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Records fall at fair’s horsepulling contest

Records are made to be broken and because of the conditions and strength of competition at the Hillsdale County Fair, the National Heavyweight Horse Pulling competition saw a world record broken for the second straight year, albeit by the same tandem as a year ago.

Terry Yoder of Lake Panasoffke, Fla. and Chris Hatfield of Cromwell, Ky. kept their name atop the record books with a new record pull of 4,800 pounds, showing that the combination of talent and money that brought them together five years ago is working out quite well.

Yoder owns the horses and Hatfield trains full time as a rider and the team’s horses Bob and Louie pulled the record weight 29 feet, 11 inches to narrowly beat the competition.

“When you come to Hillsdale you come to set a record,” Yoder said. “Hillsdale brings out all the big boys, all the good teams, so to set a record like this is to really set a record.”

Last year a pair of the duo’s horses pulled 4,775 pounds, but the conditions were good enough to set a new mark in front of a good–sized, very appreciative crowd.

“Michigan’s got good ground. The soil down here has deep roots and that’s what makes it so special here in Hillsdale. The horses can really dig in and get the traction they need,” Yoder said. “We pull on anything from clay to race tracks, but this is some of the best stuff for the horses.”

While the record was just 25 pounds more than a year ago, it is more than double the original world record of 2,300 pounds that was set at the Iowa State Fair back in 1923, when horse pulls were held mainly for educational and data collection purposes.

Hatfield was all smiles after receiving the team’s trophy and said that he was a little nervous going into the final pull, but the horses got their footing and he just directed them to victory.

“First of all you have to have good horses, that’s the main thing and good feet and good hard work,” he said. “We’ve got probably 15 horses we train and these two are a young team that has really come on.”

Hatfield continued on, saying that good friends, some behind the scenes people and the duo’s wives played a big part in the team’s success, but Yoder was adamant about the skill that Hatfield possesses and how there would be no records, world or otherwise without it.

“I’ve always compared Chris to Magic Johnson,” Yoder said. “He’s got the hands, he’s got that touch and he’s got that ability that he was born with. You can have all the money in the world and you can have the best horses, but if you don’t have the right driver, the right technique it doesn’t matter.”

There were other good combinations on display throughout the morning, as four of the 14 teams made attempts at 2,800 pounds, with the Brown brother’s from Acme, Pa. nearly pulling the feat off.

The trio of siblings managed pulls of 22 feet, 9 inches and 19 feet, 8 inches at 2,800 pounds to finish in second place.

A local team from Reading, owned by Jerald Keegan pulled 16 feet, three inches at the record weight, but could muster nothing more on his second attempt.

Also finishing in the top 10 from the area was the Bump team of owner Bill and driver Cory, a Hillsdale High student. They finished in eighth after making a complete pull in the 3,800 pound round.

“There was excellent competition out here today and you just have to try and have everything together and hope for the best,” Hatfield said. “It never gets old, but you always get nervous at it.”

Yoder and Hatfield proved that Tuesday’s performance was no fluke, by winning the lightweight horse pulling contest on Wednesday.

Their team pulled 4,150 pounds 28 feet to take home the victory. Keegan also had another podium finish, as the Reading resident placed second. In third was Terry Burger’s team from Osseo.

Another Yoder, Hatfield pair finished fourth and Jerry Briner from Jonesville finished fifth.

Four other Jonesville teams, two owned by Scott Fisher (6th and 12th) and a pair of Tom Brown’s (7th and 10th) also placed in the competition.

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