By BILL KOCH
Daily Commercial Staff Writer
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The ranchers, the farmers, the good-ol’ boys and the old-time country folk
got real quiet when the large horses — yoked together in pairs — were
brought into the center of the muddy arena on Terry Yoder’s Lake Panasoffkee
ranch for the magnificent pull. Not a single “yeehaw” could be heard.
An overcast, drizzling sky kept cowboy hats, ball
hats, overalls and the brawny Belgium horses damp.
“Most of these horse are psyched up and ready to
go,” said Fred Burbee, a handler from Durgan and Crowell ranch in New
The Southern Draft Horse Association sponsored its
fourth annual horse pull in Central Florida Saturday with contestants and
their horses coming from states as far away as Maine and New Hampshire. The
association has seven other events planned in the next three weeks
. “We’ve just got it started here in Florida,” said
association president Mike Nevers. “We’ve got some of the best horses in
Florida.” Some of the horses competing were worth more than $25,000 each.
Two horses have to pull sleds loaded with cement
blocks at least 20 feet to advance to the next round. Blocks are added after
The contest has two categories: lightweights
(horses weighing less than 1,700 pounds each) and heavy weight. Nevers said
some of the horses that competed in the event weighed nearly 2,600 pounds
and were more than five feet tall measuring to the backs.
“It’s like a weightlifter,” Nevers said. “This is
kind of a family. We just want to see who has the strongest horses — like
weightlifters or boxers.”
Horse-pull contests are commonplace in the fertile
communities of Midwestern and Northeastern farmland. “This is country
entertainment,” said Rachel Rood, of Nicholson, Pa. “We’ve been involved in
this since we were kids.”
“I’ve been watching this all my life,” said Gordon
Bird, of Litchfield, Ky.
“It’s like a tractor pull with horses,” said
Glendora Yoder, the association’s secretary.
The winner in the light-weight division was Terry
Eggleston, of Hastings, Mich. His horses pulled 8,750 pounds for 14 feet and
Durgin and Crowell’s horses won the heavy-weight
division by pulling 10,500 pounds (more than five tons) for six feet and six
Winners get a $500 price and a trophy. The best
drivers receive $15.