1989 - Volume #13, Issue #4, Page #20[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Spectacular 40-Horse Hitch Ready To Go Out On Parade
Sparrow's horses, all Belgians, are hitched four wide and 10 long. Sparrow has been training them this summer on his farm. He started training the horses in four-horse hitches that he used to haul manure on over 40 acres and to seed 80 acres of oats. He later drove teams of 12 and 20 and by mid-May had hitched 40 horses for practice.
Sparrow is following in the footsteps of his father, Dick, who in 1972 put together a 40-horse hitch. Paul assisted his father at the time. After that, the Sparrows took their 40-hitch across the U.S. until 1977 when their sponsorship was discontinued. General Foods Corporation approached the family about reassembling the 40-horse hitch two years ago.
Until the 1970's, a 40-horse hitch hadn't been driven since 1904 when the Barnum & Bailey Circus drove one in a street parade pulling the largest circus bandwagon ever built. Paul's hitch will pull the same band-wagon. It's 29 ft. long, 15 ft. high, and weighs 14,000 lbs.
Sparrow says he looked at about 5,000 horses before assembling 57 of them and selecting the hitch from that pool. General Foods is paying him $120,000 to do the Milwaukee parade. "When you consider the cost of the horses, feed, labor, transportation, equipment and insurance, I've spent a lot more than $120,000," says Paul. Each horse eats 15 lbs. of grain and 30 lbs. of hay a day.
Paul began hiring men last January to train the horses, and he will use a 15-person crew for the parade. He'll have three people in the wagon with him and several men on saddle horses outriding along the hitch. In addition, about 150 friends and relatives will be there to lend support.
"It's important to have people who know what to do if something goes wrong. For example, the horses could act up, the lines could get tangled, or a child could run out under the horses. When we're in training the crew drives by the horses with cars, honking horns and lighting firecrackers, to prepare them for the crowded parade route. The lead team will be 125 ft. from the driver, so there will be times while turning corners when the driver won't be able to see the lead horses. We'll use two-way radios to maintain continuous communication between the driver and outriders."
Paul says the preparation for driving 40 horses is a little like the preparation for flying a 747 airplane. "The mechanic and pilot have to have done a lot of complex little things three months ago so that it works today."
For more information, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Paul Sparrow, RR 1, Box 9, Zearing, Iowa 50278 (ph 515 487-7549).
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