Big Horses Score Big

CALGARY STAMPEDE HEAVY HORSE PULL – Heavyweight Class

Champion: Joker & Sandy, Martin Howard, Rocky Mtn. House, AB, for New West Truck Centres

Reserve Champion: Fritz & Tommy, Randy Dodge/Stan Grad, for New West Truck Centres

Photo from Calgary Stampede

Photo from Calgary Stampede

Calgary – After ten pulls, and with 12,000 pounds on the sled, the difference between winning and losing in Calgary Stampede Heavy Horse Pull Heavyweight class came down to a foot.

Last year was Martin Howard’s first try at the Stampede Heavy Horse Pull and he finished sixth. This year he brought the biggest team on the field at the Agrium Western Event Centre. At a combined weight of 4,845 pounds, Joker and Sandy outweighed the next heaviest team by 428 pounds in a class where the minimum is 3,500. After 8 rounds, the weight to be pulled was up to 11,500 pounds and three teams were still in it. When Delbert Dillman’s Prince George, BC, team of Fred and Jack came up short, the scene was set for Howard to take on multi-time winner Randy Dodge for the Stampede buckle.

Coming into the Heavyweight pull on the evening of Sunday, July 13th, Dodge, of Albany, OR, had a chance to score an extremely rare clean sweep of the Stampede Heavy Horse Pull. Dodge won both the Lightweight class on Friday evening and the Middleweight division on Saturday. After nine trips down the track, his team of Fritz and Tommy, co-owned with Airdrie’s Stan Grad, was still pulling strongly going into the showdown with Howard’s outfit. Both teams were sponsored by New West Truck Centres.

A soft spot had developed in the pulling lane and several competitors had already fallen afoul of it. Howard’s team pulled first in the final, and made it 92 inches before becoming bogged. Dodge hooked up his horses and they gave it all they had, but 80 inches was all there was. Dodge had to settle for the Reserve Champion’s cheque of $2,500 while Howard got the champion’s payout of $3,000.

“It’s an amazing feeling. I’m just shaking right now,” said Howard. Originally from Manitoulin Island, ON, Howard has been pulling about eight years.

“We always had horses at home, working them on the farm,” he said. After seeing heavy horses in action at local agricultural fairs, “I thought I’d like to try the horse power of my team someday. I went, and they did really well. It got in my blood and it hasn’t left.” An opportunity in the oilpatch brought Howard and his family to Rocky Mountain House, AB, last October.

Winning out in a shootout with Dodge, always the favourite at the Stampede Heavy Horse Pull, made victory extra-special for Howard. “That’s the big thing. People are shaking my hand about that,” he said. “Randy’s a super dude. Last year, when I came out here for the first time, he helped me out big-time. He’s a real good sportsman. I can’t believe it actually happened.”