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2009 Inductee

Paul Cleland
Reading, Michigan

Paul Cleland didn’t begin pulling horses until the early 1950’s, but he was driving them on the hay wagon and cultivator long before that. Once he  experienced being  between a pair of lines behind work horses, he found his dream occupation while he was in early elementary school. After his dad died when he was 13 years old, they couldn’t find Paul. Eventually they did. He had a single horse harnessed and was dealing with his grief on the back of the farm by skidding logs out of the river. Paul still embraces that same attitude. He will be up and out to work the horses at 6:30 AM. His family also states that he believes strongly in things he has learned in life…he doesn’t alter his opinions easily nor often.

Paul comments that he isn’t nearly as strong willed as his late wife Ann. He remembers once when she was driving and he was taking the horses to her. He wasn’t handling the pass off just as she wanted him to. She finally told him to “Just give me those lines.”

Many years ago, Paul had gone to Hastings to a horse pulling contest. Huey Davis and some of the other “old-timers” were there pulling. He watched. Then he got caught up in the spirit of the “horsepulling contest.” When he got home he remembers telling Grandma Ann, “I have to get involved in this horsepulling.” And he is still involved in it more than half a century later.

It was at Monroe when Paul went to his first contest as a puller. At Monroe he met Don Johnson who became a lifelong friend, and eventual neighbor, when he helped Paul get located in the “neighborhood.”    Don Johnson is often the first person thought of when folks who influenced Paul’s draft horse career  are mentioned. Paul and Don clicked it off and became good horse friends over time.        

 Through the years Paul has traded horses with Don Johnson, Hughy Davis and other old timers and has enjoyed every trade he ever made. Paul always had the ability and understanding to work well with younger animals, especially those two and three years old.

Paul  has worked with nearly three dozen of the young horses that have gone on and worked out well for other pullers. Some folks estimate that Paul has owned up to 200 horses in his lifetime.  If you throw in those owned by his sons Jim and Ken, that number of animals really escalates. Paul has been accused of being a gentleman when dealing with other people, and he is kind and considerate of his horses as well. Perhaps that is why he is so effective with the young animals.

While Paul knows a lot about horses from working with them during a lifetime, when his wife Ann was alive, sometimes they would pull a team where they shared the ownership. Ann was not hesitant about disagreeing with Paul if she believed that her horse was pulling a heavier  load than was Paul’s. Eventually they agreed on a program where she owned the horses and he trained them. This worked for them.

When asked how many pulling contests he will attend this year, Paul answers, “It depends on how good the horses are…” In addition to the horses, Paul has always been busy keeping track of his kids and grandkids as they live their lives. In addition to Ann, Paul’s grandkids and kids have all had a pair of lines in their hands with a load behind…thinking about this makes Paul smile. He is smiling like that today! So are we because we are sharing this moment with Paul Cleland and those he loves. How fortunate we are to know him and those he has influenced.  We are more rich for knowing this “horse gentleman.”



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