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Year—old horse pull mark falls to local, Kentucky teams
photo: archive
  Ray Powell of Newcastle, Ky. drives Rock and C.D., right, to a new world record of 4,675 pounds in the heavyweight class horse pulls at the Hillsdale County Fairgrounds Tuesday. The event was part of the Hillsdale County Fair, held this week through Saturday.  

One year after seeing a world record set for horse pulling, fans and competitors at the Hillsdale County Fair saw history made again.

Jerald Keegan, of Reading, and Ray Powell, of New Castle, Ky., each reached a new world record by pulling 4,675 pounds 27 feet, 6 inches. A record is made when the weight pulled at least 27 feet, 5 inches.

Farmers and breeders from all across the Midwest know of the Hillsdale County Fair for one thing — it’s the place where records are set in national horse–pulling events.

Boomer Clark set the world record at the 2002 fair. On Tuesday, he watched as Keegan and Powell set the new mark at the National Heavyweight Horse Pulling Championship.

For the heavyweight contests, there is no maximum or minimum weight for horse teams, but most weigh between 4,000–5,000 pounds.

Regulations vary at different sites, but the Hillsdale County Fair event begins with teams starting at 2,900 pounds.

Teams get three chances to pull the weight the required distance –27–5– and the weight increases 300 pounds after each round.

In order to establish a record, a team needs to pull at least 25 pounds more than the previous weight the required distance.

Clark pulled 4,650 pounds last year, so after the 4,400–pound pull, Keegan and Powell did 4,675, not 4,700.

Only Keegan and Powell pullers to advance to the seventh weight class and set the record.

Keegan, 25, won the event by pulling the next weight — 4,800 pounds — 20 feet, 7 inches. Since he failed to reach the required distance, he couldn’t claim the record as his own. But with horse Rex on his left and Dick to the right, Keegan’s distance surpassed Powell’s best pull of 19–0 for the win.

“I was awful nervous,” said Keegan, a 1996 graduate of Quincy High School. “I set the lightweight record before then my dad went and broke it.”

Keegan was also nervous about Dick’s health.

“He was a little sick this morning,” Keegan said. “I was pouring water on his legs at 4 a.m. trying to lower his temperature a few degrees. He had a small fever.”

Keegan trains and rides the horses, but they’re owned by Ken Heightchew, Powell’s neighbor in Kentucky.

Powell’s son Robin usually drives the horses, but Ray Powell, 76, wanted the honor Tuesday.

“I wanted to try to set the record,” Ray Powell said. “Since 1923, 90 percent of the records have been set on that track. It’s because of its good footing.”

Powell’s horses were C.D. and Rock. C.D. was part of Clark’s record pull, along with Clark’s current horse Oscar.

C.D. and Rock are brothers born in the same month on the same Amish farm, seven years ago.

Keegan and Powell were the only teams to reach full distance on the first five weight loads in their first try, without any pull–aways.

Six teams reached the 4,400–pound pulls, but Terry Yoder’s best distance was 27–2 for third place, Walt Langley reached 15–4 for fourth place, Clark reached 10–4 for fifth place and Hillsdale’s Gene Sellers pulled 6–7 for sixth place.

Keegan uses the horses to skid logs in the area and has been involved in pulls as long as he can remember.

“I was pulling ponies when I was 13 and got horses for –high school– graduation,” Keegan said.

Keegan has competed with Rex and Dick six or seven times this year and once last year, winning all but once.

Most drivers choose to sit on the truck with the Dynamometer, the series of pulleys that is attached to the weights, but Keegan prefers to steer the horses to the truck, hop in the seat and drive the distance.

He was able to do his normal method for the first six weight classes, but when the truck moved closer to a fence surrounding the area of grass being used, Keegan was forced to switch his ways.

“I don’t have any help at home, so here, I just need someone to hook –the horses– on,” Keegan said. “The fence was in my way so I wouldn’t have been able to walk around and get on the truck, so I couldn’t drive them in.”

Keegan said the horses each weigh about 2,500 pounds.

Overall, there were 25 teams and seven were from Hillsdale County.

Mark Herr –Bellevue– finished in seventh place, Gary Bauer –Marshall– was eighth, a second Sellers’ team, with Gene and Tim, of Hillsdale, was ninth, Scott Fisher –Litchfield– was 10th, Pat Chadwick –Laingsburg– was 11th, Bob Day –Ceresco– was 12th, Larry Davis –Bronson– was 13th, Melvin Bragg –Richmond, Ind.– was 14th, Merv Miller –Middlefield, Ohio– was 15th, Bill Bump –Hillsdale– was 16th, Mike Herr –Battle Creek– was 17th, Dave Tonkel –Reading– was 18th, John Nebergall –New London, Ohio– was 19th, Jeff Yound –Uhrichsville, Ohio– was 20th, John Moorhouse was 21st, a second Bump team, including Bill with son Cory –Hillsdale– was 22nd, Joe Beckley –Pendleton, Ky.– was 23rd, Bob Wegmeyer –Lachine– was 24th and Jake Drake –Montgomery– was 25th.

Every team survived the first two pulls, three were eliminated at 3,500 pounds; another eight couldn’t pass 3,800 pounds; another eight couldn’t get by 4,100 pounds and then the cuts began in the six positions.

Article Courtesy of Hillsdale Daily News Online

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