Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic first Draft Horse Feed Team Race a crowd pleaser |

Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic first Draft Horse Feed Team Race a crowd pleaser

The ranch driving class at the Nebraska Cattlemen's Classic tested the teams' and teamsters' ability to drive and work as a team, as well as the teams' physical uniformity.
Deanna Nelson-Licking |

Teams of heavy horses descended on the Buffalo County Fairgrounds on Feb. 18, the opening day of the 26th annual Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic in Kearney, Neb. Every year the Classic hosts a select ranch horse show and sale on the first weekend of the event. New this year was a feed team race following the ranch rodeo on Saturday evening. The Classic joined with the Nebraska Draft Horse and Mule Association to produce this new event.

Sixteen teams of draft horses and two teams of mules came to participate. Six of the teams came all the way from Colorado, with the remainder from Nebraska. All major breeds were represented –Belgians, Percherons, Spotted Drafts, Shires and Clydesdales and cross-bred mules.

“The Classic approached us and asked if we would put on this event to add interest and to help grow the Cattlemen’s Classic,” Bryan Holen, the event superintendent said.

Bob Haag announced the event and the weather was beautiful. The standing room only crowd watched as the teams competed two at a time. Hooked to drag sleds with two-person teams riding on each, they lined up side-by-side and Holen waved to start them. First the “swamper” loaded six small square bales of hay onto the sled with the driver not being allowed to step off the sled to help. Then the teams raced to the far end of the arena, passing the other team as they went around a row of barrels as they switched sides for the return trip. Pieces of plywood were spaced along the inside of the arena and the swamper dropped two bales off on each. To make it a little more difficult, the teams had to drive in a serpentine pattern between cones, with time added to the run for running over the cones and disqualifying for breaking the pattern. The races were exciting, especially when some of the teams met at the barrels and things were a little tight, with a few of the teams objecting strongly to passing that close to mules and choosing rather to take out the barrels.

“The Classic is excited about the event and hopes next year to have an even bigger and better draft horse show with more events.” Holen said.

Each team ran twice and the collective times were added together and the four fastest teams came back for the money round, with the entrance fees being jackpotted. Two teams of Belgians, one of Clydesdales and a small team of mules came back.

Rex Wempen of Minden, Neb., with his team of mules won the event.

Darryl Hill of Greeley, Colo., with his team of Clydesdales took second place.

Cody Wolf of Cozad, Neb., with his Belgians came in third.

Keith Rudeen of Elm Creek, Neb., with his Belgians was fourth.

Following the awards for the Feed Team Race, all the teams hooked to small Forecarts and reentered the arena for a Ranch Driving Class. Due to the number of teams they were split into two heats. The horses were judged at the walk and the trot along the rail, changing directions, and stopping. With all the teams lining up in the center, they were judged on uniformity and team work as the judges walked around them and asked the drivers to back the horses. Once both heats were judged, all 18 teams lined up in the center of the arena and the top four were chosen for a drive off with Greg Kerns of Colorado taking top honors with his team of Spotted Drafts.

The crowd loved the event and really got into cheering on the teams and shouting directions to help the drivers who were confused on the pattern during the feed team race. Many people commented on how much they enjoyed the event and were looking forward to attending more draft horse events.

Lynn Myers of Maxwell, Neb., competed in the event, as did his 13-year-old grandson, Jett Simpson, who placed second in the Driving Class with his grandfather’s 15-year-old team of Belgians

Myers has been involved with raising, driving and using Belgians his whole life, starting when he was about 8, working alongside his father. The team that Myers was driving are 5-year-old geldings that he bought a two years ago at Waverly, Iowa. “A few years ago I won the Denver Stock Show Driving Class with my older team and I told my wife I was ready for a younger team.” Myers said.

Myers raises a few colts every year, and is very active with the Belgian Draft Horse Association and is one of the founding members of the Nebraska Draft Horse and Mule Association. He competes in the farm team classes at the Denver Stock Show, the Nebraska State Fair and various other local and regional draft horse events. Also he drives in parades and conducts an annual Driving Clinic in Gering, Neb.

“The Classic is excited about the event and hopes next year to have an even bigger and better draft horse show with more events.” Holen said.


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