Changing times for horse pull participants and fans

by | Aug 3, 2022

Long-time sport participant says pullers love and take great care of their powerful four-legged athletes

The sport of horse pulling has seen a lot of change in New Brunswick over recent years.
The annual New Brunswick Day Horse Pull held Monday, Aug. 1, during Old Home Week saw 10 teams compete in front of the Connell Park Grandstand. See the complete results at the end of the article.

Times are changing, and those with access to a pair of horses have changed along with it.
Horse pulling once thrived with annual pulls held in Coldstream, Perth-Andover Hartland, Harvey, Centreville, Benton and Canterbury.
Corey Grant, who has been pulling horses since he was 18, says he can recall the days when 45 teams would be there for a pull.
He described a day at a horse pull as a relaxing day for the horses.

Most pulls start early in the afternoon, but pullers will arrive early in the morning with their trailers. The animals can relax, get groomed and brushed, and eat before the fun begins.

Some people feel horse pulling is cruel, and Grant believes such views reflect a lack of education or awareness about the sport. Reins are not used anymore and haven’t been for many years, so the horses aren’t whipped while pulling.

In a day, Grant said, the horse teams wouldn’t spend cumulatively more than 15 minutes hooked to the drag. A single pull lasts a matter of seconds, with a maximum length of 12 feet per pull. They are pulling approximately 2.5 times their body weight.
“I support anyone who is against animal cruelty,” said Grant. “But we treat our animals with care and respect. We spend so much time with our horses, and it’s hard when we are being accused of being cruel. Horse-pulling horses are some of the best cared for animals around.”

He said the horse needs immaculate care and attention to be competitive in the pulling sport.
“My horses are shod properly,” he said. “They never take a lame step. They get bathed six days per week. They eat the best of food and follow a dietician’s directions. They have all the clean water they can drink.”

Grant spends two to three hours per day exercising his team, a pair of 12-year-old Belgians named Newt and Jerry. The exercise involves dragging a tire for weight, which builds strength and stamina. They receive rests and water breaks.

Grant said he knows people mean well when they attack the sport he loves, but they just aren’t aware of the facts. He invites anyone to look into it further and says it would be hard today to find healthier and happier animals than pulling horses.
Some might’ve gotten their impressions from seeing horse pulls in years past, before the presence of strict animal rights regulations and governing bodies to ensure animal health was a priority.

Grant is one of the pioneers of the New Brunswick Pulling Association. They worked diligently to create a set of rules requiring horse care to be a priority and necessary to compete. Horse pulling isn’t a cheap sport to get into, he said, so pullers aren’t going to risk their investment without due diligence toward the care of their team.

Some rules are as follows: The horse must be properly shod, not barefoot. They must be in apparent good health, without open sores or blemishes. They must be well nourished. All horses are eligible for random drug testing. While the numbers and popularity may be dwindling in this much of New Brunswick, Grant said the sport is a thriving tradition in many parts of the Maritimes.

“It seems like, in New Brunswick, investment in our heritage isn’t a priority,” he said. “In Nova Scotia, there are still great country fairs where farming is celebrated. We are losing our heritage education here. Farming with horses was all there was not that long ago. Small farms are in decline. Fairs used to be a time to celebrate your prize animals and be proud of your hard work. Horse pulling is a reminder of the heritage days.”

Grant says the sport’s big dilemma is how to get people involved.
“I’ve always been around workhorses,” he said. “That’s rare now. In my community of Benton, there were several people that had a pair, but now I’m the only one. Plus, it’s expensive to start out. The price of horses is high, but you also need a truck and a trailer and harnesses and collars.”

When Grant first entered the sport, he traveled to around 30 horse pulls per summer. Now life is busier, but he’s planning a “pulling spree” over Labour Day weekend, involving stops in Oxford, Antigonish, and Black’s Harbour.
Grant is also coordinating the Horse Pull at the upcoming Fredericton Exhibition. It will be a two-day event with a three-horse hitch on Friday and a double on Saturday.

“It’s just good ol’ fashioned fun,” said Grant. “We can’t control what people think, but this is a competitive, governed sport. You are required to care for your horses in order to compete, and people aren’t going to invest the amount of time and money needed and not make the health of their horses the main priority.”

Woodstock Horse Pull 2022 Results
Light Kevin Golding – Full Pull 6,000 lbs Patrick Budrow – 41″ 6,000 lbs Medium Kyle Steve’s – 121″ 7,000 lbs Corey Grant – 66″ 7,000 lbs Corey Steve’s – Full Pull 6,500 lbs Dean McCulough – 78″ 6,500 lbs Heavy Stewart Brothers – Full Pull 6,000 lbs David Sode – 85″ 6,000 lbs Dwight Carson – 5,50 lbs

FOREST FIRE INDEX – click image for current status

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