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Crowds Watch Plowmen Compete

Co-operator Staff | alexander

The horses are catching up to the tractors at least they were at this year s Manitoba Provincial Plowing Association s annual plowing match.

Seven horse-drawn teams were featured in this year s event , and they joined an equal number of tractor entrants competing on a field owned by Jim and Heather James.

Organizers say horse-drawn plowing classes are a major draw something to which Steinbach s Johan Hildebrand can testify.

I was plowing with the walking plow and there were so many people watching and cheering and clapping and applauding, he said after opening up his first scratch, or opening split, with a John Deere sulky plow.

Holy mackerel, I couldn t believe it.

Since first plowing in 2008 at an event in Portage la Prairie, Hildebrand has mastered the ancient art of the walking plow, a finesse instrument that he said looks harder than it really is.

Plowing with his ominously named black Percheron team, Thelma and Louise, Hildebrand earned a score of 236 and was awarded reserve champion in the sulky class.

Horse champion was Bruce Gilmore of Kelwood, with a score of 257 points.

Ken Bayes competed for the first time last year in the novice class with an Emerson foot-lift design from the 1880s, likely the oldest plow in the match. The horseman from Rapid City had it sandblasted and painted after yanking it out of the bush a few years ago.

While restoring his plow, he was asked if he intended to park it at the end of his lane as a yard ornament.

It ain t gonna be a lawn ornament, not on my place, he said with a grin.

Bayes uses his team of Percherons, one black and the other a rare blue roan, for everything from harrowing to hayrides, as well as pulling a solid-oak Democrat.

In a long row on Sunday, the second day of the event, about 20 vintage tractors were lined up, ready to compete in the tractor pull.

Pulling has a long tradition on the Prairies, and the number of competitors was a testament to the love of it among local farmers, both active and retired, for tinkering in general, and reviving rusty iron in particular.

Tom Ryall, president of the association, competed on one of the five David Brown (known locally as Case) tractors he owns, and a Kverneland plow that he brought with him when he came to Canada from Ireland.

They are the tractors that I grew up on, he said. I love to drive them.

Ryall, with a score of 307, was the top plowman in the senior class, ahead of Ken Innes, with 304. Scores were for both days and included sod and stubble competitions.

Turnout was strong for both days of the event, with over 500 spectators turning up to watch the plowing and tractor pull.

Next year, in addition to its annual match, the Manitoba association will host the Canadian Plowing Championships in early October near Alexander.

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It ain t gonna be a lawn ornament, not on my place.

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