“This is a sled — or stone boat — pull,” said Bill Hanson, organizer of the 2015 Western Days Horse & Pony Pullers Association horse pull, set for the evening of Friday, Aug. 7, in Chatfield’s Mill Creek Park.
He described how a horse pull works – after the “giddyap,” the horses hitched to a stone boat take off and do their best to drag it to or beyond the required 27.6 feet for a full pull. The stone boat is a flat skid that starts out with 4,000 pounds on it, and after each pull, another 1,000 pounds is added. Whoever pulls the greatest distance wins.
Hanson observed that Chatfield’s horse arena is well-suited to horse pulls since it’s not on hard ground.
“It’s a nice fenced-in arena,” he said. “The horses like the ground soft – the arena is really a good place to pull young horses. At the fairground, it’s hard for them to get a foot into the ground…a horse likes to pull on soft ground. It’s a real good place to come pull.”
The annual horse pull held during Western Days typically draws pullers from across this part of the state and from Wisconsin and Iowa as well, up to 200 miles away. This year, though, the Wisconsin State Fair got pushed back a week, so he doesn’t know how many teams they’ll get.
He’s hoping for six to eight teams in each class and to have some of the better horses and better pulls. The classes are the lightweight and heavyweight teams, or 3,200 and down and heavyweight at 5,000 and up.
Hanson enjoys making the arrangements for the pull to happen each year.
“I’ve been in charge for quite a few years now, but I’ve pulled in Chatfield for the past 15 to 20 years,” he said. “It’s a lot of work getting ready, talking to as many guys as I can and sending out invitations in the association newsletter, but it’s been a good event. It’s gotten good followers. The crowd rolls in usually around 6:30. They like to see the heavier loads. We’ve had a good crowd turnout.”
The pull is on unless it’s pouring rain, because they can’t pull in the rain.
The Minnesota Horse & Pony Pullers Association Chatfield Western Days pull is slated for Friday, Aug. 7, at 6 p.m. in Mill Creek Park. Admission is by donation. For more information, contact Hanson at (507) 867-3527.
More horse events
Other equine activities during Western Days include the annual Chatfield Saddle Club Royalty Contest, horse show and trail ride. The horsing around begins at 10 a.m. with the royalty contest on Saturday, Aug. 8, at Mill Creek Park.
“The Saturday morning royalty contest is usually young people riding – teens – and it’s just the royalty,” stated Chatfield Saddle Club representative Ann Anderson. “They’re judged on their horse knowledge.”
Sunday’s horse show opens at 8 a.m. in the Mill Creek Park horse arena.
“The Sunday horse show probably will last all day. They’re judging halter and pleasure classes, gaming classes, barrels and poles, jumping, figure eights,” said Anderson. “Everybody is welcome to watch. The horse show is open to anybody in the Southeast Minnesota Saddle Club Association, and they’ll be competing for points.”
She added that there will be concessions available only on Saturday to keep the cowpokes cool and fed.
The trail ride departs from Mill Creek Park at 6 p.m. sharp Saturday, and is open to anyone who has a horse and wants to ride. Anderson speculated that the trail ride will follow previous years’ routes.
“I think it will probably be going south. We’ve ridden on Lynn Steinbrink’s property before. It lasts an hour and a half to two hours,” she said. “The trail ride leaves at 6 p.m. sharp because we’re going to be on private property, so it means we’re opening and closing gates. Anyone who goes will have to sign a waiver to ride on people’s property, and all children 18 and under will have to have an adult with them.”
The state of Minnesota requires a negative Coggins test for participation in Chatfield Saddle Club activities. For more information on events, call Holly Eisenman at (507) 951-2567.