|By CECIL E. DARNELL
MASON, Mich. — Although the exact number would be difficult to calculate, more horse-drawn plowing programs seem to be springing up each year in Michigan.
For the past 20 years, Ben and Pat Scholl hosted their plowing event during the last weekend of April. This year was the 20-year anniversary for the Scholl Montague Plow Day, but new programs were added to the schedule so that several events took place before the end of April.
In some years, the Scholls have had snow and sleet during their plowing events. The Scholl event has had as many as 55 hitches at their event. When the couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, they wanted to have 50 hitches but ended up with only 47.
Responding to rumors that this year’s event was the final Scholls Plow Day, Pat said, “Yes, this is the last one.”
However, her husband said Pat’s answer must be qualified.
“Pat says that because she doesn’t expect me to live another year,” Ben explained. “If I am still alive, there will be one next year, too.”
A spectator at the Scholls Plow Day might not notice the differences with the Snow plow event near Mason, Mich.
One of the major differences between the events is that Scholl has a higher percentage of horse-drawn hitches, while Jerry Snow’s show features more mules. Snow said there is an increased interest in mules in recent years.
The Fastest Mule in Michigan race, which was once at Crossroads Village in Flint, Mich., is being revived. Organizers stopped the race years ago, but advertisements report that the race will be June 17 this year.
There is a surprising thing about mules and horses and that is the loyalty they demand from their drivers. Folks who grew up in the Midwest have a strong affinity for horses, while those from the southern states feel the same way toward mules.
Ken Marsh, of Fitchburg, Mich., hosts a regular horse event that tests drivers and their animals, and adds a wagon train to the program.
Michigan State University (MSU) started its own plowing event a couple of years ago to go along with its draft horse program that has been in place since 2000. Cara O’Connor, who leads the MSU Draft Horse Program, said the course gives students an opportunity to get the feel of a pair of lines in their hands. Local teamsters have shared their animals with the students for a better practice.
Many of the same drivers will appear at these horse-orientated gatherings. Jim Greenman of Olivet, Mich. has driven several hundred miles out of state to plow someone else’s fields. He misses few chances to plow close to home, too. Mike and Lynn Loveland of Albion, Mich. plow together wherever and whenever possible.
At the Snow program Mike Loveland has driven eight horses at one time, and Lynn was at the reigns with three at one time. At other times, they would take turns driving the big hitch. The Lovelands may participate in more plow days than anyone else, yet it seems that Ed Martin of St. Johns, Mich. and Don Brown from Perry, Mich. are always there in the field working.
Fred Herr of Bellevue, Mich. often teaches draft horse classes at the Tiller’s International. He also takes a three-wide Belgian hitch to a number of the plowing events.
Farm Progress Days is the most modern application of technology to horse-drawn fieldwork. This year’s event will be June 30-July 1 at the John Henry Yoder Farm in Clare, Mich.
The many plowmen who are invited to demonstrate at this event include a mix of both Amish and other teamsters.
For many years, the Mud Run was a horse-drawn fund-raiser for St. Jude’s that Henry Detweiller sponsored, and this was passed on to Steve Newman. When the Percheron Breeders of Michigan had its plow day near Vermontville, Mich. several years ago, it was at Detweiller’s farm that was next door.
Some of the more visible horse and mule plowing in Michigan is done at MSU in conjunction with the Michigan Great Lakes International Draft Horse Show in each October. Competitors from many different areas are brought to this competition.
Ben Scholl has been there with his horses. He has also been on the cover of the Percheron News when he had Percherons. In 2005, the Michigan Horse Council provided him with a Catalyst Award for his work with horses.
When talk turns to mules, Dade and Coreen Schultz are mentioned. Their tireless work with the Lansing Youth Wagon Train has brought attention to their dark mules and white covered wagon. Joe Schultz, Dade’s brother, often plows with mules and has appeared in the Mule Calendar with his hitch. At the Michigan Great Lakes show, visitors come out for the demonstrations presented by Dade Schultz and Dr. Joseph Hunt of Carleton, Mich.
Hunt has been promoting mules for years, and his 8-mule hitches have been seen by folks at the Detroit Thanksgiving Day Parade to football audiences in a host of different states. When Anderson & Girls Orchard near Stanton, Mich. has its plow day, people from different areas appear. Dave Gaut from DeWitt will be there. He also leads the Barnyard Horse-Pulling Contests in Michigan.
Dale Pollok from Williamston is also on hand for a collection of draft events. He has a lifetime of working with horses and has been retired from the large animal department at MSU for a couple of decades.
Dwayne Dykema is always working for the horse industry around Stanton, Mich.
The Donville Draft Horse Club has been plowing its way through the sod around Flint, Mt. Holly and Frankenmuth for decades. One of the earlier plowing clubs, member John Long has belonged to this group and his Percherons have been on the cover of Draft Horse Journal, Percheron Calendar and about every other publication with a draft Percheron orientation - including the Percheron News.
This group has Dennis Karas as a member, and he is one of the few people in the state who does fieldwork with draft horses. He doesn’t care if he gets their feet dirty. He just thinks they look nice under harness so that is how he uses them.
Ed Martin has also been known to work with Clydesdales and getting their feet dirty.
While there is no exact count of how many different types of equine live in Michigan, there is a census underway that should go a long way toward addressing such information. Nan Strahle from DeWitt, Mich. has a dozen mules. She and her husband took turns plowing three abreast at the Snow’s Plow Day.
“It is an addiction, Strahle said. “It is worse than chocolate. I just love them. I can’t help it. Why go to the mall when I could be home driving mules? Forget it. Some folks might look at a diamond ring and think ‘how beautiful,’ but when I look at (a ring) I wonder, ‘How many mules would that buy?’”
This farm news was published in the May 31, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.