World Record Percheron Draft Horse Hitch
by Laura Halliday of Mundare, Alberta, Canada
“Heads up!” and a whistle from Head Teamster, Neil Dimmock, and 44 head of Percheron horses lean into their collars to pull in a field a 26 foot cultivator expressly manufactured by Ezee-On Manufacturing of Vegreville, Alberta. This feat set a new World Record for the Largest Hitch of Percheron horses on May 24, 2003. The next day, two more horses were added to the third team from the rear for a total of 46 horses that were hitched to set the World Record for the Largest Agricultural Hitch. It also bests the Alberta record for the most draft horses hitched together in this province. This took place at the Hitch Masters Percheron Farm owned by Neil Dimmock at Mundare, Alberta.
The first large hitch previously driven by Dimmock was 30 draft horses for a 30th Anniversary of Pioneer Acres of Irricana, Alberta in 1999. Since then, he has put up an 18, 26 and 32 horse hitches prior to this world record.
The record hitch was comprised of black and grey Percherons – twelve of which were from Neil Dimmock who was the largest contributor of horses along with a further eight horses he had trained. They were hooked four abreast. Neil controlled the hitch with only two lines to the leaders. A system of buck back straps and tie aheads was used to keep the remainder of the draft horses in line. A Talkington hitch was customized by Dimmock so that the eveners and single trees were arranged to equalize the load each horse pulled.
Hitching began at 11 a.m. beginning with the leaders and ending with the wheelers. All horses stood quietly in their place in the hitch until they were given the signal to start pulling. The horses were given two “breathers” in the circle around a 40 acre field. They were in the hitch until 3 p.m., then unharnessed. The combined horse power equaled a 130 h.p. tractor but could put out up to 450 h.p. if needed. The cultivator was set into the ground at 4” to 5” and worked very smoothly being pulled by a high forecart (which also was designed and built by Neil) to allow the teamster to be able to see the lead team 135 feet ahead of him. The total length of the hitch and cultivator was 165 feet. The youngest horse was 2 years old with the oldest being 24 years and they ranged in weight from 1400 lbs. to 2400 lbs. Extra horses were borrowed from the area and began arriving the week prior to the event then hitched into teams of 20 to get them used to being in a multiple hitch, to work in field conditions and also to get an idea of which horses would get along together. The last of the horses arrived Friday afternoon and a practice hitch of 44 was driven that evening. Many of the horses had not been in a big hitch before.
A 50/50 raffle, conducted by Jack Dimmock, was cause for lively conversation as visitors tried to guess the number of bushels of tricale in the unusual wood and steel grain tank. This was won by Mr. Robert Rajotte of Wainwright, Alberta with a guess of 125 bushels whose name was drawn from seven correct answers.
Wagon rides were provided to the Jack Dimmock farm to view the largest display of working horse machinery which had been restored by Jack and Neil. Here you will see everything from plows, mowers, wagons, stook loaders, hay loaders and even a horse-drawn baler.
Visitors came from all over the Prairie Provinces including a good representation of the press.
The entire event was extremely well planned and executed – a very real credit to the Dimmock’s, helpers and horse owners. The only mishap was a broken evener due to the cultivator gradually sinking into the ground thus causing a heavier than expected strain on the equipment.
“About 1,000 people from all over the Prairie Provinces came to watch this,” said Dimmock. “We appreciate the many friends and supporters who supplied horses and helped to put it on.”
Draft horses and farming with them is Neil’s passion as he is the most content when he is behind a hitch in the field. He has also taken his horses on parade winning many firsts with a six up and a unicorn hitch.
It was not for fame that the 46 horse hitch was put together – it was for the love of just doing it.
Neil Dimmock gives seminars and classes in all aspects of draft horse training and hitching along with their application in modern farming. He also makes harness in his spare time.
The Dimmock horse machinery collection is being organized into a museum which will also comprise a camping facility which will have facilities for campers with horses, a country store and a trail ride area. This will be set up on Hitch Masters Percherons property at Mundare, Alberta.