Annual Auction Set to Start Heavy Horse Pull

heavy horse pull

A heavyweight team from Airdrie’s Soderglen Ranches, the Antony Family-supported Belgian duo of Ben and Roy, sets a new Calgary Stampede Heavy Horse Pull weight record in 2012 in the heavyweight division, pulling a 13,300-pound sled the full 14 feet. Photo credit: Calgary Stampede

As far as Kevin Danyluk is concerned, if you’re not ready for the Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull, there’s no point even showing up.
“The reason I didn’t go last year is that my horses were all young.  They just weren’t ready for a big pull like Stampede, yet,” says Danyluk, a welding inspector four days of the week but a heavy horse puller every day.  “I took the year off and worked them.  You have to give them a chance to grow and develop all the muscle they’ll need.  A pulling horse needs to be worked six days a week.  Now, they’re all seven years old and they’re ready to go.  When you go to a big pull like Stampede, you have to make sure your homework is done.  It’s a highly, highly competitive pull.  Pretty much all the best pullers from Northern America are there.”
Originally, Danyluk had a team that he used in parades and displays.  “I was going to a lot of small town fairs and saw the horse pulls,” he says.  As he grew more and more interested, he began helping pullers – often volunteering to hook the teams up to the loads.  Inevitably, he acquired a team of his own and chose to go with Belgians.  “They are a fantastic breed,” he insists.  “Nothing but heart and determination and they love to work.  There are some horses, they just love to pull.  They just have full heart.  They love their job.”
The Heavy Horse Pull takes over the Big Top on the last weekend of Stampede.  On Friday, at 7pm, it’s the Lightweight class for two-horse teams with a total weight of 3,000 pounds or less.  The Middleweights, weighing between 3,001 and 3,500 pounds, go Saturday at 7pm and the Heavyweights, 3,500 pounds and over, close out the show at 7pm on Sunday.
Before the pulling gets started, on Wednesday, July 10th in the Northern Lights arena, the annual Heavy Horse Pull Advertisers’ Auction offers supporters of the sport a unique chance to add the team of their choice to their marketing strategy.  Supporters love this event because it presents an affordable branding opportunity, and allows them a unique venue for entertaining clients. Successful bidders get barn tours, passes to watch their teams during competition from a private VIP section, signage on the horses themselves during competition, stall signage in the barns, and an exclusive party in the Pavilion alongside the horses after the main event.
“The auction sure helps us pullers,” says Danyluk.  ‘It helps us get here and it gets everybody excited.”
Pulling isn’t just a question of harnessing two horses together and getting the job done.  Danyluk says the animals need to be of similar strength and style.  “You have to mix and match and find out which horse works with which horse,” he explains.  “Some of them are different in speed.  Some start a load harder than the other one.  If they don’t work together, you don’t have a team.”
The driver isn’t exactly along for the ride, either, Danyluk says.  “It’s a 50-50 deal.  If you can’t drive them, they’re not going to give you what you want.  I’ve known a lot of good pullers – good drivers with good horses – show up at Stampede and absolutely fumble.  The pressure is enormous.”
In his three previous Stampede appearances, Danyluk says, “I’ve always placed in the top three or four.  I’m always just behind the big guys.”  This year he will enter two middleweight teams and a heavyweight team.  “I’ve been exercising six horses six days a week for four months.  All for two days,” he says.  “Stampede is hands-down the best.”

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