It only took three rounds of competition and 6,500 pounds of deadweight to establish Randy Dodge’s New West Truck Centres Belgians as the top team in the Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull Lightweight division.
Dodge’s duo of 9-year old Red and 6-year old Bud were the reserve champions in 2012. This year, on a tricky surface in the Big Top, they bettered that performance by one place. “They don’t like deep sand,” says Dodge, who treks up from Albany, OR to make his Stampede headquarters with Stan Grad of Soderglen Ranches near Airdrie. “My horse fell down on the first load. He didn’t know what his footing was. Once he learned what the footing was, he got a lot smarter.”
Another advantage Dodge’s horses might have had is that they wear shoes specially-constructed for pulling. “They’re expensive,” Dodge says. “It’s the worst job in the world putting them on. I do it, but I hate it. You have to reset them every six weeks and the shoes only last one season. If you don’t shoe, it’s like taking a knife to a gunfight. If I don’t’ shoe and I come here and slip, I’ll say, ‘I wish I had put shoes on’. If I come here with shoes on and slip, I did all I could.”
This year’s Stampede Heavy Horse Pull has drawn teamsters from as far away as Oregon, Washington and Idaho, as well as all three Western provinces with outfits primarily featuring the horsepower of all four Heavy Horse breeds – Belgians, Clydesdales, Percherons and Shires.
The teams of the Stampede’s lightweight division, which attracted an eight-team field this year, weigh in at a combined two-horse weight of 2,400 to 3,000 pounds.
Among the three Heavy Horse Pull divisions, the lightweights are the only equines that regularly pull three times their weight. On Friday, the final pull by Red and Bud amounted to 2.2 times their weight.
The Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull will continue for two more nights under the Big Top. The teams of the middleweight division, weighing a combined 3,001 to 3,500 pounds, step into harness on Saturday, July 13 at 7 p.m., while the equine titans of the heavyweight division, tipping the scales at a combined 3,501 pounds and more, take over the spotlight on Sunday, July 14 at 7 p.m.
The Witman brothers of Ferndale, WA were second and third on Friday. Carson’s Catalyst LLP-backed outfit was second, winning $2,500 and Cameron’s Walton Group of Companies team was third, taking home $2,000. The brothers were pulling this year in memory of their late father, Randy, a well-known competitor in heavy horse pulls.