Horses large and small pull their weight, and then some
Call it a prime example of irony,
but victory for the world's largest draft horses can come down to inches and the
smallest of percentages.
In the percentage pull of the state's open pull championship Thursday at the
Winter Show, Dennis Fick's team of Belgians bested Don Davis's team by less than
one percentage point. Fick's win continued his hold on the state title, which he
has won for three years in a row now.
Winning is a Fick family habit. In the pony pull, Dennis' father Harold scored a
first place with Ted and Tony. If that wasn't sweet enough, his daughter Abbey
collected a Best Teamster plaque for her work with Jack and Butch.
|The rules are
similar, even if the horses are of different sizes. Once they hook up,
teamsters in the pony pull encourage their miniature horses to pull the skid
10 feet. In early stages of the open horse pull, the light skid turns the
20-foot pull into a blur. Times-Record photos by Carla Kelly
Abbey Fick is a veteran of Winter
Show competition in the pony pull, according to Liz, her mother. "She started
when she was 9," Liz says. "I was terrified."
Not to worry. Abbey's team when she was a beginner was lighter than the
518-pound duo she controlled during Thursday's competition.
"Pony pulls are a nice way for kids to start working horses," Liz explains.
"It's good for them, and easier on their arms." It's also a less strenuous
workout for older teamsters like Harold Fick.
Harold and Dennis Fick have been
pulling their weight for 18 years. "They were competing before Dennis and I were
married," Liz says.
She added that summers are the busiest times: getting up at the crack of dawn on
weekends to drive to shows and fairs in the Dakotas and Minnesota.
Pony and horse pulling is a hobby for the Ficks (Dennis runs Fick and Sons
Trucking in Litchville), but some of the teamsters in the Open Pull competition
use their horses in farm work and logging, with the occasional sleigh or hay
ride thrown in.
With Howard Wolf of Ypsilanti, though, his matched Percherons are a hobby, one
that has taken him all over the United States and Canada in competition. Wolf's
Satan and Mark placed third in competition yesterday, behind second-place winner
Tracy Hanson of Chatfield, Minn., and Bob Hedmark of Niagara, Wis., in first
Howard did win the Best Teamster Award. It's hard to ignore the beauty of his
dapple gray Percherons and their combined weight of 4,025 pounds, and the
seemingly effortless way he controlled them.
A grain and bean farmer, Howard used to show cattle, but began training pulling
teams because he likes horses. He adds that maybe horse pulling had a medicinal
effect on him, too.
"I had some health problems that all went away when I started working horses,"
he says. "Plus it gives me great satisfaction."
Whether their horses are big Belgians and Percherons, or pint-sized ponies, the
training and conditioning goes on all year.
"It's diet and exercise," says Liz Fick, "just like people."
Heavyweight or lightweight, the pulling competition is the same. Pony teams must
pull a weighted skid 10 feet per each round. They have three tries to make that
After each round, more weight is added. Salt bags from area Culligan Water
Conditioning dealers comprised the weight in Thursday's pulls. Teamsters keep a
careful eye on their straining horses, and quickly pull out of competition when
their hard-working pairs reach their limit.
Twenty feet per pull is the requirement for the large horses. If a team can't
make that 20-foot pull in a round, whatever inches it achieves are recorded. Bob
Hedmark's combo of Rex and Mike scored a first place by pulling 11,000 pounds a
distance of 85 inches. Tracy Hanson was right behind for second place with 64
Teams in the percentage pull follow a slightly different path. Those teams-by no
means small- are lighter than the heavy weights. They are judged on what
percentage of their combined team weight they can pull. Dennis Fick's team
pulled 273.29 percent of their 3,360-pound weight.
Both the pony pulling and open pull are crowd favorites. The main arena was
packed for both competitions, even though a $5 fee was charged for the events.
The crowd's enthusiasm for the sport was evident. People leaned forward in the
bleachers as the horses strained, or were obediently silent at the request of
the announcer, when the teamsters needed to communicate with their hard-working
The animals seemed to relish the applause, too, leaving viewers with the sense
that the satisfaction that teamsters feel in a successful pull is seconded by
the big boys doing the heavy hauling.
Article courtesy of Valley City Times