Saturday, April 13, 2024

From horses to horsepower at Southern Field Days

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Due to rain on Day 2, track conditions were not great but Friday presented blue skies and a large crowd of spectators to watch the final.
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By Emma Blom

Max Slee travelled for two days from Mararoa Downs, Te Anau, so he could compete in the Southern Tractor Pull at the Southern Field Days at Waimumu.

His E1A Super Majors tandem tractor dates from the late 1960s, when his brothers bought a block in Blackmount, Southland. 

The farm was filled with bogs and hollows, and the rough farming country made a four-wheel-drive tractor essential but the Slee brothers couldn’t afford one.

The tandem design allowed for the effective “push-pull” method to be used on difficult terrain. 

The E1A, modified from his brother’s original design, pulled slow and steady in the competition but didn’t manage to beat Dave Wilson in his John Deere 4440 (98.23 metres), Edwin Wiegersma Case International 1455XL (98.05m), and Lyndon Wohlers John Deere 4450 (91.16m) in the Old School class.

After four years of no pulling due to covid-19 cancellations, participants were happy to compete again. 

More than 50 competitors battled over seven classes including Old School, Modified Class, Super Modified, Truck, Monster and Over 11 Tonnes, with the majority of entrants in Under 11 Tonnes. 

Due to rain on Day 2, the track conditions were not fit for pulling but fortunately Friday presented blue skies and a large crowd of spectators to watch the final.

Leon Zeestraten took home first place in his Fendt 930 (99.0m) with Ben Hardegger in the same model coming in second at 91.16m and Mark Gardyne in a Massey Ferguson 6290 (90.33m) for the Under 11 Tonne class. 

Over 11 Tonnes was a close competition with all finalists pulling within a metre and a half from one another. Ricky Harris won in a Massey Ferguson 8732S (71.94m), second went to Ianto Evans John Deere 8370R (70.87m), and in third Ruairidh Nelson in a Massey Ferguson 8732S (70.51m) 

The Monster class was won by Fergus Brock John Deere 8RX 310 (110 + metres), in second Calvin Phillips John Deere 9370R (102.40m), and in third Korey Parker in an Oshkosh (67.48m). Parker also took the win home for the truck class in S-Line International (110 + metres). 

Edwin Wiegersma won the Modified class in his Massey Ferguson 265 (122.10m), in second Keith Pirie in Blues Clues (102.67m), and third Mark Dilon in Sherwood Thunder (67.48m). The Super Modified Class was an easy win for Brett Heslip in a Mitsinbits (98.50m). 

Vaughen Coy from Tractor Pull New Zealand and MC of the event said the competition has a long history. 

Farmers in the 1860s would bring their horses to compete against one another. The horses would be hitched to a barn door and pull it down a track lined with people. As the door came past, people would step on until the horse couldn’t go further, he said. 

The number of people it could pull would prove the strength of the horse. The “step-on” sled has been modified significantly from horses to horsepower and barn doors to a computer-controlled sled.

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