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These stars throw a lot of weight

Draft Horse pulling

By Dan Ehl
Wednesday, October 17, 2012 10:30 AM CDT
The sport of horse pulling is one of the oldest competitions in the U.S., says Eddie Smock of Shelbina, MO. It began when horses were a still a daily part of farm life. Farmers took pride in a good team of horses and would meet at a sawmill or under an oak tree to see whose pair of horses could pull the most weight.

Smock knows a lot about the sport and its stars Ė the giant draft horses in the ring. A horse and livestock auctioneer by trade, heís been pulling horses as a sport for 45 years. With both a father and grandfather into horse pulling, it was only natural that he began as a kid with pony pulls.

Smock was in Kalona Monday for the fall draft horse sale at the Kalona Sales Barn that also features a horse pull. Smock was the announcer for the event, while his son now also competes. He compares horse pulling to other sports like racing cars Ė the competitor wants to see just how good they can get.

Pulling horses takes a lot of time. When not competing in the summer, the horse must work out every day. The exercise doesnít normally include pulling heavy weights for short distances, but pulling a lightly loaded sled for miles to build up muscle and stamina.

Horse teams range in weight from 3,300 pounds, Smock said, to around 4,700 pounds.

ďThatís a big pair of horses,Ē Smock said of 4,700 pounds, though added that on the extreme end a team can reach 5,200 pounds.

A typical horse pulling competitor may go to 25 pulls a summer throughout a four to five state area. Thatís a great number of miles. In addition, an enthusiastic competitor will do a lot of traveling looking for colts and even better horses than they have. That can add up to 40,000 to 50,000 miles a year.

Most of the team owners know each other, Smock noted, and are usually second or third generation pullers. He observed that it is unusual for someone to become involved in the sport who does not come from a pulling horse family. Besides the needed experience, the sport is also costly. A good team of horses can cost $20,000 to $25,000. A good used pulling set of harness can cost $1,000. The price can widely vary for the truck and trailer.

The prime puling ages for a draft horse are between 7 and 15 years, though some can continue until they are 17 or 18.

Of course as far as Smock is concerned, there isnít a limit for the prime time of the teamís driver.

Article Courtesy of the Kalona News

The next competing team heads to the arena at the Kalona Sales Barn Monday.


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