Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Southern National Draft Horse Pull

It was at the 2006 Southern Draft Horse Pull in Raleigh, North Carolina that I was part of the largest attended horse event I’ve ever seen at the Hunt Horse Complex. The place was packed with over 2000 spectators. They were there to see a contest of strength and stamina between the gentle giants of the horse world.

Southern National Draft Horse Pull has been the grand finale of The Southern Farm Show for nearly thirty years. When the producers of the farm show announced they would not be hosting the show this year Rob Hall and Calvin Davis went to work to make sure the tradition of the Southern National Draft Horse Pull will go on as scheduled for the first Friday of February, 2012.

Calvin Davis brings to the event many years of experience in the equine community.

Rob Hall, is a media and marketing professional. He has produced many events, including bluegrass festivals and horse shows. Both are draft horse owners.

Top contenders from all over the country will be invited to compete. Spectators will also be treated to a mule coon jumping contest and the Double Bar L Shooters of North Carolina will demonstration the sport of cowboy mounted shooting.

Draft horse pulling is a contest that requires brute strength and stamina. It traces back to the earliest times of domesticated workhorses when farmers challenged one another for whose horse could pull the heaviest load. One thing led to another, other farmers got in on the action, and rules were devised. The rest is history.

To compete, draft horses and draft mules must be in top condition. They are worked daily and great care is paid to their nutrition. Proper fitting of the horse’s equipment is important. Harnesses need constant adjusting since the horse’s weight and muscle tone change with the conditioning.

Gates open at 5PM, show begins at 6PM. Tickets are $10 per person. Children under 6 are free with a paying adult. You can save two dollars if you buy tickets for the pull at the Southern Farm Show on the NC State Fairgrounds Wednesday, February 1-Friday, February 3rd. For more information contact Calvin Davis 919-732-7542 (H) or Rob Hall 336-599-4039 (H) 336-503-7183 (cell).

Fans can find out more on Facebook at or print out a flyer at

Monday, December 19, 2011

Does My Horse Need a Blanket in Winter?

There is a nip in the air and the tack shops are displaying winter horse blankets. So, does my horse need a winter blanket at all, and if so, how do I decide which features are important?

Most horses are protected from cold weather by their own coat; the one nature gave them. If the horse is in good health and is carrying its natural winter coat, has a good body weight, and has shelter from the wind and elements it is probably fine without a blanket in winter. Do they really need to be blanketed in winter? Most of the time, no.

On the other hand, a very young horse, or old horse has less resistance to the cold and can benefit from a blanket, as well as a horse that is underweight or in poor health. Obviously, if a horse is shivering a blanket is in order, or when the temperatures drop below what is normal for the region. Horses that are pastured year around and have minimal shelter will also benefit from having a turnout blanket.

It is when we humans interfere with Mother Nature that blankets are most necessary. Show horses that are kept under lights and/or clipped to preserve a fine coat and broodmares under lights to control their heat cycles, will certainly need to be blanketed when the temperatures drop.

Horse owners who are concerned that their horses will be cold in the winter sometimes forget that a horse can become over heated if the blanket is to heavy, or if there is a warm break in the weather. Check under the blanket and if the horse is sweating, then obviously it is too warm. On warm and sunny days take the blanket off, or replace with a lighter weight blanket. Most new blankets are lined with a smooth, breathable fabric to minimize sweating.

Once you've made the decision to blanket your horse there are several more decisions to make while shopping. There are two types of winter blanket: stable and turnout. These come in three weights: light, medium and heavy. If the weather in your region is variable a light or medium blanket combined with a blanket liner is a good choice. The liner, usually made of flannel or fleece, can be used with the blanket in the coldest weather, and then removed when the temps are more moderate.

A stable blanket is just what the name implies, a blanket designed to be used on a horse while it is indoors. If you only need to blanket at night while the temps are lower, or if your show horse stays indoors most of the time the less expensive stable blanket, which is usually not waterproof, is adequate.

If the horse is turned outdoors a turnout blanket is needed. The turnout is waterproof, and made to withstand more abuse. Leg straps help keep the blanket from twisting when the horse rolls.

Horses that stay outdoors in all weather may need a blanket that covers the neck or the addition of a hood. The high cut blanket gives extra protection from the elements. Horses that have been body clipped will need a hood to cover the head and neck. Another feature to look for is elasticized neck openings to give a snugger fit, thus keeping rain from running under the blanket.

Horses are hard on their clothes, so durability is am important feature of a good winter blanket. A high denier fabric, rib stop weaves and reinforced stress points will lengthen the life of the blanket. A good fit will make the horse more comfortable and its blanket will last longer. Blankets that feature a gusset at the shoulder will allow full movement of the front legs without stressing the blanket.