Alas, if only the arena-photography conditions were better. I had a wonderful time watching the draft horses participate in the pulling contest and would love to have better documented it to share.
There were divisions for light, medium, and heavy-weight horses in both single hitches and teams of two. In each round, the horses would take turns pulling a loaded sled a specific distance.
It was particularly fascinating to note how the harness is designed and used for this event. The harness traces connect to the whippletree, or equalizer, which is a bar that evenly distributes the force of the pull. The whippletree for pulling has a big metal hook on the end. As one teamster maneuvers his horse(s) into position in front of the sled (not an easy feat!), another deftly drops the hook through a slot on the front of the boat. At the same moment, the horses lunge forward to create momentum for the pull. If the horses are too eager or difficult to position, they can end up using up their energy with false starts before they are connected to the load. It’s not just a contest of strength, but of the willingness, heart, agility, and training of the horse, and considerable skill on the part of the person holding the reins!
I can’t wait until I can attend another pulling contest. It is just fascinating!