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Old Fashioned Fun: Horse pulls, lumberjack meet highlight Friday fai

 

Article Date: Saturday, September 20, 2008
ROCHESTER A much quieter pulling event than Thursday night's truck and tractor pull kicked off Friday afternoon as roughly 115 people turned out to watch the first day of horse pulling at the 133rd Rochester Fair.

According to fair General Manager Mark Perry, the horse pull is the fair's oldest event, first held on Oct. 7, 1874 the very first day of the first Rochester Fair.

"It's a very historical contest that's really at the heart and soul of what the fair is all about," Perry said.

Ruth Anne Durgin, of the Durgin and Peterson Pulling Team out of Deerfield, said horse pulling is a sport steeped in family tradition and friendly competition.

"The sport all started out when farmers were using the animals to haul trees or equipment," she said. "Eventually, they would start arguing whose horse could haul the bigger tree, so these events grew out of those kind of friendly arguments."

Durgin's family has been training and competing pulling horses for three generations, and according to her, the sport that started out as a contest for bragging rights between neighbors has transformed into a friendly competition between one big, happy, horse-pulling family.

Two of Durgin's horses, Otis and George, competed in the first horse-pulling event of this year's fair, the 3,400-pound horse pull that started at 11 a.m. Friday. The horses in the pull compete in teams of two, pulling one and a half times their combined weight as far as they possibly can over a 5-minute period.

Since the combined weight of the horses is often relatively close to the event's limit which is 3,400 pounds for this event, hence the event's name teams usually end up pulling between 5,000 and 5,100 pounds. Otis and George, for example, pulled 5,031 pounds just over 313 feet Friday morning.

Training the horses for these types of events is a full-time job. According to Durgin, the animals train much in the same fashion as human athletes leading up to an event.

"We spend about three to four hours a night in the barn with the horses to get them ready to pull," she said. "We have to do that in order to work them into shape and keep their muscles strong enough to compete."

Durgin said that they generally get a decent amount of people to turn out to watch the horses' show of strength. At the Rochester Fair in particular, Perry said there is a loyal fan base who will come and sit for hours to watch the pulls.

"The event moves a little too slowly for some folk," Perry said. "But it really does have its own incredibly loyal fan base who'll sit and watch the events all day long."

Various horse-pulling events will continue throughout the day today, including the free-for-all 12-foot pull scheduled for 6 p.m. Durgin said she'll be bringing a few more teams of horses in for today's events, which will be geared more toward some of the l

 

Article courtesy of Fosters.com



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