CALGARY – It was one of those did-you-know facts from the Calgary Stampede’s 2009 Heavy Horse Pull: Dennis Weinberger of Cochrane, Alta., was the bridesmaid in all three classes.
And, trust us, Weinberger was one of those who knew. Did he ever.
“Yeah, I realized it, and I wasn’t very happy. I was a very unhappy man,” said the owner and teamster of the Springbank Belgians outfit. “I had won at least one class in nine consecutive years. Last year, I got shut out. I went home and thought about it, and I thought, ‘You know what? I got complacent. And I paid for it.’
“So I said, ‘That’s it. If we’re goin’, we’re going to start training today, and we’re going to train for next year. We’re going to train as hard as we can, or we’re not goin’ at all.’ That was the plan the day after the Stampede ended last year.”
Well, 360-odd days of sweat and toil paid off in a big way Friday night, as the Stampede’s 2010 Heavy Horse Pull kicked off with the lightweight division final. Weinberger’s Springbank Belgians team of Spike and Kris, supported by Glover International Trucks, won the seven-team pull for a $3,000 winner’s cheque. The only team to successfully pull a 9,000-pound sled the full 14 feet, they also shouldered another 1,100 pounds just for show in front of a packed Big Top crowd.
Nicolas Pouso, the young Uruguayan teamster who works for Stan Grad’s Soderglen Ranches outfit from Airdrie, Alta., finished second. His two Jane Grad-supported Belgians, Roy and Red, came up just seven inches short in their bid to pull a 9,000-pound sled the full distance, ending up with a 157-inch pull and a reserve champion’s cheque for $2,500. Ron Sebastian of Lumsden, Sask., placed third, his Ted Jansen-supported team of Ben and Trip hauling the 9,000-pound sled 103 inches for a $1,500 pay day.
Pouso was pleased with his runner-up spot, in light of the fact that Soderglen Ranches – which owns the Stampede’s heavyweight record – has never fielded a lightweight team.
“I’m happy with the horses. They tried all they could,” said Pouso, originally from Mercedes, Uruguay. “They just couldn’t get a better footing in the dirt, and started stumbling. It was a good try.”
This year’s Stampede Heavy Horse Pull, the richest horse pull in North America, has drawn teamsters from as far away as Michigan, Oregon, and Washington, with outfits primarily featuring Belgian and Percheron horsepower.
Lightweight teams are the only draft-horse duos that consistently pull three times their weight; during Spike and Kris’s final run, the factor was an eye-popping 3.397.
The action continues Saturday, July 17 at 7 p.m. under the Big Top with the final of the middleweight division, whose teams weigh a combined 3,001 to 3,500 pounds. The middleweight final will feature the debut of the Stampede Heavy Horse Pull’s first female teamster, Priscilla Tames of Vibank, Sask.
The heavyweight final, with teams tipping the scales at 3,501 pounds and more, closes out the three-night show on Sunday, July 18 at 7 p.m. under the Big Top.
Heavy horses have been part of Calgary’s annual agricultural fair for 125 years, dating back to the Stampede’s predecessor, the Calgary Industrial Exhibition. As a species, they’re the longest-running agricultural component of the Stampede and its predecessors, and the only livestock class consistently presented throughout that period.
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