HARRISBURG — Literally chomping at the bit and glistening with sweat, two Cumberland County draft horse teams on Tuesday tried their best to win the 102nd Pennsylvania Farm Show heavyweight horse pulling contest.
In the end, they could do no more. Their brute strength and teamwork wasn’t enough to pull a sled loaded with 10,850 pounds of concrete blocks the required 27½ feet.
Owner Scott Enslin of Upper Mifflin Township said he wasn’t the least bit upset with Dick, Mike, Bud and Jimmy because all four of the Belgians were new to horse pulling at the Farm Show. He owns one team himself and the other with friends Chris Wonderley and Marlin Kauffman.
“These teams barely got their last loads across the line,” said Enslin, who owns a 67-acre farm. “It was hard for them.”
Horse pulls, an enduring piece of Americana at the Farm Show, pit teamsters and horses against a “sled” filled with concrete blocks.
Teams must pull the sled for 27½ feet. The weight gradually is increased until the team that can pull the heaviest load the farthest wins. All of the competing horses were Belgians, perhaps the hardest-working breed of draft horses.
The lightweight division featured four teams weighing 3,325 pounds or less while the heavyweight division had nine teams weighing more than 3,325. The competition, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Horse Pulling Association, is considered the World Series of horse pulling.
About 4,000 people in the Large Arena seemed mesmerized as the lightweight teams got to work. Looking powerful despite their division title, the lightweight teams easily pulled 4,250 pounds, 5,450 pounds, 6,650 pounds and 7,850 pounds. Things got tougher when the weight reached 8,450, 9,050 and 9,650 pounds.
In the end, Bobby Howard of Acme, in his 29th year of Farm Show horse pulling, captured first place and $500 with his team and second place and $450 with his father’s team.
The heavyweight division followed with 5,450 pounds in the first round. The weight increased until the sled held 10,850 pounds by the eighth round.Enslin decided to withdraw from the contest when the weight hit 9,650 pounds. “I’ll let my team think they are winners so they want to do this again,” he said. “You’ve got to know when to quit.” He said that Dick, his eight-year-old Belgian, has been blind in his left eye since birth.
Western Pennsylvania teamsters, keeping with traditions, dominated the heavyweight division awards.
First place went to Scott Brown of Acme whose team pulled 10,250 pounds the full distance in three tries. The team of his brother, Charlie Brown of Acme, finished second after pulling 10,250 pounds in three tries. Bobby Howard came in third with a pull of 6 feet 8 inches.
Enslin’s team won sixth prize by pulling 9,650 pounds 17 feet 8 inches. His second team came in fourth, pulling 10,250 pounds 24 feet 3 inches.
“Competition was tough tonight,” said Bobby Howard, standing with Curt and Chart, who just pulled in their third Farm Show. “There’s a lot of good teams in this class.”