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Residents of The Villages and horse enthusiasts enjoyed watching as the draft horse team of Dwight Davis pulls 3,400 pounds for a completed pull in the light draft horse competition held at The Villages Polo Club. George Horsford / Daily Sun

Draft horses compete at Villages Polo Club

THE VILLAGES - Their names were Oscar and Mike, and they weighed respectively, 2,500 pounds and 2,740 pounds.

They eat a gallon of oats for breakfast, a gallon and a half at lunch and another gallon at dinner, plus hay, and a regimen of vitamins, minerals and muscle builders.

They are winter residents, living on the Lake Panasoffkee ranch of their owner, Terry Yoder, in the winter and in Kentucky the rest of the year. They work six days a week, pulling heavy weights to keep them in maximum condition for competitive pulls like the Southern Draft Horse Association event at The Villages Polo Club on Sunday.

For Yoder, owner of T&D Concrete, owning competitive draft horses was the return to a childhood fascination with pulling.

"I grew up in Michigan and my neighbor pulled ponies," Yoder said. "It was something I always wanted to do."

When he reached the level of success with this concrete company that he could fulfill his dream of owning draft horses, he teamed up with Chris Hatfield of Kentucky.

Chris is a superstar in draft horse pulling. He's like the Michael Jordan of horse pulling," Yoder said.

Hatfield works with the horses year-round, both in Florida and Kentucky.

Creating a winning team takes more than two great horses. The horses must be compatible.

"You could go out and buy the two best horses in the world and if they don't work together, it won't work," Yoder said.

Yoder's teams aren't the only ones on his ranch this time of year. His friend Harry Brook Greer of Bloomfield, Ky., brings his draft teams to Lake Panasoffkee for the pull season.

"If you don't have a friend that has a ranch, you're in trouble," Greer said.

Pulling, Yoder said, is "one of the most team effort sports. Everybody helps everybody out."

Like Yoder, Greer's entry into the horse pulling as an owner came after his career in the building industry paid off enough to allow him to indulge in the sport. Greer owns an excavation company that keeps him commuting back and forth from Florida to Kentucky while his horses are in Lake Panasoffkee.

Greer didn't get his horses until a few years ago, but he's been around the sport of draft horse pulling most of his life. His father and uncle got into the sport in 1955. In 1962 his father had to get out of the sport because of health problems, so he turned his part of the partnership over to his brother.

Greer remained involved with his uncle's teams until he was able to get his own. Today he owns three teams of lightweights - meaning that the two horses on each team have a combined weight of less than 3,400 pounds.

Getting his own team was thrilling, Greer said, but not nearly as thrilling as his first win.

"After you get your first win, it's more exciting. It's a rush."

But winning isn't everything in this sport.

"A bigger rush is when you start driving your own horses," Greer said.

Training the horses requires commitment.

"We work horses everyday except Sunday," Greer said.

Even in the winter, they work the horses inside huge training barns. "We drive 'em and drive 'em and drive 'em on a work sled," Greer said.

Yoder, who is president of the Southern Draft Horse Association, stressed that it was the love of the sport, not the money, that keeps horse owners involved.

Greer agreed, especially when you're born into a family of pullers.

"You've got it bred into you, and you can't get away from it," Greer said.

Article courtesy of The Villages Daily Sun


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