After more than 100 years, the Chautauqua County Fair continues to offer
something new to visitors each and every year.
And this year was no exception, as fairgoers were treated to a Herculean
display of horse strength at the Budweiser Grandstand for the first time ever.
Thursday evening featured the debut of competitive horse pulling at the
Chautauqua County Fair - courtesy of the New York State Horse Pulling
Association - reminding those in attendance of the true meaning of
"This is regional competition and the interest on the part of the fair
board was to provide more diversity of Budweiser Grandstand events," Randall
Brown, Public Relations Representative for the Chautauqua County Fair, said
previously about the decision to bring horse pulling to the fairgrounds this
"For the past several years it has been predominately motor sports focused
and we wanted to provide more diversity for fairgoers to enjoy."
While the stands weren't packed Thursday for this debut event, those who
were present were left in awe by the size and power of the different pulling
In a world now powered by the mechanical motor, the competition stands as a
throwback to a bygone era when horses were more than mere farm fixtures, and a
tribute to the awesome strength of these beautiful animals.
According to Roger Fuller, a teamster with R&R Window Contractors of
Easthampton, Mass., horse pulling has a long history which dates back to a
time when horses were the primary source of transportation and labor for
farmers. In addition, he said the sport has become a long-running tradition
among teamsters, noting he knows drivers who have been pulling for more than
"This was back when horses were very important," he explained. "Now, they
don't really work them like they used to. Back in the heyday, they used to do
all the farming with horses; they logged with horses, and what it was that
started it was they said 'well, we all got horses, let's have a contest.' Now,
they don't really work other than to exercise and keep in shape."
Although the event marked the first competition at the Chautauqua County
fairgrounds, Fuller said the sport is popular elsewhere throughout the state
and country. There's around two dozen horse pulls in New York state alone, he
added, with teams from all over traveling the circuit.
Horses compete in two separate divisions: lightweight, with horses weighing
less than 3,325 pounds as a team, and heavyweight, with horses weighing
upwards of a ton each. The majority of the horses competing were Belgians,
Fuller said, though there was also a pair of Percherons in the lightweight
All of the horses, despite weight and breed, are trained specifically for
"They're like athletes; we work them every day unless we pull them," he
For the competition, teams of horses were hooked to a truck equipped with a
dynamometer and required to pull increasingly heavy loads 27.5 feet in order
to qualify for the next weight, with three chances to qualify. The starting
weight for the lightweight division was 2,800 pounds while the starting weight
for the heavyweight division was 3,000 pounds.
"So the one that wins is basically the one that pulls the heaviest load the
furthest distance," Fuller explained.
Throughout most of the competition, especially with the heavyweight
division, it was a four man job reining in the massive horses to hook them to
the truck. Once attached and urged on, the teams dragged the truck around like
a little toy, straining forward and snorting fiercely as they dug their
cleated hooves in and pulled.
Out of the 10 teams in the lightweight division, Francis Root, of Bolivar,
N.Y., took first, pulling 25 feet, 2 inches at 3,800 pounds; Travis Proper
took second, pulling 22 feet, 9 inches at 3,800 pounds; R&R Window
Contractors, of Easthampton, Mass. took third with one team, pulling 20 feet,
4 inches at 3,800 pounds; Doug Smith, of Richford, N.Y., took fourth with one
team, pulling 18 feet, 1 inch at 3,800 pounds; R&R Window Contractors took
fifth with another team, pulling 7 feet, 10 inches at 3,800 pounds; Wayne
Dodge, of Oswego, N.Y., took sixth, pulling 25 feet, 7 inches at 3,600 pounds;
Sonny Brown, of Quarry, Pa., took seventh, pulling 25 feet, 5 inches at 3,600
pounds; Ken Enders, of Belfast, N.Y., took eighth, pulling 26 feet at 3,400
pounds; Jim Perrin, of Hornell, N.Y., took ninth, pulling 5 feet, 8 inches at
3,400 pounds; and Doug Smith took tenth with another team, pulling 17 feet, 11
inches at 3,200 pounds.
Out of the eight teams in the heavyweight division, R&R Window Contractors
took first and second with two teams, pulling a qualifying distance at 4,250
pounds but stopping after the remaining competition was knocked out; Nick
Nesbitt, of Waterport, N.Y., took third, pulling 25 feet, 1 inch at 4,250
pounds; Francis Root took fourth, pulling 14 feet, 10 inches at 4,250 pounds;
Don Middaugh Sr., of Friendship, NY, took fifth, pulling 14 feet, 9 inches at
4,250 pounds; Larue Austin, of Columbia Crossroads, Pa., took sixth, pulling
11 feet, 9 inches at 4,250; Bill Fisher, of Interlaken, NY, took seventh,
pulling 19 feet, 2 inches at 4,000 pounds; and Harold McAfoose, of Sugar
Grove, Pa., took eighth, pulling 14 feet, 8 inches at 3,500.