GREENVILLE – Seven large draft horse teams made their way to the Greenville Power of the Past to compete in the horse pull located in the horse arena at the south end of the Great Darke County Fairgrounds.
“You guys have great facilities over here,” said Andy Wagner, a lifelong horse puller from Farmland (IN). “It’s one of those we always look forward to coming to. You guys have a great arena here. It’s a good spot for a horse. You’re not going to get one hurt out there. It’s a good, good facility.”
Wagner’s father, Max Wagner was the arena announcer for the evening’s pull.
“He’s 80 years old,” noted Andy. “I have a trophy from the 50’s so you could say he’s been around a few years.”
The vast majority of horses used in horse pulling are Belgian Draft horses with the exception being Percheron, Clydesdale, Shire, Friesian and Appaloosa. All teams at the Saturday night pull were Belgian.
“Most people are familiar with the Budweiser Clydesdales – everybody thinks they are huge,” said Wagner. “They are the ‘Manute Bol (7’7″)’ of horse pulling. They don’t pull very often, they are really tall, slender, thin framed but the Belgian is more the ‘Shaquille O’Neal (7’1”)’ style of it. They’re big, muscular and they’re broader.”
“The Belgians are extremely smart,” said Wagner. “They’re babies. Generally speaking the larger the horse the more docile.”
“When we come into the arena they may walk flatfooted, just quiet as can be across there but when we cut them in front of the sled, they will get fired up because they love to do it,” continued Wagner. “It’s just one of those things they are born to do, they are breed to do.”
As with any athlete, training is also vital to horse pulling.
“We don’t just throw these animals on a trailer and bring them here,” explained Wagner. “They are getting four to eight hours a day, every day for months before we are ready to bring them to the pull. They’re conditioned, they have the best of feed, they have best of medical care and they have the best of training that we can possibly give them. They are very well trained and conditioned athletes.”
A drawback to horse pulling today, like many hobbies, the cost continually continues to increase with time.
“Horse pulling has just went the way of everything else – it just gets more and more expensive to do,” Wagner said. “Unproven green horses are selling for twenty and thirty thousand dollars. You get a horse that is proven, it’s not uncommon to play fifty to seventy-five to one hundred thousand, and those are the really good ones.”
“You have to have two of them so it’s not hard to have eighty to one hundred thousand dollars wrapped up in a pair of horses. Tonight first place will be between two and three hundred bucks so you can do the math. It’s a couple thousand per year per horse just to feed them.”
“You can figure it out. We would have to win at least 300 pulls a year to pay out,” chuckled Wagner. “They are hay burners, but we do it for the love of it.”
“I been doing this my whole life so it’s not for the money,” concluded Wagner. “Hopefully we can continue to afford to do it.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Belgian draft horses compete at the Greenville Power of the Past horse pull. (Gaylen Blosser photos)