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Draft horses show their might at championship pull

THE VILLAGES — Cool temperatures didn’t chill enthusiasm at the Southern Draft Horse Association’s National Championship Horse Pull on

Sunday afternoon in The Villages.

A large crowd gathered to watch competitors from across the country pull for first place.

“It’s very enjoyable except we’re freezing,” Jean Austin, who lives in Lakeside Landings, said as she pulled her hood closer to her face. “At first I thought it’s kind of cruelty for animals, but I don’t think they’d let a horse get hurt. I was just surprised the first time I saw them pull.”

The competition was divided into two parts, with the lightweights, teams weighing 2,500 or less competing first and the heavyweights, who had no weight limit second.

The two-horse teams took turns pulling increasingly heavy loads until only one pair was left. In the lightweight competition, the winners were Bud and Tim, who are owned by Terry Yoder of Lake Panasoffkee.


Mac and Maya, two Belgium horses owned by Arthur Durgin of Bushnell, pull 3,800 pounds during Sunday’s annual Draft Horse Pull at The Villages Polo Club. Mark DiOrio / Daily Sun

Yoder’s other pair in the lightweight competition, Tom and Barney, took second place.

“We’re real proud of our horses; they’ve done good,” Yoder said.

Villages residents Anita Cardos and Doug Hartwell had front row seats at the event, and for Hartwell it was his first time watching a draft horse pull.

“These horses really, really work,” he said as he watched a duo pull a truck loaded with weight.

It was Cardos second time at the horse draft pull, and she said she preferred the cool weather to the extremely hot temperatures of the last horse pull she attended.

“I’d rather be bundled where I can take things off,” she said with a laugh.

Other Villagers found a way to block the wind without missing the show.

J.C. and Faye Robb pulled up in their enclosed golf cart and managed front-row seats minus the wind chill.

Removing the strap she had fastened to hold the door closed, Faye said she grew up around the gentle giants and that her father had participated in draft horse pulls throughout her childhood.

The only difference she said, was that when her father competed the horses pulled concrete blocks on sleds, and the weighted truck was a nice modern convenience.

Despite concerns to the contrary, the horses are not being abused.

“You can’t make a horse do what he don’t want to do,” said Chris Hatfield, who trains Yoder’s horses.

Bruce Chandler and Richard Poulin agreed as they watched the competition.

“I think it’s so nice,” Chandler said. “Back home a lot of people think its cruel, but it’s not. It’s what these horses are built for.”

Poulin, who used to work in forests in Maine with horses hauling wood, re-emphasized the fact the horses weren’t being abused and that horses played a huge role in building this nation.

As a team of horses dug its hooves into the clay track, both men applauded and cheered.

“Look at that,” Poulin said.

“Now that’s true pulling,” Chandler said with a smile.

Article courtesy of The Villages Daily Sun

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