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Villages Polo Club hosts Southern Draft Horse Association’s horse pull

THE VILLAGES — Years ago Patti Greer attended her first horse pull on a pillow. Sunday she perpetuated a family tradition as she joined Villagers and horse fans at The Villages Polo Club for the Southern Draft Horse Association Incorporated’s National Championship Horse Pull.

“The draft horses are just strength in motion,” Greer said. “They’re probably the gentlest of breeds of horses.”

Pulling teams and fans gathered from all over the country, some coming from Kentucky and New Hampshire. But with only a $400 first-place prize, clearly everyone gathered for the love of the sport.

The horse pull included a lightweight and heavyweight division, with each Belgian horse pair pulling a machine called a dynamometer 20 feet. In each round a team had three chances to pull the weighted machine 20 feet to progress to the next round. After every round, 200 more pounds of resistance were added to the machine.

Greer’s father pulled horses for 50 years, creating a lasting impact on her.

“My favorite memory probably is just the closeness that my father and I had,” Greer said. “That was our time together. With other children in the family, they had their own niche, and my dad and I had our horses.”

 
 

Each day she and her father spent between four and six hours working with the horses, on their Kentucky farm, preparing them for competitions.

“I compare them to football players with all the strength and muscle tone that they have to have,” Greer said. “The more time you put in with the animals, the better they are, and the better they perform.”

Bred for their strength, Greer fondly recalls draft horses’ roles in history — from carrying medieval knights to plowing the world’s fields before heavy machinery. These pulls, Greer adds, remind people what the horses were bred to do.

Although Greer’s father died nine years ago, her mother, Rita, still volunteers at the horse pulls. The people have become a family, Rita said. And although the horses are gone, she still owns the farm in Kentucky and lives there when she isn’t wintering in Florida.

“Horse pulling is just like any other hobby,” Rita said. “It’s in your blood.”

In keeping with their tradition, Greer came to Florida to watch the last week of the pull competitions and then to take her mother home to Kentucky.

Although this was the first horse pull for Curtis Cocco of the Village of Sunset Pointe and June Plaine of Village Santa Domingo, they shared the crowd’s emotion for the competition, sitting hushed while the drivers gave their orders to the horses, gasping when horses fell and cheering when a team made it to the next round.

“(Horses) mean everything to me,” Plaine said. “I’ve loved them since I was a child. The way they work, they’re beautiful, and, you know, that’s how the West started. If it wasn’t for horses, where would we be today?”

The horse pull brought back memories of when she raised horses and when Cocco rode his grandmother’s horse, Playboy, every Sunday on her farm.

The winning lightweight team was Durgin Pulling, Arthur Durgin’s horse team of Jim and Fred, pulling 4,350 pounds 18 feet, 10 inches. Terry Yoder and Chris Hatfield won the heavyweight competition with their team of Roger and Smock, pulling 4,500 pounds 20 feet, said Glen Yoder, secretary of the Southern Draft Horse Association.

Yoder and Hatfield’s team broke records in both classes Saturday, with their team Tim and Tom pulling 4,4500 pounds 20 feet in the lightweight division and the team Roger and Smock pulling 4,850 pounds 20 feet.

Glen Yoder, of Wildwood, said the competition is all about the fun of it.

“They win about a $400 first (prize) and a lot of prestige,” Yoder said. “… It’s a proud sport. That’s about it. It’s bragging rights.”

Article courtesy of the Daily Sun



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