Horse Pulling Contest

This year's Pennsylvania Maple Festival Horse Pulling Contest will be held at the Somerset County Fairgrounds on Sunday, March 29 , 2015 at 1 p.m. For more information about prizes and entry, please contact the Festival Office at (814) 634-0213 or email the Festival by clicking here .

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.

Horse pulling 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 Horse pulling 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 cannot 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 differently.

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!

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.

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