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Scott Enslin of Spring Run directs a horse pulling team. (Karissa Zimmer/Special to The Sentinel)

Horses face off in load-pulling contest in Newville

By Karla Browne, July 10, 2005

Top pulls were 1,000 pounds short of the 5,500-pound record on a soft track at the Lions Community Fair horse pull Friday night in Newville.


With the red dirt field wet and sloppy from thunderstorms earlier in the day, the sled was set up on a stone-covered drive just feet from packed bleachers where about 200 fairgoers had a close-up view of 13 three-man, two-horse teams making the dirt fly.

But the sled stuck anyway.

"George Brindle of Chambersburg won third place here last year with a full pull of 5,000 pounds," announced Donna Heller Zinn over the loudspeaker.

A full pull, she explained, is 27 feet, 6 inches.

No tie this year

First place last year was a tie between Bob Howard of Acme and Cole Suter of Somerset pulling 5,000 pounds, she told the crowd.

Nicole Killinger, center, of Carlisle claps for contestants as Samantha Killinger, 12, and Emma Killinger, 5, both of Newville, watch. (Karissa Zimmer/Special to The Sentinel)

This year, Howard cleared small rocks, kept the traces tight and still couldn't budge the sled at 4,000 pounds.

Muscles twitching, mouths dripping and nostrils flaring, Howard's Belgians, Jack and Rex, lunged repeatedly.

Horses want to pull

"They're wanting to pull," Zinn said as the sled stayed put.

Digging cleated shoes into the soft soil, the 3,300 to 4,100-pound teams all Belgians except for one Percheron squatted on their haunches and leaped like kangaroos without much effect on the sled.

Judge Chrissy Zinn's whistle rang out to end pull after pull with only inches of progress.

Winner worked hard

First-place winner this year, Joe Catterton of Dunkirk, Md., paid his dues for his win, jerking the stuck sled out in the fourth round with 4,000 pounds on it for a full pull, then pulling 4,500 pounds for five feet in the fifth round for the title.

The audience stayed until the end of the 90-minute contest as Zinn kept up a steady patter of results, reminiscences and horse history throughout.

"Bobby Howard has been pulling since he was knee high to a bullfrog," Zinn told the crowd during a lull when a forklift rolled in with another 1,000 pounds of weights for the sled.

"He started out pulling ponies and his dad would hold him by the hip pockets to help him hold the ponies."

Sometimes confused with the Clydesdales that pull the Budweiser wagon, which are not usually used for horse pulling, Belgians originated for the same purpose in the Middle Ages to provide mounts for knights in heavy armor, Zinn said.

After gunpowder changed European warfare, the breeds were kept for farm labor, she said.

A horse-pull family

As Zinn handed out horse pull season schedules after the competition, she said she married into a horse pulling family in Newville.

Her father-in-law, Elwood Zinn, was instrumental in starting horse pulling in the area, she said, along with Cole Suter, whose grandson, Jim Suter, was second-place winner Friday night.

Husband Marvin Zinn and their daughter Chrissy Zinn are judges for the events held at fairs throughout the summer and fall in surrounding counties.

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Article courtesy of The Sentinel

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