to pulling superintendent Randy Hall of Dixfield.

click image to enlarge

Justin Libby, of East Corinth, drives his team of draft horses in the pulling competition at the Skowhegan State Fair Tuesday.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

Article courtesy of Morning Sentinel

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