Playing in the dirt: Draft horse plow match preserves the skills of earlier era


(Scroll down to see more photos from this year’s U.S. draft horse plowing match, held in Dayton, Ohio.)

DAYTON, Ohio — Carriage Hill MetroPark in Dayton, Ohio, hosted the Ohio state and U.S. draft horse plowing matches over Labor Day weekend, establishing bragging rights for a year for a host of enthusiasts.

During the last half of the 19th century, the heavy, European draft horse was king of the road. It powered farms, moved commerce between railheads and over city streets. It powered the industrial revolution, only to be abandoned in the 20th century.

The match

Except for light showers Sunday evening, just enough to keep the dust down, the event enjoyed fair weather.

As usual, the plowing ground on this clay soil can vary from one part of a field to the other, enough to need quick plow adjustments from the practice field.

The boys from the sandy soils east of the Appalachians have problems at first, but are fast learners. It’s great to see everybody helping each other, the local boys helping the newcomers, the veterans coaching the new generation.

About Carriage Hill

Carriage Hill is the MetroPark’s 900-acre farm park and living history site, interpreting life in the 1880s. Three or four teams can be seen on pastures or in harness hauling visitors around the farm or performing work on about 100 acres.

Centrally located, it is a natural site for horse plowing matches, or just about any other equine event. In fact, its fine equestrian center, with over six miles of trails, is one of the best-kept secrets at Carriage Hill.

The best draft horse skills, knowledge and traditions from many parts of this country and Canada are being passed on and preserved at the Carriage Hill plow matches.

Carriage Hill farm manager, Jim Butcher, is retiring, but promised to be at least a spectator in the future.

Butcher did much to ensure the future of the state and national plow matches and gave them a permanent home at Carriage Hill last year.

Open to public

Except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, Carriage Hill Farm is open to the public for hiking, skiing and horseback riding; for exploring the scenic meadows and woodlands; for fishing the lakes and ponds and enjoying picnics and campfires on the shore.

And the visitor’s center is a fine example of the timber framers art and craft, and features a farm museum, an educational center, and restaurant.

2009 U.S. Plowing Match Results

Gang plow
1. Kurt Schroyer, Botkins, Ohio
2. Jim Greenman, Olivet, Mich.

Three-Horse Sulky
1. Mike Atkins, Lucasville, Ohio
2. Shanen Mannies, Logansport, Ind.
3. Jim Greenman, Olivet, Mich.

Two-Horse Sulky

1. Roger Vogel, Georgetown, Ohio (High point scorer)
2. Mike Downs, Olympic, Ky.
3. Allen Smith, Sardi, Tenn.
4. Steve Arwood, St. John, Mich.
5. Matthew Adams, Lebanon, Va.

Walking Plow
1. George Fuller, Pedro, Ohio
2. Matthew Adams, Lebanon, Va.
3. Allen Smith, Sardi, Tenn.
4. Jeff Becker, Moorefield, Ky.
5. Steve Arwood, St. Johns, Mich.
6. Ron Benne, Marble Hill, Mo.

Antique Plow

1. Donnie Ryan, Seaman, Ohio
2. Oren Perdue, Salisbury, Md.

Open Class
1. Shanen Mannies, Logansport, Ind.
2. Mike McCormick, New Vienna, Ohio
3. Charlie Adams, Delaware, Ohio
4. Allen Smith, Sardis, Tenn.
5. Gusty Link ,Fort Recovery, Ohio
6. Bill Begg, Bluffton, Ohio

1. Mike Atkins, Lucasville, Ohio
2. Matthew Adams, Lebanon, Ohio


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