Jeff Schlarb of Cambridge stands with his two heavyweight horses, Barney and Pete.
Horses from all over the area compete to see which team can pull the most weight. Some, such as Jeff Schlarb, have been involved with horse pulls for many years. In fact, the Schlarb family has been entering horse pulls for generations.
"It's been in his blood a lot of years, it goes back to his grandfather, his father, uncles, it's been it their family and his brother pulls," his wife, Lisa Schlarb, said. "He's a very good horseman. He loves it and it's in his blood so he does a good job."
Jeff Schlarb travels the Midwest area entering horse pulls and has been a regular figure at the Muskingum County Fair for many years. He no longer owns horses, but handles them for Bill McIntire and is assisted by Keith Allander. He enjoys the sport of the event.
"We like competing against other teams. We travel to New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, all the pulls in Ohio, that's about 30. We just like competing," he said.
The horses are Belgiums, like most pull horses in the competition, but a few Percheron and other breeds do enter the contest. A team of two horses are used in the pulls which features two classes, the lightweights (combined weight of horses is 3,300 and under) and the heavyweights (combined weight of horses is 3,300 pounds and over).
The horses are conditioned and trained to compete. Their age is important to Schlarb, too.
"We prefer 5 years old, if you don't wait that long you can hurt their (horses) joints. We treat them like a weightlifter; they work lighter one day and heavier the next. It takes about eight to 10 weeks to condition them to the sled. They'll mature about a year later. It takes about a year to completely train them," he said.
The teams must pull a sled a distance of 27-feet with between 8,500 and 10,000 pounds on it.
"If there is more than one team pulls that (the set weight) then they add more weight until one pulls the farthest," Schlarb said.
The sled is not what most people would think of as a sled, it is flat bottomed, more "like pulling a log," Schlarb says.
"The horses have a harness on and they push against the collar. The collar is the most important thing. If the collar doesn't fit it's a problem," he said.
Once the competition determines a winner, $300 is paid as top prize and lesser prizes are given to other competitions.
While Schlarb enjoys the horse pulls as a hobby, he is not sure how much competition he will have at this year's fair.
"It's a hobby like golf, it can get expensive. This fuel thing (increased prices) has to put a crimp on things and we've had some guys quit," he said.
Schlarb will be at this year's Muskingum County Fair, with the team of horses competing to see who has the championship team.