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A family that pulls together stays together: Horse pulling competition is a family affair for Bangor residents

The Anderson family shows off some of their numerous awards in horse pulling events. Shown, from left, are Jim, Adam, Ashley, Julie and Austin. The horses are Mark and Cap.
Photo by Jo Anne Killeen
The Anderson family has made their dad’s obsession for promoting horse pulling their own and have many trophies to show for their efforts.

The family, who has a farm on Highway 162, helped the cause of promoting horse pulling by winning two awards at the Wisconsin State Fair on Aug. 13 in West Allis.

Ashley, 16, brought home the second-place title and Dad, Jim Anderson, placed sixth.

Ashley, a junior at Bangor High School, drove her Belgian horse team of Queen, 7, and Bud, 16, who belongs to friend and fellow horse puller Jeff Krueger. Her team of horses, entered in the lightweight division, won by pulling 3,425 pounds on a truck 22 feet 2 inches.

Jim’s team pulled 3,300 pounds 19 feet 3 inches with his Belgian team of Mark, 7, and Cap, 10. The lightweight division is comprised of teams of horses that way between 3,000 to 3,200 pounds.

The Wisconsin State Fair awards come on the heels of Jim winning first place in the lightweight division and capturing the POH 2007 National Championship award in Deerfield, Ill., on June 30. There, his team pulled 3,550 pounds 21 feet 6 inches. That is the equivalent of 46,000 pounds on a rolling road, although in horse pulling the horses start from a stationary position.

“It was quite an honor winning the POH,” Jim said. “Some enter contests every year their whole lives and never win.”

He also won first place in the lightweight division July 21 in Chaseburg with Mark and Cap pulling 7,500 pounds 27 feet 6 inches.

Although Ashley has never won first place in a competition, she has won the horsemanship award. That happened in Chaseburg July 21.

“I brought a horse to the pull contest, and, while we were there, the horse became sick, so I pulled him from the competition. I won the horsemanship award for paying attention to the needs of the horse. That was more of an honor than winning the pull,” she said.

Jim’s own father started the family horse pulling tradition, and Jim has been pulling horses since he was 15 years old. Because of a farm accident when he was 9 years old, Jim lost his right arm. He drives the horses by wrapping the lines around his back.

“He can do more with one arm that many men can do with two,” Ashley said proudly.

Ashley, third in point standings in the Wisconsin Horse Pulling Association, is following her dad’s winning example and likes competing in the pulls.

Jim’s wife Julie, and their two sons, Adam and Austin, also contribute to the cause.

Adam, 17, a senior at BHS, can usually be found hooking the horses up to the load, one of the more risky parts of the competition; he could lose a finger or a hand if he’s not careful. Furthermore, Adam is getting a reputation as being skilled in breaking the horses.

“People come asking for Adam to break their horses,” Jim said.

Austin, 12, a sixth-grader at Bangor Middle School, is an all- around helper. He takes care of the horses, feeds them, calms them down, walks them and does other chores. Jim said he’s really too young to pull — children should be at least 14 years old — but Austin knows his horses and the business.

And Julie has been given the title of “overseer,” or the boss, although Julie jokes that title is questionable at times.

The family lives on their 180-acre farm in Bangor raising steers as well as corn, soybean and alfalfa. They have 10 draft horses, five ponies and three saddle horses in addition to the Belgians. They break and keep the horses conditioned by having them haul manure and plowing some 15 to 20 acres. They use six head of horses on a plow.

“We work them to keep them conditioned and so they’re used to the work,” Jim said. “We make sure they get used to noises so they don’t get spooked. It’s nice to have them to work on the farm in the winter. You don’t have to worry about the tractor starting.”

The Andersons breed the horses as well as buy. “We breed for conformation and an eagerness to pull,” said Ashley.

Jim agrees, saying, “They’ve got to have the spirit as well as the body.” The Belgians are the main breed used in horse pulling, although he said Percherons are also used.

While the horse-pulling season is over in September, the Andersons are looking forward to the end of the year banquet in Denver in November.

Article Courtesy of West Salem Coulee News

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