Draft pony pull back at fair

It has been more than 30 years since the Seneca County Fair hosted the draft pony pull, with nine teams competing from the Central Ohio Draft Pony Pulling Club Wednesday.

There are two classes in draft ponies, 52-inch and 56-inch, David Hover, president of the Seneca County Fair Board, said. The teams had to pull a sled filled with concrete blocks 14 feet.

Many competitors in Wednesday’s contests have been pulling for more than 40 years, gaining their interest from their fathers. That includes Bellevue native Bob Francis.

Francis said he has been pulling draft ponies for 30-40 years.

“I just got in it from my dad,” Francis said.

He had a team in the 52-inch and a team in the 56-inch class contests. The teams are made up of four males, Ned, Bob, Dick and Mark.

In the 52-inch class, Francis placed third pulling 5,500 pounds and in the 56-inch class he placed fourth with 7,000 pounds.

“They did good enough,” Francis said. “I have a couple new horses and are just starting out.”

Brothers Chuck and Jim Weilnau of Milan competed in the 52-inch class with their horses Kate, Charlie, Jerry and Jim.

Jim placed first pulling 6,000 and fourth at 5,500 pounds; and Chuck placed fifth at 3,500 pounds. Jim received a monetary award of $120.

“Just enough fuel to get the next contest,” Jim said.

He said he has been competing in pulls since he was a kid.

“I got it from my dad,” Jim said. “It’s been in the family.”

The amount the horses can pull varies, Jim said. Last week, he said his team was able to pull 11,000 pounds.

“That doesn’t happen very often. They pull usually around 7,000-8,000 pounds,” he said.

To prepare the teams, Jim said that he exercises them at home to work their muscles.

“Today I just hoped they do a good job, its not always about winning,” he said.

Bill Cole of Mount Vernon had a team in the 52-inch class place second at 6,000 pounds and a team in the 56-inch class place third at 7,000 pounds.

“Today they just weren’t driving right,” Cole said.

Hee also found an interest in pulling from his father. “I’ve been pulling ponies since I was 10 years old,” Cole said.

The most his teams pulled was 11,500 pounds.

“It just depends on the conditions of the track,” Cole said.

Cole prepares his team of four geldings, Barney, Bob, Nate and Oscar like an athlete, working them with different weights.

“It doesn’t matter if they win, just as long as they try and act decent,” Cole said.

In the 56-inch class, Chuck Darkes of Newark placed first at 7,000 pounds and Caroll Mills, of Mount Vernon, placed second at 7,000 pounds. Darkes’ team was able to pull the sled farther than Mills’.