Byron Center, Michigan
Robert Hunt, The Shadow of the Horseman
He played a role, so rough and tough, but that is
not how he was. His family knew the truth about this man that enjoyed taking
care of his horses as much as working with them. He lived for horsepulling and
the condition of his horses was always a bigger concern than was winning any
contest. It was shocking news for his many friends in the industry when folks
learned that he had been killed by a horse’s kick when he was so young. When we
hear about 4-H, one of those always stands for HUNT.
Bob began his horsepulling career with big ponies.
Then he graduated into pulling heavyweight horses. He always enjoyed feeding his
horses too much to ever do lightweights. The total number of horses that Bob
owned at one time or another has been lost in his history, but he has had
favorites, Cap was one of those that always stayed in his mind, even after he
had found another home.
Horsepullers do not work alone. The nature of
their craft demands that their family and friends get pulled into the activities
with them. Watching a big robust Bob roll around on the floor with a grandchild
was almost a contradiction in contrasts. That same big guy who could bully a two
ton team with a couple of leather lines an inch wide and belt thick was the same
person who could hoist a wee one up on a shoulder or up to pet a draft horse.
This rough and tough Steamfitter was reduced to tears by a grandchild rolling on
the floor, or a quick smile from his wife of more than four decades. Does that
mean that he was tough and strong? What do you think?
What is horsepulling all about?
Bob liked them big and especially stout.
A moment of happiness was sure bestowed,
As his mighty Belgians pulled the load.
His family collected photographs, ribbons, and
other glory moments from his horse history for a special occasion. They
assembled these items into a collection and presented it to Bob. That choked up
moment told us more about Bob than his rough and tough exterior ever could have.
“He was easy to get along with if you did everything right,” his son Bobby
remembers. “He was strong willed and he didn’t hold back his belief’s.”
“Once I got past sports, Dad & I became good
friends. When he was pulling ponies he would let me drive them when I was seven
or eight years old. When he went to heavy horses he let me hook eveners whether
I wanted to or not. We did some pulling together before I got my own team when I
was about 20 years old. He went to the bank with me to get money so we could buy
a horse after I spent my cash on a car. What a guy!” Bobby remembers.
A trophy or another ribbon was not a sin,
Bob pulled them hard and he liked to win.
An emotional release relaxing the strain,
Was the whistle’s blow at the end of the chain.
Many people called Bob by his name because they
knew him personally. His daughter Vicki remembers learning how to harness Ted.
Ted was smaller than the other horses and she could get a harness on him. After
getting him harnessed, she then began working him on a regular basis. Yes, Vicki
did pull Ted back in the days when there were Powder Puff Pulls around. Perhaps
you saw Vicki pulling at “Big L” pull in Sheridan.
His friends were legend and he had legions,
He knew everyone in the whole darn region,
His long felt presence is gone from the barn,
His caring heart was the strength of his charm.
There is no having horses without also dealing
with hay and manure. That goes with the territory. It is not true. Diane, Bob’s
wife of more than four decades claims it is just an “urban myth” The tale that
Hunts had to take a bag of horse manure along to get Bob to go on vacation with
his family.” It never happened, but the possibility remains…
Horse pullers trade horses with each other. They
are a part of a niche so they have to. Where else would they find matches for
their poorest pulling horse? When Bob was a boy he would be pressed into service
when the family would buy a horse at Ravenna. Bob would take over riding duties
and his horseback work was the first step in getting the horse ready for resale.
The intimate closeness of the horsepullers and
their woven family families are with is today as we stand in the shadow of Bob
Hunt, the horseman.