Thursday, December 7, 2023

Real horse power on display at ploughing champs

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Thirty four tractor ploughmen and four horse teams are competing in the event.
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When it comes to the New Zealand Ploughing Championships there is horse power and then there is real horse power.

Tractors of all shapes and sizes littered paddocks near Milton, about 50km south of Dunedin, at the weekend as contestants did their best to create the perfect furrow and claim a national title.

But  the largest number of spectators, not surprisingly, gravitated towards the horse drawn plough section, where pairs of Clydesdale horses teamed up to pull their ploughs. 

Thirty four tractor ploughmen and four horse teams took part in the event, and competitors travelled from as far afield as Auckland and Waikato, transporting their own tractors, horses and ploughs south.

Sharon Chynoweth, of Canterbury, waits with horses Blue and Flash at the National Ploughing Championships in Milton.

Organiser Nigel Woodhead said the event, jointly organised by Tokomairiro Ploughing Association and the South Otago Ploughing Association, was 18 months in the making.

“You think you have plenty of time to get ready and then suddenly it’s here. It’s always a bit nerve wracking but you hope it will come together on the day.”

Woodhead said the event has been a “real community” effort with people and businesses contributing their time and resources to ensure everything went to plan.

“It’s an honour to be able to host these sorts of events. There is a lot of pride involved in ploughing,” he said.

Tractor ploughmen took part in the silver plough, reversible, contemporary and vintage ploughing sections.

Winners of the silver plough and reversible sections, Southland’s Mark Dillon and South Canterbury’s Bob Mehrtens, have qualified to compete at next year’s World Ploughing Championships  in Estonia

Woodhead said competition ploughing was a real family affair with many competitors having followed the generations before them.

Colin Boon, of Canterbury, takes some measurements during the vintage section of the championships. 

One of those, and among the youngest competitors, was 13-year-old Jake Watt of Romahapa, near Balclutha.

Jake took part in the contemporary section, under the watchful eye of his grandfather John Watt, a former national ploughing champion and competitor at world championships.

He was even using his grandfather’s 1966 International tractor, and it proved the lucky charm as Jake finished second in the competition

Jake’s parents Chris and Lisa said he had been interested in ploughing for a while, helping plough paddocks around the family farm, but this was his first national competition.

“It’s an excuse for him to drive tractors,” joked Chris.

“He enjoys it and it’s great he has Dad there to pass on his knowledge and help him out.”


Contemporary plough: Tom Sime 1, Jake Watt 2, Neil Baird 3.

Horse plough: John and Sharon Chynoweth 1, John Booth and Pauline Crawford 2, Sean Leslie and Casey Tilson 3.

Vintage plough: Murray Granger 1, John Wild 2, Robert Weavers 3.

Reversible plough: Bob Mehrtens 1, Ashley Seaton 2, James Burnby 3.

Conventional silver plough: Mark Dillon 1, Warwick Seaton 2, Paul Houghton 3.

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