Saturday night I traveled to LaGrange to meet up with friends of our family, David and Denise. Last week when I traveled to Lexington to photograph our horses, their farm was one the stops on my list and while there, I asked David about his 'other' horses: the Belgians. He gave my professor and I a tour, tried to help me understand horse pulls and showed us part of his daily routine: weighing the horses. After a little chatting, I was throughly confused about horse pulling, so I asked to come along.
Unlike anything else I have seen, the horse pull demonstrated the strength and willingness that animals possess - something I soooo love and am fascinated by. I will admit to my passion/obsession for horses and farming before you read any further in to my raving about how awesome and interesting it all was, but really - it was. I think anyone could attend and understand the greatness and historical relevance this hobby holds.
So I show up and the explaining begins. Denise and David arrived at 10 that morning for the weigh-in. Each pair is weighted to determine the amount they will pull and to verify that they belong in their respective division - lightweights or heavyweights. And then the waiting begins. They wait and wait and wait some more for the pull to being at 7. Around 6:15 they get the pair out of the trailer, tie them up, groom and harness them and then head to the ring.
Each pairs of horses (8 at this pull, I think) lines up and waits their turn to pull the first round. The pairs are called one at a time to hook to the sled, weighing around 1000 pds and filled with cinder blocks bringing the total to 3000 pds (if my memory serves me correctly). Each team is given 3 attempts to pull. The first round went by smoothly with each pair needing one attempt.
This is the best part - the driver heads them to the sled, backs them up and as soon as the horse hears their hook to the sled they jerk forward and begin around 30 seconds of intense power-walking or hopping. It is almost scary how quick the horses respond.
After they complete their pull, the announcer auctions off each pair in a betting scheme. Spectators and competitors alike are allowed to bid for the team they think will win. The monies are put into a pool and the bidder of the winning pair will take home half the pot, the bidder of the second place team wins half or the remaining monies and so on.
As the rounds progress and weight is added, teams drop out and the final round ensues. David and Denise go from joking and lighthearted to focused and observant, David a bit more nervous and anxious. She stands by holding the team while David watches the competition pull their final round.
I love that David and Bill (the horse) seem to be making the same face here.
David's final pull took all three attempts and was much slower moving than the previous. The horses were much more tired, yet amazingly seemed much more intensely focused.
In the end, String and Bill (the horses) took home third place and David seemed pleased - and much more relaxed.
Meet Bill - he was much more interested in what I was doing than String was. So funny how they each have their very own, very different personalities.
A sweet little ender of the overall mood. These guys all show up with their prized teams for an evening of intense competition and soothing relaxation. After all of my horse lessons, it was so crazy to me that these guys pulled up their lawn chairs and sat next to these huge horses. Never have I seen such power so genuinely in pleasant control.
I'll keep you in the loop as to your next horse-pulling opportunity - it is one that shouldn't be missed. Hope you enjoyed! Seniors tomorrow.