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Fayette County man wins horse pulling contest … again

| Sunday, Jan. 19, 2003

A Fayette County man won first place at this year's horse pulling competition at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. Bobby Howard, 20, of Saltlick Township, has won the lightweight division of the state horse pull 10 times.

He started working with horses at a young age and started helping his dad, Billy Howard, when he was 5 years old. His grandfather, the late Bill Howard, of Kecksburg, was a longtime horseman and spokesman for the sport.

“Working with horses is in my blood,” said the younger Howard, whose father also participated in this year's horse pull with another team of horses. “My dad always pulled horses and so did my grandfather and I just enjoy it.”

The Howards work together as a father-son team in their business, Buy and Sell Horses, traveling throughout the United States.

The younger Howard also won the Jack Buhler Horsemanship Award for his ability to work with his team and perform well overall as a teamster. Jack Buhler, a longtime horseman from Ridgway, died last year. His niece, Margaret Tittis, of Ridgway, presented the awards in his honor.

Ira Kessler, of Columbia Crossroads, took second place, while the Brown brothers, of Acme, took third place.

Like Howard, the Brown brothers — Scott, Rick, Keith and Charlie — have pulled horses since they were young with their father, Tom.

In the heavyweight division of the horse pull, Sam Hawley and his son Chris, of Spartansburg, near Erie, took the championship.

In second place, Jim Suter of Somerset led his team of Belgian draft horses named Mike and Scott to the top honors.

“I always enjoy the horse and pony pulls,” said Suter, who has been participating in this event since the early 1970s. Suter also won the Jack Buhler Outstanding Teamster Award.

For a while it looked like Suter would take the victory home again. He won the competition last year. But, he explained he was proud of his team of horses with the second-place win.

“This was the first pull ever for my horse Mike,” said Suter. “He has never been in front of a crowd before and he did real well for his first time.”

In addition to young Howard, the Brown brothers and Chris Hawley, Rob Perkey, of Acme, was also one of the younger generations of horse pullers at the competition.

“I like being around horses,” said Perkey, who with his father, Scott, pulled two teams of Belgian horses in the lightweight division and came in fourth and sixth. “I've been around horses all my life and worked with my dad. I wish we were pulling in the summer when it was warmer but this is a good chance to get away for a day or two in January. All in all, it's a good experience.”

The horsemen housed their stock in the new Equine Center at the Farm Show this year.

“It's a really nice facility,” said Sam Hawley, the heavyweight horse pulling champion, “we are impressed with all the new buildings and the Equine Center this year.”

Like those in the horse pulling competition who enjoyed getting away for a few days, some employees of Errer Hill Farms in Friedens also talked about how nice it is to get away for a few days and then how nice it is to go home.

In the steer barn, Rob Landis and Bryan Hay, both of Somerset, and Adam Kozak, of Hollsopple, helped out with two Angus heifers entered for Sydney Riggs, owner of Errer Hill Farms.

“I'm usually here every year,” said Landis, a 13-year employee of Errer Hill Farms. “It's nice to be here and get away from Somerset County, but it's nice to go home after a few days.”

After four days of being in a hotel in Harrisburg, showing the animals and tending them every day, Landis was ready to head back to Somerset County on Tuesday evening.

“I really did enjoy the new buildings this year,” said Landis. “Everything is so state-of-the-art. It's impressive.”

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