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Mountains of muscle: Fair horse pulling

Weighing in at about 4,500 pounds, Tony and Bob were definitely some of the biggest guys found at the fair Monday afternoon, and definitely some of the most hard working. Although they spend a lot of time under a shade tree, Tony and Bob spent much of the afternoon at the fair hauling around 4,000 ... 5,000 ... and even 6,000 pounds of concrete.

But being amongst 14 other teams of Belgian horses participating in the horse pulling competition, Tony and Bob found themselves in good company.

At just 18 years old, Mack Erickson, of the Kalkaska area, was one of the youngest pullers at the horse pull that took place Monday at the Emmet-Charlevoix County Fair. Here he drives his team, Bob and Tom, pulling some 4,000 pounds.

"They're both green," explained their driver, Alfred Moblo of East Jordan. "We probably won't pull much, but we'll look good."

Of course, not pulling much for this team doesn't mean much when they're hauling thousand-pound bricks of concrete, something Moblo couldn't do without them.

"It's an elimination process and they keep eliminating until there's only one (team) left," said Terry Moblo, Alfred's son. "They start out with about 4,000 pounds and keep adding."

The real trick is not just hauling the additional weight, but having to haul it 27 and a half feet from the starting point.

And for Alfred Moblo, his job is trying to handle the 4,500-pound team without them getting carried away with their job and taking him with them, sometimes leaving behind what they were meant to pull.

"Really, the most important thing is how you start them. If they're uneven, they won't do very well," he said.

Lou Jerrick of Vanderbilt added that drivers have to be careful that the horses are hooked right, because more than likely the second they're hooked, they'll take off.

"Makes your arms that much longer if you miss that hook," he said with a laugh.

But for those sitting in the grandstand watching this display of horse power, the fact remains unknown just how much work it takes for a team to get to this point.

Moblo, for example, works his horses every day for at least three hours. It's a training process, much like body building, that helps the horses to build up their pulling capacity.

"The toughest thing is to get up and work them every day," admits Mack Erickson, who brought two teams up from the Kalkaska area to compete.

But for this 18-year-old, the youngest of the drivers at Monday's competition, and for all the other drivers, horse pulling isn't about the work put in.

"I really enjoy it. It's a little hobby of mine," Erickson said, recalling working along his father when he was just knee high. "It definitely keeps you busy."

Sherri Huffman of East Jordan first learned about training pulling horses while helping her husband, Bill. It wasn't long before the sport hooked her interests, too.

"These guys are a handful," she said of her team, Duke and Don. "It's fun though, and these guys are awesome to follow behind."

Of course, with only about 175 horse pairs and about 80 pullers in the state of Michigan, drivers don't just get to know their horses, but all the other drivers as well.

And for Huffman, being one of the few women who run the circuit, she has more to handle than just a team of horses. She has to hold her own with the guys as well.

"These guys are a heck of a group of guys," she said smiling.

"We're like family here," Jerrick added.

Article courtesy of Petosky News-Review

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