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Some gentle giants For Pete and Andrew pulling is just another day in the outdoor office




Photo By Nick Sabo
Debbie Cole leads her Belgian pulling team of Pete and Andrew with son Sam riding along.


Staff Writer

WOOSTER-- Debbie Cole's Belgians Pete and Andrew make their living pulling logs, and when they step up to the sled during the Wayne County Fair's Horse Pull, there's a few subtle differences between her team and the others because of it.

For one thing, the other draft horse teams-mostly trained for pulls only-go at the click of the hitch attaching them to the sled.

Cole's horses go at a kissing sound from Debbie or her husband, Bill.

"When you're in the woods, you don't want them going at the first sound they hear," Debbie said. "You expect them to hold until your command."

In fact Debbie wants the horses to think they are working. Her horses are not solely for competition, and the pull is important as exercise, keeping them fit for work as timber haulers. Pete and Andrew are a logging team, pulling harvested timber on carts or with the bare bark dragging on the ground. Draft horses can pull logs weighing up to 11,500 pounds, and do so with less environmental impact.

Keeping the horses under control as they navigate natural terrain is a necessary skill. Proof that Pete and Andrew have mastered that control is displayed each time Debbie walks the team out for competition: Her 3-year-old son, Sam, rides out on one of the horses bareback.

The control Cole has over her team is unusual, according to pull supervisor Fred Cannon.

"When you work in the woods with horses, you have to trust your team," Cannon said. "You have to be very aware, or you'll get in trouble. This team, you know you can trust."

The pull begins at 5,000 pounds on the sled, increasing the weight in increments up to 11,500 pounds. On average, a team weighs about 4,800 pounds. Control is again important; the team must set off at the same time for a successful pull. If the team is jumpy, hitching up to the sled can be dangerous, with the horses bolting before they are attached.

A full pull is 27 feet, monitored by a chain behind the sled. A 5,000 pound pull is no problem for most teams, but as the weight increases to 10,000 pounds, a few steps and the horses know whether they will make a full pull.

Cole likes to think of her horses as competitive with professional teams. Pete and Andrew go into competition shoed for the farm, considered a disadvantage behind teams with special pulling shoes. She doesn't seem to concerned about winning the pull; it's more about working her horses and seeing what they can do. Pete and Andrew are a team for the first time this year, Andrew having reached five years of age. Before that age, a draft horses' bones are not strong enough for heavy pulling.

"I guess I consider the other teams more professional," Cole said. "Farm teams compete, but the professional teams are hard to beat for pulling."

Pulls are a summer thing for Pete and Andrew, Cole said. They log in the winter professionally for the family business, DD & B Timber and Trucking out of Mount Vernon. Still, the horses are kept to a regular schedule of conditioning.

The conditioning, paired with the discipline from hard work, shows during the morning pull. On reins held by Debbie, they come out docile with young Sam riding along. On the track, the horses dig at the sound of a kiss, tearing an 8,000 pound sled along with a fury that is, literally, raw horsepower

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