HUBER HEIGHTS, Ohio — The solemn, unplowed fields at Carriage Hill Farm north of Dayton will resemble a busy airport later this month, as drivers and their teams compete in the Ohio and U.S. Horse Plowing contests.
The many acres of lush grass will yield to men, women and their plows. Even a driving competition for youth is planned.
"Just like any other competition, this is a sport and it takes strength and concentration," said Marvin Sanders, a Ross County farmer who plans on competing in several classes both days. "Communication is so important. You have to pay attention not only to the row you’re working in and where your plow rests, but the horses need guidance. It can be nerve-wrecking."
Sanders competed in similar plow contests in West Virginia and Illinois. This will be his first trip to the near-Dayton event.
"I plan on working the walking plow and three-horse sulky plow," he said. "I think I’m pretty good – that is, until I go up against some of these guys who could do it in their sleep."
The Ohio, U.S. and North American plowing contests were started in 2004 by cousins Dean Hopkins of Hillsboro and Gary Hopkins of Lynchburg, Ohio. The two men also formed the Ohio Horse and Mule Group. Members of the Harness and Hitch driving group out of south-central Ohio offered assistance that first season.
The Ohio contest was moved to the Farm Science Review from 2005-08 before returning to Carriage Hill Farm. Since then Carriage Hill has become home to the U.S. and North American contests.
Competition on both days will include antique plow, walking plow, two-horse sulky plow, three-horse sulky plow and gang plow. The latter involves four or more horses. The athletes in these games include Belgians, Clydesdales, Percherons, Brabants, Spotted Drafts, Haflinger draft ponies and mules. Their managers (or drivers) will come from West Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio.
There are no umpires or referees, but there are judges involved. They will be looking at the straightness and depth of a furrow, speed of the drive, levelness of the bottom, cleanliness of the sidewall, throwing out of land, straightness of ends, cleanliness of the dead land or dead furrow, teamstership and sportsmanship.
"Unlike some competition, there are no do-overs in this event," said judge Russ Szpot of Wilmington, Ohio, who presided over the action three years ago. "Twenty-five feet is not really a lot of space to cover and the plowing goes by fast."
Drivers are expected to manage a plot measuring 100-by-25-feet. Three judges will preside over the competition, each awarding a possible 100 points.
"The key, especially for beginners is to relax," said Co-Chair Gary Hopkins. "Keeping the team and yourself calm is important. And, competitors need to use their own teams, as we don’t have loaner teams."
The Ohio and U.S. Horse Plowing contests will be at Carriage Hill Farm in Dayton on Aug. 30-31. The Ohio contest will be held that Saturday, with the U.S. competition the next day. Starting time each day is 10 a.m.
"We have a few drivers who can’t drive in the U.S. Plowing contest on Sunday due to religious conflicts, so they’ll be able to drive on Saturday," Hopkins added.
There is no admission charge. The entry fee for each event is $35. Prizes will include trophies, plaques or belt buckles. Between 12-20 competitors are expected and entries are still being taken.
For more details on this event and to participate contact Gary Hopkins (937-725-9894) or Galen Neal (937-763-0636).