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Draft horses weigh in
Contest lures big teams from afar.


Published Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Donít try to tell Gail Hembry his trip to the 2004 Boone County Fair wasnít worth it.


Michael McNamara photo
David Biggs of Ashland drives his team of Belgians last night as they compete in the draft-horse pull at the county fair.
Boone County Fair Slide Show

The resident of Osceola, Iowa, drove to the Boone County Fairgrounds to compete in last nightís draft-horse pull. When the 2Ĺ-hour competition was all said and done, Hembry was sixth out of 10 competitors, taking home $80.

That was good news to Hembry, even though he still faced a 266-mile trip home. Thatís about the equivalent of 93,000 horse pulls measuring 15 feet each, but itís a little easier on his horses.

"Iíll be tired before I get back home," Hembry joked.

Hembry didnít come to the fair for the glory, fame or big prizes.


On tap

The county fair runs through Saturday at the fairground, 5212 N. Oakland Gravel Road. Gates open at 4 p.m. Admission is $3.

● 4 p.m., dairy & meat goat show
● 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., candidate debates: Missouri Senate and 25th House District
● 6 p.m., carnival opens
● 8 p.m. talent show, preliminary round

In fact, heíll be the first to tell you his finish in last nightís competition is normal for him. "I havenít won a pull yet this year," he said. "The best I ever got was second, but you just keep trying."

Hembry loves training his two 10-year-old Belgians, Duke and Jerry, on his 120-acre farm. He says itís hard work to train the tandem every day, loading weights on a practice sled or a wagon. He compares the regimen to that of a weightlifter, starting with light loads and gradually increasing the weight to build the horsesí muscles.

Itís something heís been doing for 15 years. He grew up around horses and draft-horse pulling - his father and uncle were also interested in the hobby.



If the field at the Boone County Fair draft-horse competition was any indication, horse pulling is a family matter.

Last nightís first- and second-place finishers, Justin and Joey Garrett, respectively, are brothers from the Texas County town of Success. They said their grandfather taught them what they know about draft-horse pulling.

"Some people are interested in cars, pickups and the tractor pulls," Hembry said. "I like the horses."

Walter and Rebecca Minner of Columbia said they started attending the draft-horse contests five or six years ago and have attended every year since then.

Each year, they pick their favorite competitors and cheer them on to victory.

Even though large tractors have taken the place of most draft horses on farms, the draft-horse contests donít seem to be dying off.

The Minners said they have never paid to watch one of the fairís tractor pulls; theyíre horse people.

And Hembry said he wonít stop driving to horse pulls anytime soon. He likes to compete in competitions across north Missouri and south Iowa, including the Missouri and Iowa state fairs.

"Thereís probably two or three pulls a week, if a guy wanted to go to them all," he said.

Article courtesy of Columbia Daily Tribune

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