The Central Minnesota Draft Horse field day on Aug. 19 at the Sebeka area farm of LeRoy Peterick was a threshing festival with a twist.

It was quiet.

When the drivers demonstrating the horse-drawn discs and field cultivators stopped to talk, they could easily hear each other without getting off their rigs. When they pulled away from each other again, the only sound was the clinking of steel against stone, the jingle of tack, and a breeze blowing through the nearby corn.

Without the rattle of pistons and valves the human race is a quieter bunch. Hundreds of people gathering together to look at horse-drawn farm implements, watch draft horse demonstrations, listen to old time music, ride on a stage coach, and have some lunch don’t really make much noise. Even the children searching for the Golden Horse Shoe were fairly subdued.

It’s not that a team of horses is unimpressive. On the contrary, a pair of matched black 16- to 17-hands-high Percherons, in bright silver and black tack, tower over humans. It is only their calm eyes and their experienced handlers that put visitors at ease.

An eight-horse hitch — weighing in the neighborhood of 10 tons — on a field cultivator is an awesome sight. Hitching them to the cultivator is a demonstration of horsemanship and training that would impress even the most dedicated vintage tractor fan.

“Back,” says the driver quietly. Sixteen massive feet move one step backward. “Back!” The tack jingles and the big feet step back again. Two or three steps backward, a slight turn to the left and “Whoa!” — the horses are in harness. They are anxious to pull but the ground is dry and iron hard. A few adjustments are made to the cultivator and they are off. They do a fine job of digging the oat stubble.

The 45 to 50 members of the Central Minnesota Draft Horse Association don’t reject vintage tractors entirely. They fired up an ancient McCormick-Deering tractor and belted it to a threshing machine; but you can see that at any local threshing festival. What you generally can’t see is two teams of Belgian work horses powering the straw baler.

“Horses can run most smaller PTO-driven implements,” said CMDHA member Don Braatz. The event drew about 60 horses.