In the company of horses
Bring up the topic of horses to Tracy Hanson of Chatfield, Minn., and a certain
glint comes into his eyes as he describes his love for horses. The only thing
which brings a bigger smile to Tracy’s face is talking about his family and
their involvement with horses as well.
Hanson Horse Company, owned by Tracy and his wife Brenda, buys and sells horses
of all types. Many of the horses travel from Chatfield to Mackinac Island in
Michigan where a ferry must be taken to get to the island and transportation on
the island is limited to walking, riding a bicycle, or riding in a horse-drawn
carriage. Hanson Horse Company supplies horses for carriage rides on the island.
Tracy also furnishes horses to an Ohio tourist park that features a tourist spot
featuring a petting zoo, baked goods, handcrafted items, guided pony rides, a
farm store, and draft horse rides during certain events.
Buying and selling horses is how Tracy makes his living but his love for horses
gives way to a hobby as well. Tracy’s father, Bob, bought and sold horses and as
children Tracy and his siblings pulled ponies and then “we outgrew ponies and
got horses,” he said. The thrill of pulling horses carried into adulthood and
has spread throughout his family with everyone getting involved with horses in
Tracy pulls with Belgians as they are “big heavyweight horses that work best for
pulling,” he said. Big and heavyweight are a perfect description of these
massive yet beautiful animals. A team of two of his horses pulled 12,500 pounds
at a national pull which is a staggering show of the horses abilities.
When the horses are in a competition and the pull is in front of the sled “They
get excited to do their job,” Tracy said. The horses have their own
personalities just as people do with some liking attention and others preferring
to be left to themselves.
Two of the horses Tracy uses in pulling competitions are “Rock” and “Wally” who
tower above a person fortunate enough to be in their presence. “Rock” is 12
years old and stands a bit over 17 hands. There are 4 inches to a hand. “Wally”
is a nine year old Belgian who is 18 hands tall. Each horse weighs approximately
2,700 pounds. The horses each eat one 60 pound square bale per day along with
four gallons of grain.
The work is hard and time-consuming taking care of the horses and preparing for
pulling competitions. The horses are worked every day for three to five weeks
before a competition. Preparations for competitions as well as responsibilities
during and after competitions also need to be done and Tracy always has help
from family and/or friends when he attends competitions.
Tracy attends pulling competitions throughout the year but more so during the
summer. There are a few indoor pulls he competes in during the winter such as
the Sioux Falls, South Dakota Farm Show and the North Dakota Farm Show, which
have indoor coliseums.
Prizes for horse pulling competitions are cash and/or trophies. Hundreds of
trophies are proudly on display at Hanson Horse Company as proof positive of the
hard work and skill that the Hanson family shares. When it comes to horse
pulling, “I’m pretty competitive” Tracy says.
Brenda and Tracy’s daughters Brittany, Jessica, and Jennifer have all been
involved with horses their entire lives and have many trophies for showing
horses. Jessica has shown at state level with 4-H in the past and won first
place with a horse she trained herself. Brittany’s husband fits well into the
family as he shows horses as well. The entire family helps with the care of the
And the love of horses is carrying on to the next generation with Tracy and
Brenda’s grandson, Rylen. At 22 months old Rylen has already taken to horses.
When asked if Rylen will be a “puller”, his Grandpa got a big smile on his face
and said, “We’ll see”, which probably means yes with Rylen’s heritage.
Article courtesy of the Fillmore County Journal & Barb Jeffers