The term “horsepower” often brings up thoughts of fast and powerful cars, but there’s a reason that horses are where the phrase comes from. At the St. Croix County Fair and other events, the sport of Horse Pulling shows what horsepower really means and local pullers, Troy and Kelly Neidermyer of Spring Valley know what it takes to put that word to the test.
“I actually met my husband horse pulling 21 years ago,” says Kelly “I started probably 25 or 26 years ago.” Kelly and Troy have been pulling at events like this for several years and have become proficient in the sport.
“It’s honestly the most ‘teamwork’ event you’re going to get,” says Kelly, “you’ve got to get two horses and a teamster working together to get things done. Then it’s a process of elimination. They hook onto a lighter weight load the first time and pull it a certain distance. If they make it through that full pull, then we add more weight to what we call the ‘stone boat’ and then we go on to the next one until we get to whatever team pulls the most weight the furthest distance.”
Clearly both the teamsters and the horses themselves are athletes in their own sense. As soon as the team hits the track, they know it’s time to get in the zone. “If you’ve ever been to a rodeo, you know when the barrel horses come in they know what their job is, it’s run fast, get around the barrels, get out of the arena – a pulling horse is no different,” Kelly said, “they know when they come to town they need to be on their game, it’s going to get heavy, they need to move forward and do it fast.”
Like any athletes, the Neidermyers’ horses train heavily and religiously for these events focusing on getting muscle growth, stamina and cardio in top shape for the upcoming pulls. “By the time they get to town you want them to be at peak performance” says Kelly, “you want them to be as close to their ‘A-game’ as they can get and then you see how everyone else’s ‘A-game’ compares to yours.” Most of the teams that compete in these events train for a minimum of three hours a day leading up to an event pulling thousands of pounds at every practice on top of their breeding, diet and conditioning.
With such large and powerful animals pulling thousands of pounds, there is no doubt that pulling can be a dangerous sport. “Crazy things have happened, but not very often,” Kelly says, “we were at a pull a few years ago and a team got away from a teamster. We usually have people run out and try to slow down the horses, but by that point the team was already making tracks and ran a guy over who had to be airlifted out.
Despite some of the risks, Kelly and Troy are dedicated to the sport and put their hearts into their passion of pulling. “It’s a disease. A bad, bad disease,” said Troy talking about his horse pulling ‘addiction’, “I was just at a bar and bought a couple of horses and it escalated from there,” he laughed. Troy has been attending roughly 30 events every year since 1992 when he first started the sport with no plans of slowing down any time soon.
The St. Croix County Fair is just one of many horse pulling stops for the Neidermyers this year. Kelly and Troy will be competing at the SCC Fair this Thursday at 7 p.m. and although their standing will be revealed after this story prints, the teamwork between this pulling couple is sure to keep them on top in the sport they love.