Mary Klaus for the Sentinel
HARRISBURG – The horse pulls at the 106th Pennsylvania Farm Show Tuesday seemed like ordering a drink at a fast food restaurant – small, medium, or large.
The horse draw, held at the Farm Show since 1939, started this year with energetic miniature ponies, continued with lively ponies of regular size and ended with powerful draft horses. Raw power in all its might filled the New Holland Arena on day four of the Farm Show.
The three competitions followed the same principle. Teams of two, guided by a driver, were to pull a sledge of concrete blocks of a certain weight. The weight was gradually increased until the team pulling the heaviest load farthest won. Miniature ponies can pull seven times their weight while draft horses can pull five times.
Thirteen teams competed in the miniature pony pulling in the 34-inch, 35-inch and 38-inch classes. Denise Wright, superintendent of pull-ups, said the miniature ponies had to pull the 10-foot weight.
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“Miniature ponies are fun to own,” she said. “A lot of people here get them for their grandchildren.”
Thomas Goodwin Sr. of Mount Bethel said he used to be in draft horse pull-ups until they got too much to handle. He switched to miniature ponies 10 years ago and has been shooting with them ever since. He and his son, Thomas Goodwin Jr., each had a pair in the competition.
“I like little guys,” Goodwin Sr. said. “They eat less and cost less to dress.”
Corey Wagner of Spring Ring owns 30 miniature ponies. He got Lightning and Tonto to shoot. “Small ponies are more spirited,” he says.
The pull started when all the teams pulled an empty sled and then each pulled 500 pounds. Weight was added, hundreds of pounds at a time, as the small crowd cheered on the mighty miniatures.
Wright’s team pulled 2,240 pounds two-foot-10 to win the 34-inch division. Wagner’s team pulled 2,600 pounds 2 feet seven inches to win the 36 inch class while Jathan Allen’s team pulled 2,600 pounds eight feet four inches to win the 38 inch division.
Next is the pony pulling with three classes based on weight.
Harley Blake took first place in two classes when her team in the 1,525 pound class pulled 2,250 pounds over the required 10 feet and her team in the 1,826 to 2,125 pound class pulled 5,400 pounds 10 feet. In the 1,826 to 2,125-foot class, William Dudash’s team pulled 2250 pounds 10 feet.
Big horse pulling
The traditional Horse Pulling Farm Show, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Horse Pulling Association and considered the World Horse Pulling Series, followed.
The event tested brute strength, teamwork and team spirit. The Teamsters and their horses collided with a heavy sled loaded with hundreds of 35-pound cinder blocks. They were to shoot it at 27 ½ feet.
All the horses in this event were Belgians, known as the hardest working breed of draft horses. While they lack the elegance of the feathered Clydesdales or the regal allure of gleaming black Percherons, the Belgians haul logs, rake hay, spread manure and get the job done.
Three of the five teams in the lightweight division – teams weighing 3,325 pounds or less – were from the Howard family of Acme. Bobby Howard, a third generation Farm Show horse pulling champion, has been competing in Farm Show horse pulling competitions since he was 6 years old. He led his team and that of his father, Billy Howard.
Pulling began when all teams walked 4,250 pounds the required distance. The weight was increased steadily. The first two teams gave up when they hit 7,850 pounds and the third and fourth at 8,450 pounds.
Finally, Carl and Pistol, owned by Billy Howard, weighed 8,550 pounds by 27 feet and won first prize, edging out Bobby Howard, whose team pulled the same weight by 23 feet 10 inches and came in second.
“There is nothing better than Bobby,” said Billy Howard as his son took first place for him.
Bobby Howard also smiled, saying he enjoyed leading more than one team in a competition. “We raised Carl and Pistol to be good,” he said. “And they are. It’s sure to be good to be back.
Eight teams weighing over 3,325 pounds faced off in the heavyweight division. The first contest started with 4,250 pounds in the sled. The weight has been increased to 6,650.
When he hit 7,850 pounds, the first team failed to shoot. More teams dropped out as the weight rose to 7,850, 9,050 and 9,650. Only three teams remained when the weight reached 10,250 pounds. A team owned and led by the Brown Brothers of Acme won this division at this weight.
By this time the teams and horses seemed exhausted. The teamsters smiled at a job well done. The horses, their light brown coats shining with sweat, seemed ready to rest. The coachmen then loaded their horses and returned home.