It’s never tough sledding, says David Lockhart, when you’re performing in front of a crowd like this.
Lockhart, of Melville, Sask., is relatively new at the heavy horse pull game. He only made his teamster debut last November at the 22nd Grain Miller’s Harvest Showdown in Yorkton, Sask., and had previously set the hook for a big Belgian team when his stepdad Wayne Nagy made his first horse-pulling foray two years ago.
But the pair’s inaugural showing at the 2010 Calgary Stampede Heavy Horse Pull, under the Big Top, isn’t something that Lockhart will soon forget.
“We’d never been to Calgary before, and it was an amazing atmosphere. I had a great time. Lots of people, and a good, supportive crowd,” says Lockhart, who farms Diamond Horseshoe Ranch, near Melville, with Nagy.
Lockhart, with his lightweight pair of Belgians named Stony and Sage, and Nagy, with his middleweights Colonel and Clyde, will both be in the mix at this year’s Stampede Heavy Horse Pull under the Big Top. The action begins Friday, July 15 with the lightweight division, continues Saturday, July 16 with the middleweights, and winds up Sunday, July 17 with the gentle giants of the heavyweight division. Start time all three nights is 7 p.m.
A total of 24 teams from as far away as the U.S. Pacific Northwest and the American Midwest are arriving for a “tight-tug” pull that is developing a sterling reputation across the continent — and ranks as the richest horse pull in North America, with the winner receiving a cheque for $3,000.
Last year, Dennis Weinberger of Cochrane, Alta., and his Springbank Belgians outfit made history by winning the triple crown for the first time in Stampede Heavy Horse Pull history — claiming all three divisions. And Weinberger capped his triplicate win in dramatic fashion, as his gargantuan duo of Dan and Jesse set a Stampede heavyweight division record by pulling a 13,200-pound sled the full 14 feet.
There’s another important reason the Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull is held in such high regard . . . and it has to do with the event’s official curtain-raiser — the annual Advertisers’ Auction, celebrating its 10th edition on Thursday, July 14 in the Victoria Pavilion at 7 p.m.
Since it was established in 2002, the Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull Advertisers’ Auction has become a truly magnetic event for individual and corporate supporters, with attractive and affordable branding possibilities. The Heavy Horse Pull allows supporters a great opportunity at promotion, a unique venue for entertaining clients, and the chance to view some top-notch agricultural entertainment. “It’s a real up-close and personal experience with the gentle giants of Stampede,” says Bill Nelson, chair of the Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull committee.
For successful bidders, the Heavy Horse Pull advertiser’s package includes passes to watch their teams during competition from a private VIP section under the Big Top, signage on the horses during competition, stall signage in the barns, and an exclusive party in the Victoria Pavilion alongside the horses after the main events. Last year, all 22 entries found suitors as the Heavy Horse Pull Advertisers’ Auction pulled in a total of $39,300 in bids.
“We keep getting the same (sponsors) back, and adding a lot of new ones,” says Nelson. “The event is a real fan favourite; we pack the house every night. The teamsters do a great job of looking after their team buyers and their guests — showing ’em around, giving ’em a tour of the barns. And we have a great party after each night of competition, with a live band and some food and refreshments.
“It’s a real Stampede experience.”
This year’s teams primarily feature Belgian and Percheron horsepower. Outfits compete in three classes based on the total weight of the two-horse team – lightweights from 2,400 to 3,000 pounds, middleweights from 3,001 to 3,500 pounds, and heavyweights tipping the scales at 3,501 pounds and up.
As for Lockhart, he and Nagy finished seventh in last year’s Stampede middleweight final, incurring an unfortunate line infraction at 8,000 pounds. As a teamster, Lockhart will truly be in his element under the Big Top this weekend.
“I’ve been around horses all my life, ever since I was a baby,” he says. “And it is amazing to see how much weight they’ll pull, how hard they’ll work.”
Potential bidders looking to attend the 10th annual Heavy Horse Pull Advertisers’ Auction can contact Erin Bartlett in the Stampede’s agriculture administration office at firstname.lastname@example.org
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