SHARPSBURG — It’s a show of sheer strength: beasts weighing up to 2,000 pounds or more tugging sleds weighing up to 5,200 pounds across the ground.
Teams of men and women guide the snorting, prancing horses up to a sled.
They quickly hook the horses up to the sled and then let them go.
The animals lurch forward and the chains hooked to the animals give a loud crack as the animals dig into the dirt with their hooves.
Sunday’s annual horse-pulling competition at the Washington County Ag Expo & Fair featured eight teams competing. Randy Wonderly of Grottoes, Va., won first place in the event for the second year in a row.
Wonderly won the event when his horse team pulled 5,200 pounds a distance of 23 feet, 9 inches.
Horse pulling competitions are popular in the southcentral Pennsylvania region. One is scheduled for the Jefferson County (W.Va.) Fair on Aug. 25.
Horse pulling was once a mainstay at the local fair and it was returned last year for the first time since 1983, event organizers said.
In the competition, teams of two horses pull a sled whose weight is gradually increased.
Team members tended to their horses before the event Sunday and talked about their interest in the sport.
Courtney Bowman and Cole Suter, whose team is from Somerset, Pa., said they do horse pulling as a hobby, although it seems to be more than that at times.
“Full-time job hobby is what it amounts to,” said Suter as he explained the work that is required to care for the horses, like exercising them two hours a day.
Scott Enslin of Spring Run, Pa., said he sells workhorses and the horse-pulling events work well for him because people can see how strong his horses are through the contests.
Event workers increased the weight of the sled by adding cinder blocks to it.
The cinder blocks were provided by Hagerstown Block Co. The Washington County Tractor Pullers group provided use of its track, and the announcer’s booth and the Nutwell family provided halters and lead ropes for the horses, organizers said.