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Draft horses pull their weight
Dubuqueland Horsepull draws 200 people to county fairgrounds
Wendell Armes, of Hardinsburg, Ken., stands between the two Belgian horses he drove at the 4th annual Dubuqueland Horsepull.
Photo: TH: Mary Rae Bragg
Wendell Armes, of Hardinsburg, Ken., stands between the two Belgian horses he drove at the 4th annual Dubuqueland Horsepull.
There was plenty of talk among the horsey set Saturday, what with the running of the 134th Kentucky Derby in Louisville.

But while the rest of the sporting world was riveted on the Run for the Roses, Dubuqueland's horsey set was watching some impressive competition of its own.

No offense, Big Brown, but Todd and King were among the ones to watch at the Dubuque County Fairgrounds, where the fourth annual Dubuqueland Horsepull took place.

The gigantic Belgians, draft horses weighing a total of 5,300 pounds, teamed up to pull tons of concrete blocks back and forth in front of an appreciative crowd of about 200. Compared with the mint julep-sipping crowd at Churchill Downs, famed for their Sunday go-to-meeting ensembles, the horsepull crowd looked to be at home in their farmyard finery, content to pull the tab on a light beer.

And while the Louisville crowd roared for the entire two minutes their field of thoroughbreds raced around the 1 1/4-mile track, the horsepull people watched in respectful silence as the draft teams lunged forward,

eking out 20 feet at a time.

The only sound inside the fairground building was the thud of hoof, slap of reins and bark of the driver's command as each team sought to fulfill its mission.

One of the drivers, Wendell Armes, of Hardinsburg, Ky., has seen his share of Kentucky Derby races and, well, he was content to be at Saturday's horsepull.

The son of a thoroughbred trainer, Armes' hometown is just 60 miles southwest of Louisville. But it wasn't the thoroughbreds high-stepping at Churchill Downs that captured his heart when, at just 15, he won his first pull.

Fifty-three years later, he's still raising and training teams of his own and,

occasionally, as he was Saturday, driving other people's teams.

Not one to diminish another person's choice in horse or pastime, Armes hesitated to compare the Belgians he owns to other draft breeds. But his mammoth horses, their soft brown eyes inviting a nose-pat, are "more gentle, more settled" than most thoroughbreds, Armes said.

The time and money put into training thoroughbreds are about the same as that spent on Belgians like Todd and King, the horses Armes brought to Dubuque, he said.

However, horsepulling obviously is not about the money.

There would be a purse worth a few hundred dollars waiting for the horsepull's winning teams, Armes noted, while Big Brown, Saturday's Derby winner, brought home $2 million for his owner.

"It has to be a hobby," Armes said, mulling over horsepull appeal, "'cause there's sure nothing (financial) in it."


Article courtesy of: THonline.com



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