August 26, 2008

Draft Horse Pulls

One of the places Amy took me to was the Barnstable County Fair. We strategically planned our trip to coincide with the evening Draft Horse Pulling competition. We knew we would have limited light since the pulls started in the evening.

Once we got there we moseyed our way to the main arena via the petting zoo. I'm not a big fan of petting zoos and haven't really seen all that many over the years. I don't mind the animals that get to interact with the public, but the caged, usually exotics bother me. This particular petting zoo had very few of them, fortunately but it had plenty of begging goats and llamas.

Well off to find the all-important horses. We found a few in a small barn, a 4-H display. The aisle was packed with people. There was one horse that has shoved itself into the back of his stall not wanting to be touched and petted by the adoring public. I looked at him for a minute and then turned to talk to someone. I glanced in the direction of the horse and he had come over and was sticking his had over the door and looking right at me. I went over to say hello for a moment and when I left he returned back the far corner of his stall. Horses often like me but I have never been sought out so intensely before.

Finally, we made our way over to where the competition draft horses were. They were just starting to tack up for their classes. All of the horses at this pull were Belgians and they were big!They were tall but mostly they were wide! I was fascinated by the shoes on their feet. really wide toe grabs and huge heel caulks. All the better to grip with I suppose.

The horses started to arrive right as the sun was beginning to set. The first team came in from the pretty side of the gate! Backlit and in step with each other they looked mighty fine for heavy drafts. All the teams came into the arena and found their places along the rail. Most of the drivers hitched the teams to the rail but one driver backed his team up and put their tails to the rail, got out a lawn chair, parked it in front of them and had a seat. Amy and I took to calling this team the refrigerator and the freezer. The Fridge is on the left and he's big. The Freeze is on the right and while not as tall, he's built solid as a rock and super wide.

Let the pulling commence. The teams come up to the front of the sled with the weight on it and the drivers back them up to the sled. A couple of extra hands is necessary to put the tree on the hook to the sled. the most important rule is to keep all hands an toes out of the way of the sled at this time. Many of the teams start pulling the moment they think the sled is hooked. A few teams wait for their drivers cue, very few.

As the night goes on, weight gets added to the sled. Once the team cannot pull the sled a certain distance within 3 attempts, it is eliminated from any further attempts or weights. Some of the drivers know their teams well and bow out before the load gets too heavy for them, many of the driver at this fair took that option, a few teams went on for the win with the big weights.

All in all it was interesting to view and photograph. I had fun pushing the limits of my camera's available light capabilities since I was taking pix for the fun or it. I also was able to get a good close-up look at the harnesses and try some detail images. Here's a link to many more Draft Horse Pull images.