Tammy McCullough participates in a horse show at the Monroe County Fair in the summer of 2021. Tammy and her brother, Skeeter, milk 45 cows near Hustler, Wisconsin. 
Tammy McCullough participates in a horse show at the Monroe County Fair in the summer of 2021. Tammy and her brother, Skeeter, milk 45 cows near Hustler, Wisconsin. PHOTO SUBMITTED
HUSTLER, Wis. – Draft horses standing over 6 feet tall live among the 45 dairy cows at Tammy and Jonathan “Skeeter” McCullough’s farm near Hustler. The siblings dairy with their parents, Jack and Pat, while continuing the tradition of showing draft horses.
“Skeeter and I are fifth-generation dairy farmers,” Tammy said. “Great-Grandpa Sam milked by hand in a bucket, Grandpa Mack had Surge bucket milkers, and our dad started in a rented barn with a parlor.”
While growing up, Tammy and Skeeter were active in 4-H and always included horses alongside their dairy cattle, sheep and pigs when showing.
“We kind of showed a little bit of everything,” Tammy said. “The draft horses would come in one day for the fair.”
The siblings continue to get to as many shows as they can with their string of 15 horses. Tammy has participated in various types of horse shows, including the halter class.
“For halter classes, you bring the horses in and line them up,” Tammy said. “Once everybody is lined up, you back your horse out, go to the judge who tells you to walk partway, trot partway, trot partway and then turn around and do it again.”
Contestants lead the horses the whole way. Once they are lined up, the horses must be set up with the back legs as close together as possible. The judges look for conformation.
“You lead them around and pray to God somebody’s beef steer doesn’t get loose and run into the middle of the show,” Tammy said. “That’s happened.”
Skeeter enjoys the horse shows as well.
“It’s a hobby, a good way to get off the farm in the summertime,” he said.
The siblings’ older brother, Maynard, took the hobby quite seriously as an adult. Maynard worked for Coors Rodeo at one point. They had a Budweiser hitch that went across the United States doing parades, shows and demonstrations.  
“Maynard has been across 48 states,” Tammy said. “He went from coast to coast with Dickie Sparrow who put on the 40-horse hitch for the Milwaukee Circus Parade.”
Tammy said draft horses are used for more than plowing and showing however. Jack used to bring the horses to weddings, and the family has also used the horses for funerals.
“A year ago this spring, we sold a horse to a lady who used it to do funeral rides,” Tammy said. “Percheron Grays are known as the funeral horse.”
Every now and then, Tammy and Skeeter hitch up the horses to plow or spread manure to give the horses exercise. Tammy said the draft horses are good for riding, too, which most people do not realize. She also owns some horses with a friend nearby, and they frequently swap horses throughout each other’s pastures.
Part of the McCulloughs’ draft horse tradition is all of the harnesses and wagons that were owned by their great-grandparents. However, some of the heirlooms were lost when the family suffered a barn fire in 2006.
The fire was caused by a spark from the main electrical supply in the dairy barn. The family lost five buildings, one of which was a 30- by 60-foot structure they called the harness shed.
“Our harness shed combusted where we had all the horse equipment,” Skeeter said. “It had six or eight saddles, show harnesses, four or six work harnesses, a hitch wagon, a show cart and our show box.”
All of the horse equipment was either handmade or passed down from a previous generation.
“We lost a hitch wagon that our dad built in the ‘80s,” Tammy said. “They sawed all the wood out from our land and built it with a friend.”
Two show harnesses were spared only because they were out for repair work prior to the fire.
“The only harnesses we have left were two of our grandfather’s that we had getting worked on,” Tammy said. “One of them was an original Sears Roebuck harness.”
Even with the loss of so many sentimental items, the siblings said they feel lucky to have saved all but two calves from the fire.
“As bad as that was, it could have been worse,” Skeeter said.
The McCulloughs moved their herd to a nearby farm for a few months but ended up selling the herd due to health issues. They rebuilt their farm and a new herd within a year of the fire. Skeeter said things worked out alright in the end, but it was difficult to sell the original herd.
“They had a 27,000-pound herd average,” he said. “That was 50 years of genetics or more that we lost.”
Tammy and Skeeter now run the farm with their parents and raise their youngstock. They farm approximately 600 acres. The siblings are looking forward to continuing the tradition of dairying and showing draft horses. Skeeter hopes to include his oldest son, Wyatt, in the horse shows next summer.