"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 differently.
The eveners are another scientific feat. There are holes in the doubltree 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.