Ray Powell of New Castle, Kentucky speaks to a 5,000-pound team of young Belgian pulling horses with the gentleness of a violin teacher on the first day of lessons with a 6-year old.
“They hear a lot more than you think they do when you’re foolin’ with them,” said Powell. “I’ll get awful close to them, and they’ll get close to me. They’ll get to where they trust me, and they’ll pull harder for me than they will for anybody else.”
“You watch this horse here. He’ll set his back feet past where he picks his front ones up,” said Powell, as he drove the 4-year-old team of King and George, who were hitched to a sled.
“Watch him. I like a good long-walking horse, because then when you put him on that big load and he drops in that long walk, he can smoke that sled.”
Powell’s eye for good horses and his skillful training methods have been repeatedly proven with hundreds of trophies, a world and international title, and many state titles from Michigan to Florida.
The retired longtime sheriff of Henry County, now 70, grew up on a farm near Drennon Springs learning from his father how to handle a team, both in the field and in competition.
His father, Floyd, handed Ray the lines at a horse pull in Bedford in 1948, and the boy was hooked for life.
This year, with a hay crop damaged by a late freeze then a lengthy drought, Powell and his sons, Robbin and Rick, realized there would not be enough hay for their herd of Angus cattle and their 16 Belgian pulling horses. So they sold the cattle.
Their horses are part of the family.
Ray Powell has turned much of the competition driving in recent years over to his older son, Robbin, 47, while Ray concentrates on training. “I guess I like it,” Robbin said. “It’s all I’ve ever done.”
Ray Powell is at work nearly every day bringing along future pullers. The young Belgians are bought as weanlings from Amish breeders in the Montgomery-Loogootee areas of Indiana and trained at the Powells’ farms in Henry County.
Two of Powell’s former champions, Rock, age 13, and Bill, 15, are now retired to pasture and stall on the Powells’ farms, where Ray Powell feeds the two every morning and night.
“They’ll both die right here,” he said. “They’ve earned the right.”
Story Link: For complete story: Courier Journal, Louisville Kentucky