|Top Stories -- July 31, 2003
'Gentle giant' draft horses make 1st mark at
BY DOUG BRILL
SUMMIT STATION - James K. Cady is used to featuring
draft horses, just not this far south.
Cady, a member of the New York State Horse Pullers
Association, has attended draft horse pulls in states throughout the
Northeast and also in western Pennsylvania.
The event is always popular, he said, but since
most draft horse owners live at least three hours of driving distance from
the Schuylkill County Fairgrounds, it was one the Schuylkill County Fair has
never seen before.
"We've been at shows all over New York and in the
Northeast and at pretty near every county fair," Cady said this week from
the press box overlooking the Schuylkill County Fair horse show ring.
"But this is the first time we've had them here,"
The 20th annual Schuylkill County Fair included its
first-ever draft horse competition and drew a crowd of equestrian
enthusiasts and curious fairgoers for opening day Monday.
It was the first event of its kind in the county
and one fair organizers hope will continue at the county fair for years to
The event drew 21 entries in two weight classes and
scores of attendees, some interested in raising or purchasing the Clydesdale
and Belgian horses and others who already own them. Many simply marveled at
their size and beauty.
"It's just like a tractor pull or a car race," said
Cady's wife, Cheryl, who is the event's record keeper.
"A lot of people come just to see the horses
perform," she said.
The horses can weigh more than a ton, up to 500
pounds more than the average horse. They feature soft, short-hair coats and
a disarming, gentle look that belies their striking mass.
Each team of horses - there are two per team - had
three attempts to pull increasing weights of cement blocks 27.5 feet in each
of eight heats, starting at 4,000 pounds and going up to as much as 9,000
Premiums were awarded to the horses that could pull
the most weight the farthest distance before stopping.
Fair organizers noticed the popularity of draft
horse pulls at other county fairs and the state Farm Show in Harrisburg,
where the event regularly draws hundreds of interested viewers, usually
filling available seats to capacity.
Craig R. Morgan, chairman of the Schuylkill County
Fair Association, said bringing the draft horse pull to Schuylkill County
has been a goal for several years, but he faced difficulties because for
most draft horse owners, the driving time to the county fairgrounds is at
least three hours.
This year, however, by offering $5000 in premiums,
the county fair was able to contract with the New York State Horse Pullers
Association to bring the so-called "gentle giants" to Schuylkill.
"It's a great attraction as proved by attendance at
other shows," Morgan said.
Mary A. Dalton, Pottsville, made her way to the
horse show ring after co-chairing the Schuylkill County Fair Queen Contest
to take a look at the "excitement."
"I just can't believe how much weight they can
pull," she said of the horses. It's something different and something the
people of Schuylkill County don't usually get to see."
While the event was aimed at showcasing the draft
horses and developing a new genre of fair entertainment, it also sought to
honor the role of the draft horse in Pennsylvania farming history.
"Draft horses were an important part of our
agricultural heritage," fair livestock Chairman Robert Evanchalk said.
"And to have these massive specimens of horsepower
at the Schuylkill County Fair is really special," he added.
Draft horses were a vital part of agricultural life
at myriad farms across the commonwealth, Morgan said.
Story courtesy of Schuylkill.com and
the Pottsville Republican & Evening Herald