Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Draft Pulling

Two weekends ago was Family Weekend up here at school. My parents flew up for the long weekend. For Friday and Saturday we hung around campus; my parents had parent-teacher conferences and I was leaping on the opportunity to staff the farm stand. This was apparently a bad math weekend for me, because I kept having trouble making change. Several parents raised their eyebrows and one practically reprimanded me for being mathematically challenged. But honestly, who really cares about skeptical parents when you're hanging around the farm?

After all of our business on campus was finished, it was time to drive up to New Hampshire to hike. I'm actually going to make a different post about the hiking; this is about what we saw on the way up to Pinkham Notch, and how we almost missed dinner (served at 6:00 PM sharp, and don't even think about being late!).

As we drove away from school through Swanzey, Mass, we ran across a massive tack shop called the Cheshire Horse. Inside they had a flier about the 54th Annual Eastern Draft Horse Association Championship Round Up. My dad was really interested so away we went to find the fairgrounds where the last event of the weekend was taking place.

When we arrived, the final pulling competition was in full swing, and what a sight it was. There was a huge tractor at one end of the ring, attached to a metal sledge loaded with enormous cement blocks. The tractor pulled the sledge back after each team pulled. The arena was full of both horses and people. Teams of two horses were lined up at the larger end of the ring with a small open space in the middle. And all around were camp chairs with people in them, presumably drivers of these teams. It seemed like an incredibly dangerous setup to me, especially because sometimes the teams would be walking over to the sledge and almost run into one of the people hanging around on the sides.

The pulling was amazing. These horses were in the 3400 lb weight class, which I'm pretty sure included both of the horses. They would be ground driven to the sledge, turned around, and two handlers on either side would drop the yoke onto a hook on the sledge. The horses would then explode forward, urged on by their eager drivers (sometimes aided by hats flapped at the horses' rears).

The horses were originally pulling 8000 lbs. Then as teams were eliminated, it became 9000 lbs and then 9500 lbs. We had to leave before they added any more.

I thought the horses were really pretty, as well as kind of ferocious-looking when they were being driven.

Still, I'd rather be outside the pen petting them than in the ring driving them.

I'll be posting more photos of these guys later (I took over 1000) as well as photos from Stoneleigh-Burnham and Mount Washington.

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