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In the company of horses


Fri, Mar 7th, 2014
Posted in Chatfield Features

Tracy Hanson with two of his pulling horses. Left is Wally and right is Rock. Photo by Barb Jeffers

Bring up the topic of horses to Tracy Hanson of Chatfield, Minn., and a certain glint comes into his eyes as he describes his love for horses. The only thing which brings a bigger smile to Tracy’s face is talking about his family and their involvement with horses as well.

Hanson Horse Company, owned by Tracy and his wife Brenda, buys and sells horses of all types. Many of the horses travel from Chatfield to Mackinac Island in Michigan where a ferry must be taken to get to the island and transportation on the island is limited to walking, riding a bicycle, or riding in a horse-drawn carriage. Hanson Horse Company supplies horses for carriage rides on the island.

Tracy also furnishes horses to an Ohio tourist park that features a tourist spot featuring a petting zoo, baked goods, handcrafted items, guided pony rides, a farm store, and draft horse rides during certain events.

Buying and selling horses is how Tracy makes his living but his love for horses gives way to a hobby as well. Tracy’s father, Bob, bought and sold horses and as children Tracy and his siblings pulled ponies and then “we outgrew ponies and got horses,” he said. The thrill of pulling horses carried into adulthood and has spread throughout his family with everyone getting involved with horses in many ways.

Tracy pulls with Belgians as they are “big heavyweight horses that work best for pulling,” he said. Big and heavyweight are a perfect description of these massive yet beautiful animals. A team of two of his horses pulled 12,500 pounds at a national pull which is a staggering show of the horses abilities.

When the horses are in a competition and the pull is in front of the sled “They get excited to do their job,” Tracy said. The horses have their own personalities just as people do with some liking attention and others preferring to be left to themselves.

Two of the horses Tracy uses in pulling competitions are “Rock” and “Wally” who tower above a person fortunate enough to be in their presence. “Rock” is 12 years old and stands a bit over 17 hands. There are 4 inches to a hand. “Wally” is a nine year old Belgian who is 18 hands tall. Each horse weighs approximately 2,700 pounds. The horses each eat one 60 pound square bale per day along with four gallons of grain.

The work is hard and time-consuming taking care of the horses and preparing for pulling competitions. The horses are worked every day for three to five weeks before a competition. Preparations for competitions as well as responsibilities during and after competitions also need to be done and Tracy always has help from family and/or friends when he attends competitions.

Tracy attends pulling competitions throughout the year but more so during the summer. There are a few indoor pulls he competes in during the winter such as the Sioux Falls, South Dakota Farm Show and the North Dakota Farm Show, which have indoor coliseums.

Prizes for horse pulling competitions are cash and/or trophies. Hundreds of trophies are proudly on display at Hanson Horse Company as proof positive of the hard work and skill that the Hanson family shares. When it comes to horse pulling, “I’m pretty competitive” Tracy says.

Brenda and Tracy’s daughters Brittany, Jessica, and Jennifer have all been involved with horses their entire lives and have many trophies for showing horses. Jessica has shown at state level with 4-H in the past and won first place with a horse she trained herself. Brittany’s husband fits well into the family as he shows horses as well. The entire family helps with the care of the horses.

And the love of horses is carrying on to the next generation with Tracy and Brenda’s grandson, Rylen. At 22 months old Rylen has already taken to horses. When asked if Rylen will be a “puller”, his Grandpa got a big smile on his face and said, “We’ll see”, which probably means yes with Rylen’s heritage.

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