COUNTY FAIR: DAY THREE
Rain dampens horse pulls
JEFFERSON - - Torrential rains put a
halt to the horse pull competition at the Ashtabula County Fair Thursday
morning at the fairgrounds.
The event began at 10 a.m. and was off to
a good start until midway through a massive downpour caused officials to
call the event.
Horse pulls are an age-old tradition of
fairs. Years ago, farmers would bring their horse teams to fairs and see
whose team could pull the most weight, while their wives entered pickles
in the fair, said Becky Riggs, of the Buckeye Horse Pullers Association.
The competition was held to see which farmer would obtain bragging
Through the farm teams, some of the more
competitive farmers started training their horses specifically for the
pulling competition. As time went on, competitors became more
"professionals" where their horses are bred, groomed and trained for
pulling, Riggs said.
There are two classes in horse pulling
events - - lightweight and heavyweight. A lightweight team of horses
weighs anywhere from 3,320 pounds and under. A heavyweight team weighs
more than 3,320 pounds.
"Most weigh a combined weight of 4,500
pounds to 5,000 pounds," Riggs said.
The heavyweight competition starts out
with 6,000 pounds of weight and the team of two horses must pull it 27
feet in order to qualify for the next round. The team gets three chances
on each weight to qualify, she said.
Most of the horses in the 16 teams
entered at Thursday's event were Belgian horses with the exception of
one Percheron, Riggs said. Belgian horses are typically used for
pulling. On occasion Suffolk horses, which are a smaller draft horse
breed, are used.
The horses have shoes with cleats so they
can get a better grip.
After each team qualifies on one weight,
an additional 1,500 pounds is added to the sled. There is no maximum
amount of weight, it all depends on how much the horses can pull.
"We've pulled as little as 6,500 pounds
and won the competition and pulled as much as 13,500 pounds and not won
the competition," she said. "The weight depends on the track condition
and the type of sled."
The horses are trained like athletes,
with very repetitious exercise. Usually they are trained with a sled and
a minimal amount of weight. They are trained every day to keep their
muscles toned. For the most part, none of the horses are turned out to
pasture during the pulling season, Riggs said.
The horses are also given a high protein
"It's a very family oriented sport,"
Riggs said. "Most of the pullers' families travel with them. We tailgate
and picnic and the teamsters help each other."
With the exception of one team of horses,
whose owner eliminated them voluntarily, the remaining 15 teams were all
still in the competition at the point in which it was called because of
the weather. At that point, the weight was up to 9,000 pounds. The
winning team is chosen by process of elimination. Basically, the team
that can pull the most weight wins.
Article courtesy of the Star Beacon