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
"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
"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
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
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
"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