To the delight of attendees at the 56th Annual Pioneer Harvest Fiesta this weekend, the sport has grown into one of the highlights of the annual event.
On Saturday, "Ted" and "Tony," two monolithic Belgian draft horses, drew numerous ovations from the packed stands as they drug 6,650 pounds of cinderblock 15 feet to claim first place in the event and give their owner, Larry Oldham, of Osawatomie, first place and a large trophy to take home.
Typical draft horse pulls allow the horses three tries at each weight. As long as the team can successfully pull that weight a specified distance the horse may advance to the next round, where the weight increases in increments of either 500 or 1,000 pounds.
Oldham, fresh off wins at Mapleton and the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson, bested seven other teams to claim the victory.
He said he competes in about 20 draft horse pulls a year with the team, who he has trained for about five years. Tony is 8 years old and Ted is 7.
He said it takes a lot of work and commitment to train the horses.
"It's a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun ... It keeps me out of trouble," Oldham said with a laugh.
Building up the leg muscles on his horses is an important goal of the workouts, he noted.
"You've got to get the muscles on the legs," Oldham said. "I have a tire from an earth scraper that weighs 1,360 pounds that I've drug till it's wore down on one side. We try to get four to five miles every day. Sometimes we get 12 or 13. That's what builds them up."
He said he works his pair most every day to get them ready for competition.
Oldham added that the sport was handed down to him by his father, who also pulled.
Getting the team to work together is his key to winning and he quips that his recipe for success is "practice, practice, practice."
The horses are surprisingly energy efficient, too. Oldham said he feeds them about three gallons of grain a day and they share a big bale of hay at night.
Oldham said he bought the pair from an Amish farmer in Mound City about five years ago, and as far as he knows, the two have worked together all their lives. Oldham said the horses together are worth about $15,000.
With a full resume of wins, Oldham said his favorite one was probably at the state fair two years ago.
"They were just babies then," Oldham said.
Jean Wiley, announcer for the event, said the draft horse pull always draws a good crowd and has been around a long time as part of the Pioneer Harvest Fiesta.
Though crowds gravitated to the draft horse pull, it wasn't the only thing happening at the fiesta, which kicked off Thursday with a parade through downtown.
The morning began with a corn shucking demonstration at 9 a.m. and an all-day arts and crafts and quilt show. Guests were also treated to straw baling, wheat threshing and rock crushing exhibitions. An entertainment tent with live acts captivated visitors as they strolled by a sawmill exhibition, a sorghum cooking exhibition and an antique tractor pull.
Events continued on Sunday with morning worship added to the list from Saturday's offerings.