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Teen “pulls” ahead of the pack



The sport of horse pulling has ignited a fierce work ethic and competitive drive in 17-year-old Cole Suter that is grounded in family and tradition.

Coming from a line of horse pulling family members, Cole participated in his first pull at around the age of 9. His grandfather, James R. Suter, has been pulling horses for over forty years, and Cole's father, Bruce Suter, pulled at one time as well. Cole has been seriously involved in the sport for the last three or four years, and he and his grandfather travel to about 12 to 15 horse pulls a year.

A horse pull consists of teams of two horses harnessed to pull a load across a 27-foot, 7-inch distance. As the competition continues, the weight increases until the final team of two horses that can pull the most weight is remaining. Cole says he has entered and won his fair share of pulls, and managed to take first place in the local Jubilee this past year in the lightweight and heavyweight divisions.

He is rigorously training his own team of Belgian horses for the horse pull at the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg coming up on January 10th, which Cole says is one of the largest and most competitive pulls that he will enter.

His team of horses that he will take to the pull, dubbed Mike and Amos, are a beautiful, massive pair of Belgian horses weighing around 2,200 pounds each. Each requires enormous amounts of food, exercise, grooming and care in order to achieve the level of strength that will be necessary to beat the competition.

It has to be the right horse to be a pull horse, said Cole. The horse's physique must be right, and they must have certain abilities. After Cole and his grandfather acquire a pull horse they will use for competition, they begin the training, which consists of working a team of two horses by harnessing them to a sled and riding it around the fields of his grandfather's farm located along Poverty Hollow Road in Somerset.

Cole heads to the farm every day after school to feed all of the horses, then goes back to his own home in Somerset where he and his sisters are raising a pig to enter in the upcoming Pennsylvania Farm Show.

When his chores are done at home, he heads back to his grandfather's farm to work the team in the fields for at least two hours, regardless of the weather conditions. He heads back home around 8 or 9 at night.

Weekends are spent primarily with the horses, and he is usually at his grandfather's farm most of every Saturday. On Sundays, they may travel with the teams to work them at an indoor facility owned by a friend, which builds even more muscle on the horses. Summers are used for more intensive training regimens for the horses.

Although he is now old enough to harness and care for the horses himself, his grandfather is still involved with the horses, and the two seemed to have developed a working routine to care for the approximate 20 horses, the Jacob's sheep and the deer and elk that are raised on the farm.

Cole is a junior at Somerset High School, a member of the High Ridge 4-H Club in Rockwood, and a member of the Somerset area Future Farmer's of America. In addition to the pig that he will show, he has a steer he will show at the Somerset County Fair next year. Although he used to wrestle for Somerset High School, he says he just doesn't have the time.

He says the competitions, the prize money, and the fun usually make all of his hard work and time spent worth the price of having very little free time for other activities he enjoys, such as hanging out with his friends or snowmobiling.

With the amount of time spent on his grandfather's farm, Cole still manages a somewhat normal life at home with his parents, Bruce and Joan, and his two younger sisters, Lara, 15, and Jenn, 13. The family spends a lot of time together, especially in the summer boating and jet skiing on the Youghiogheny Lake. They usually take a vacation to Florida every year.

His father is a third-generation owner of Suter Beverages, a soft drink and bottled water company located in Somerset. His mom takes care of the books for the family business, and Cole tries to help out when he can during the school year and in the summer.

Cole said he thinks he will someday own Suter Beverages and he also hopes to continue on at his grandfather's farm, training and pulling horses.

He said that although the horses are a huge part of his life, family is the most important thing to him. He appreciates more than anything the opportunities that he has had given to him by his family, and especially from his grandfather, who he spoke of with respect and admiration.

“If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be anywhere. I wouldn't have any of the opportunities I have with the horses.”

With a pride mirroring his grandson's, Cole's grandfather said that Cole demonstrates more dedication, hard work and interest in horse pulling than he would have believed possible.

“In today's society, it's even more amazing,” said his grandfather. “It's a lot of hard work.”

Article courtesy of the Daily American Online

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