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Draft horse teams navigate obstacles at annual driving competition

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NEW BREMEN — “Come here. Come back. Hip. Hip. Hip,” William Scofield of Adams called to Rex and Red, his team of Belgian draft horses, as he navigated them through an obstacle course.

The horses dragged a 12-foot-long log while maneuvering around five-gallon jugs spaced 20 feet apart. Precariously perched atop each jug was a tennis ball that, if knocked off, would deduct points from Mr. Scofield’s final score. Drivers also lost points if the jugs themselves toppled.

This particular activity, the team log skid, was one of four competitions at the 28th annual Fall Driving Competition — the final event of the North Country Draft Horse Club competition season, held Sunday at Trixie Belle Farm.

“We’ve had a real successful year. Everybody had fun, and that’s what we’re here for, to have fun,” said Mr. Scofield, the 79-year-old president of the club. He finished first in the event.

For outsiders Kendall L. and Kathy L. Hunter of Dingmans Ferry, Pa., watching the competition was an eye-opener.

“They’re big — more docile than the riding horses that we’ve been around,” Mr. Hunter said.

The Hunters were in town visiting family. While they didn’t know anyone in the competitions, one of their relatives is a member of the club.

“I like it. These big horses ... they’re huge,” Mrs. Hunter said. “Just watching this one kid do the driving — and he was a little kid — it’s amazing.”

“It’s kind of interesting with the ages of the drivers ... it’s good to get the younger kids into it because it keeps it going,” Mr. Hunter added.

For Austin C. Richter and Adam A. Fields, 14-year-old grandsons of Mr. Scofield, being around draft horses is something they were born into.

“I’ve grown up with them. I’ve always been around them. It’d be weird not to be around them,” Adam said. His parents, Alan and Ramona Fields, operate a 75-cow dairy farm in Sackets Harbor.

“It’s so much fun,” added Austin, of Adams. The two have been driving horses in the club’s events since they were about five years old. Usually they place first or second in the four events: single horse log skid, team log skid, single horse obstacle and team obstacle.

Adam took first in the junior division of the team log skid and team obstacle, while Austin finished third in both competitions.

“They love monkeying their horses. It’s kind of inthe bloodstream, I guess,” said the boys’ uncle, Ashley Scofield. He has participated in the event in the past, but opted out this year. “I’d really rather work ’em than do this, here, but this is fun, too.”

Draft horses typically weigh about 2,000 pounds and traditionally have been used as farming animals. Club member and Trixie Belle Farm owner Thomas Kovach said the animals are used more often for recreation these days.

“Carriage rides in the cities and stuff like that are generally done with draft horses. We do weddings with them. I have done a funeral with them. A lot of wagon rides, sleigh rides and stuff like that,” he said.

The younger Mr. Scofield said the club welcomes anyone interested in learning more about horses, especially those who have never been around them.

While the club’s competitive season is now over, the group will continue to meet and has several other activities planned. Its next meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 24, in the Davenport Hotel, 9901 Main St., Copenhagen. Anyone interested in joining is encouraged to attend.

For more information visit http://wdt.me/GXUcbA.







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