The Sport of Horsepulling
In the early 1900's when farmers farmed with horses, can't you
just visualize a farmer telling his neighbor. "I bet my horse can
pull more than yours can". Then to prove it, the neighbor would
take him up on that bet and soon there would be some competition
between several farmers.
Horsepulling has come quite far from the early 1900's. Although
the Amish use horses to do their field work, those horses who
labor on the farm for many hours a day usually don't end up in
the Pulling Arena on the week-end. The few farmers that use their
pulling stock to haul manure, mow hay or cut hay, do not do this
on a consistent basis.
So, the Sport of Horsepulling is exactly THAT. It is a sport with
a team of equine athletes. The work that goes into them to get
ready for competition is endless.
The best horses in competition are worked every day to keep their
muscles and tendons in great shape to pull heavy loads. They are
no different than a weight lifter or football player getting
ready for their given sport. Some folks that don't understand the
sport think a horse pulling weighted loads is harmful to them.
Only in a marathon would a horses heart rate and blood volume be
highly affected. Ask any veterinarian! These draft animals are
bred for their strength and agility to pull heavy loads and these
short distances they pull does not raise these levels enough to
affect them. They are so proud of themselves when they complete a
pull. Watch them strut their stuff when they are unhitched.
Along with this work, the ration of feeding is quite important.
Certainly oats are fed for energy, but along with oats comes
vitamins and minerals for stamina. Oh, yes, you must keep a good
supply of hay on hand. A combination of hay with alfalfa for
protein is best and is to be fed at least twice a day.
The majority of pulling horses have clipped manes and most
horsepullers seem to like the clipped legs, ears and hair around
the muzzle for cleanliness.
The fitting of the collar, harness and bridle take quite some
time. You can not just put on any horses gear on another horse.
The collar and pads need to be fit properly so as to NOT make the
shoulders sore. Even after you think it fits properly and you
pull your horse in a collar, it may need to be changed because it
may be too short or it may tip on him. Each horse is built
different and their necks can wear different sized collars in
their own way.
So now that you have figured out the science on fitting a collar,
the harness and bridle get fit up too. There is an adjustment at
the hames for where the draft will set. Just believe that this
can get changed periodically too. Even the belly band may be too
tight and if a horse does not like that pressure, he will perform
The eveners are another scientific feat. There are holes in the
doubletree on each horses side to be able to set a stouter horse
in to pull a bit more than his partner and you can change it on
every load if you need to. There are also swinging hooks or stiff
hooks and without trying a little of everything, the teamster
really does not know what his team will pull best with. Trial and
error are the best resources. And when they get it all figured
out, it's time to go pulling!
All of this is time consuming business and since most
horsepullers have a full time job besides their horses, it takes
the rest of their day. [horsepulling has never paid enough to
make a living on, but wouldn't that be grand? Lord, knows they
spend more hours with the horses than at the job!] Yes, some
wives complain about them being so busy with the horses, but
there are a great number of ladies that know this makes them
happy and maybe less grumpy, so they live with it. (Hey, guys,
maybe in the winter months when you aren't so busy with your
horses, you can do something special for the little woman!
Remember Spring is just around the corner!) Then there are some
wives that thoroughly enjoy working with the horses themselves at
times. They make it to all the pulls, help with the horses, plus
take care of the rest of the world when they are home. [That's
why they say a woman's work is NEVER done! God Bless you gals!]
Ah, yes, the sport itself brings together good friends and
family. To look forward to meeting new faces each pulling season
and seeing faces we haven't seen for a while. There are always
good friends to mingle with.
If you are a good competitor, you don't mind having several teams
drive in for the competition of the day. The more good teams that
are at a show, the better the show, the more the public enjoys it
and maybe the place putting on the contest will be able to up
their prize money for the following year! On the other hand, the
few teamsters that don't like competition (really shouldn't be in
this sport) just have to be frustrated the rest of the day when
other competition rolls in. ALL THE TEAMS make the show.
You have to have a first place and you have to have a last place.
They are all equally important to each and every contest. Sure, it's a
natural fact, the winner of the pull gets all the recognition.
But, maybe sponsors of pulls should also be thinking of the other
fellows, like the teamster who drove the furthest to compete, the
best hitched team, horsemanship (if you have a judge who knows
what to look for) or pull some numbers out of a hat. That way
everyone can be involved.
The teamster that has won most every pull he has gone to, only
has one thing to look forward to at a contest. If he doesn't stay
on top, there is only one way for him to go and that is down. So
you see a constant winner doesn't have as much to look forward to
at a pull as much as someone with mediocre horses that are up
some days and down on other days. This would seem a bit more fun
to not expect a win each time you go out.