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All Ages Enjoy Happ's Plowing Competition
submitted by Maureen Harkcom, Organizer


Clarence Stancil of Tenino, WA drives his great pair of Percherons, "Bird" and "Jerry" while he instructs a beginner on handling the plow.

Thirty-nine head of horses competed in the Happ's Plowing Competition in Ethel, WA on February 17th. Percherons, Clydesdales, Shires, Suffolks, Ardenneses, Belgians, Fjords and Haflingers all competed for top honors under the hands of teamsters ranging in age from the mid-teens to the mid-eighties. Snow fell the day before the event in much of western Washington, but had minimal effect on the turnout as the weather warmed up and the snow melted. The day of the event, the frost disappeared and the fog lifted just about the same time as horses and their drivers started out for the day's plowing. Coats even came off as the day progressed.


"Napoleon" and "Prince" owned by James Arsulich of Quilcene, WA take a quick break before returning to plowing.

It was estimated that between 300 and 400 spectators attended the event and their comments were extremely positive and supportive. There is definitely an interest in being able to see what many think of as something from days gone by. More than one family attended with three generations of the family there together. Some came to relive memories of their days behind horses and/or to show younger family members what they used to do. Others came for a glimpse of what their ancestors' lives might have been like. Some came out of curiosity. A few spectators got to try their hand at a plow, all enjoyed themselves.

One of the big attention-getters was a nine horse hitch put together by Mike and Teri Sardinia of Winlock, WA and Art Sporseen of Tenino, WA. Each of the three took a turn at driving, with Teri taking home the honor of "Best Lady Plowman". Art's daughter, Nita Sporseen, received the "Best Junior Plowman" award with a pair of her father's horses. Gean Courtney of Oregon City, Or (who makes a living along with his dad logging with horses) was named "Best Open Plowman" and received the "Best Going Team" award with his three abreast hitch. "Best Senior Plowman", "Best Crown" and "Best Finish" honors were all earned by Clarence Stancil of Tenino, WA and his excellent pair of gray Percherons "Bird" and "Jerry".


Heading north, Joel Harman and his three Fjords pass by southbound John Erskine and his four Shire mares.

Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Everyone was there for a good time with their horses and friends. Don Anderson of Toledo, WA did an excellent job judging in an almost impossible-to-judge situation. Teamsters helped each other out--a crooked furrow was straightened by someone from a neighboring plot; experienced teamsters let others handle the plow, the lines to their horses, or both as many shared their knowledge and skills with those less experienced; beginners were given their first lessons behind their own horses when the driver and/or the horses had never plowed before; even spectators got to give it a try. I don't think there was a single competition plot that was actually plowed by one competitor and team. Don kept his eyes open and used his knowledge from years of experience to determine his placings.


James Arsulich of Quilcene, WA handles his plow as he lets someone drive his team.

A four acre piece of ground was plowed up before the judging stopped, and if the western Washington we so love cooperates with us, that area will become our Dressage Field for our CDE in June and other events that will follow. Horses and drivers continued to plow even after the judging stopped and the official "off the field" time came and went. The awards ceremony was postponed a couple hours and was finally held when we got the last horses off the field and all the competitors settled in for a BBQ Chicken dinner in our new picnic canopy with a crackling fire in the fireplace. Stories were shared and companionship was enjoyed until slowly horses, trailers, trucks, plows and people slowly disappeared from the field into the night. The next morning as we picked up stakes, hauled out garbage barrels and returned things to normal the field seemed so empty. But the memories are there and next year really isn't that far away. Besides, we were asked if we would consider doing two plowings per year--we are considering it!



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