Draft Horses and Ponies at Work by Maureen Harkcom
photos by Wendi Ross
Percherons, Belgians, Shires, Clydesdale, Norwegian Fjords and American Miniatures all turned out for the 2nd annual Happ's Plowing Competition held in Ethel, Washington, on February 16, 2002. Generally a quiet, rural community that attracts no attention, Ethel came to life as teamsters and their horses arrived to compete, followed by several hundred spectators who came to watch, ask and experience a piece of history that is still flourishing in parts of America.
Despite rain the night before (it had been sunny and warm all week) teamsters harnessed and hitched their horses and put their plows, and skills, to work. In the process of plowing up over four acres of ground the teamsters and their horses, hailing from Washington and Oregon, both shared and created memories. Horsemen who rarely see each other were able to talk and share thoughts on brands and styles of equipment, breeds of horses, handling, harnesses, methods of hitching, trends in the industry, and more. Spectators, many of whom had never seen a working horse, were able to watch, get answers to questions, see the results of man and horse teaming together to accomplish a goal, and go away smiling with newly acquired memories.
The sharing that took place was phenomenal. Drafters (both the equine and their human counterparts) have their own unique disposition. They possess a unique strength. They hold a different philosophy of life than many others. There is a oneness, a sense of belonging and purpose. They approach things in a style all their own. Steady, sure, laid-back, perseverant, determined, tough, physical, weathered, kind, gentle, are all terms that have been applied to these builders of our country.
It must have been a photo opportunity day. There were cameras everywhere. Wendi Ross of Blue Ribbon Photography was the official photographer, but she was not alone. Half a dozen students from Centralia High School's photography class as well as students from Centralia College took advantage of the opportunity to get some experience and hopefully some publishable photographs. Spectators showed up with still, digital and video cameras with which to record memories and a piece of living history. For more examples of Wendi's work, go to her website http://www.qualityponies.com/2002plowing or to ours http://www.happs-inc.com
As the competition drew to an end, spectators headed for home and teamsters unhitched and started to load for the trip home. A few who just couldn't stop were finally convinced to leave the field and everyone gathered for the presentation of awards. The following recognitions were awarded:
"Best Looking Female Plowman"-Teri Sardinia of Winlock, WA
"Best Looking Male Plowman"-Roger Daugherty of Oregon City, Oregon
"Youngest Plow Horse"-3 year old Norwegian Fjord "Istes" teamed with his full brother "Elfenn" owned by Woody Hoopes of Monroe, WA
"Oldest Plow Horse"-18 year old Percheron "Jerry" teamed with 17 year old "Bird" owned by Clarence Stancil of Tenino, WA
"Longest Hauled Horses"-"Sydnie" and "Icky" Shire mares of John Erskine of Sequim, WA
"Best Non-Traditional Team"-3 abreast Norwegian Fjords "Brass Ring Geir", "Gandolf" and "Honey" owned by Joel Harman of Mosier, OR
"Best Lady Plowman"-Teri Sardinia driving Belgian mare "Missy" and Shire mare "April"
"Best Open Plowman"-John Erskine
"Best Senior Plowman"-Larry Livingston of Olympia, WA driving Belgians "Dick" and "Duke"
"Best Crown"-Les Courtney of Amboy, WA with Belgian stallion "Dan" and Belgian/Shire mare "Maudy"
"Best Finish"-Gean Courtney of LaCenter, WA with Belgians "Tom" and "Molly"
"Best Going Team"-"Sydnie" and "Icky" (with John Erskine walking along behind)
At the end of it all, everyone went home happy with next year's date already placed on their calendars. It was a great day and we are looking forward to improvements for next year to make the Happ's Plowing Competition even "bigger and better" for competitors and spectators alike.