The photo shows Doc working Ann and Kate, our Suffolk Punch mares, at plowing snow with a
Pioneer Forecart and Pioneer Back Blade accessory.
We’ve had the blade for our Pioneer fore cart for about 10 years and it works very well for us. In addition to plowing snow we have used it to move dirt, spread gravel, level ground squirrel mounds in pastures and hay fields, clean up manure in corrals, spread wood shavings and sand, and do some minor ditching. The blade can be set at several different angles very easily and quickly with a spring loaded pin to roll material off the blade either to the right or left. A similar pin and holes system tilts the blade higher or lower on one end than the other for such things as ditching and creating a slope. Loose dirt and gravel can be moved with relative ease but hard packed dirt needs to be plowed or otherwise loosened first if the blade will not tear it up with one end of the blade tilted down so the corner acts like a ripper. Care needs to be taken not to force the blade down so hard in an attempt to make it dig deeper that excessive downward pressure is created on the end of the tongue. Doing so will exert too much downward force on the collars which can make the team uncomfortable and potentially anxious, irritable, or sore. It works great for light grading of loose gravel on driveways, ranch roads, etc. but tearing up hard packed gravel is not practical. If it gets wet enough in spring or fall we can do more with formerly packed gravel. We also use the lift mechanism (without the blade attached) to raise and lower other custom tools that we attach to the lift mechanism with a modified receiver hitch.
Winter, our quiet time, is a time we use to keep our horses tuned up, and ready to work as instructors in our Montana Workhorse Workshops.
We have had snow here at home since mid-December so we get to put the horses on sleds and sleighs, and in some cases, change out the wheels (for example on the fore cart) for runners. Here, Doc has Ann, one of our Suffolk Punch Draft horse mares, on a small feed sled.
This sled is great with a small load and a single horse.
We love all seasons in Montana, and especially enjoy Montana’s long snowy winters. This time of tranquility gives us another set of opportunities (besides the fair weather and ranch work of summer) to enjoy driving and working with our horse partners.
For Doc and me, plowing with horse-drawn walking plows is a favorite activity. We both enjoy plowing with one, two, or three horses hitched to a walking plow.
The sounds, the smell, the feeling of holding the handles, and working with the soils … it is all part of it for us, as well as working with the horses as partners to get a job done. Helping the horses gain skills and understanding of the task and to make their contribution in a relaxed and comfortable way is very important to for us.
We both share an interest in horse drawn equipment of the past and have somewhat of a “collection”.
We are enamored with the details of parts, engineering, design, history of the manufacturers, adjustments, maintenance, and attachments of this old equipment. We both think there is beauty and art in the form and function of many of these older pieces, particularly the walking plows. The “plow hitch plate assembly” is one of those very appealing artistic components of walking plows.
This “plow hitch plate assembly” is one from a plow we recently found in eastern Oregon, a Vulcan #14. It has been fun for us to do some research on it, find out about the Vulcan Manufacturing Company, think about getting it in working order, ready for it’s use next spring.
Below is an excerpt from the Evansville Courier Press:
“William Heilman, a German immigrant and U.S. Congressman, founded Heilman Plow Works in 1847. Renamed Vulcan Plow Works in 1890, the company was a leading manufacturer of various farming equipment in the Ohio Valley before merging with three other companies in Illinois and Ohio, to form Farm Tool, Inc. The last known vestige of that company in Evansville left in 1949 and went out of business all together in the 1950s.”
We are getting very excited after we received recent news that two ‘new-to-us’ plows are being shipped to us by Tommy Flowers, and will have a new home here in Montana. A Chattanooga 43 10″ two-horse walking plow will be perfect for our Fjord Team, and a Lynchburg 6 an 8″ single horse walking plow for our single Suffolk Punch horses should be arriving soon! The ground isn’t frozen and there is no snow yet … maybe they will get here it time to try out before winter hits….
Doc and I always look forward to sharing our passion for plows and plowing with students in our workshops. Learning to plow is one of the favorite activities for many students.
One of our students, who had waited since his youth to plow with a horse was particularly excited about “taking the handles” for the first time. He said to me this year, “Cathy, I have yet to try this thing that you love so much, but I am ready now.” You should have seen the smile on his face as he looked back after completing his first furrow!
EAST MEETS WEST
We spent some time hiking with them near the ranch to show them the remnants of the early logging in our area.
What a great Workshop! Not only were we able to work through our typical hands-on activities with our human students, but we also had the opportunity to help our new horses learn to accept a piece of noisy equipment while working on our hay at the same time.
We had hay down in our biggest hay meadow…25 acres. Doc decided to use Brisk and Solven, our Norwegian Fjord geldings to demonstrate a safe way of introducing horses to unfamiliar equipment. We acquired this team last fall. They are a well-experienced team, with a life time of pulling carriages and wagons in a variety of situations. They work quietly and willingly. Brisk and Solven however are new to all farm activities. This noisy hay rake is the first piece of farm equipment that these horses have EVER been hitched to, so we wanted to make sure it was a safe and comfortable experience for all.
|Solven and Brisk checking out the rake|
Doc drove the team to the hay meadow, where the truck and rake were parked. He drove them to the rake, let them see and smell it while it was idle. Cathy then drove the pickup with the side delivery rake attached, around the edge of the mowed hay meadow. She first pulled the hay rake out of gear – not raking hay. Doc drove Brisk and Solven hitched to their fore cart behind the moving rake. The horses were completely comfortable being driven behind the rake while it was traveling out of gear, so Doc then drove the Boys along the side of, and in front of the pick-up and hay rake. There was a point, when the rake ‘dissappeared’ (due to their blinders) behind the Boys that they showed some concern. Doc slowed the Boys down so the rake again came into their view, and they regained their comfort. After a few times forward and back, the horses showed no concern at all when the rake and truck were behind them or beside them. All these steps were repeated next with the rake traveling now noisily in gear behind the pickup. The horses showed no signs of concern at the rake traveling behind, beside or in front of them even when they were driven very close to it.
This advance and retreat method is a technique we use to expose any horse to new equipment, processes, environments and activities. This process gave the horses the ability to see and hear the machine working, and to ensure they were comfortable with it before they were asked to rake hay with it. Breaking activities down into small steps, like this, lets horses accept new situations in small increments and stay comfortable. If we see concern on the part of the horses, we drop back a step to again allow them to feel comfortable. We go back (retreat) as far as is necessary to allow the horses to regain their comfort.
Incidentally, this process also gave us a chance to make a couple of necessary adjustments to the rake before we hitched the horses to it. It is good to make adjustments to and make sure equipment is working well BEFORE putting the horses on the equipment.
After one round of the meadow with the rake attached to the truck, Doc determined that the horses were not concerned about working in this new area or the noise associated with the side delivery rake. We stopped the truck, unhooked the rake from it. Then hitched the rake (again out of gear)to the fore cart with Solven and Brisk; the Boys walked off comfortably. Next, we put the rake in gear and when given their signal, off the Boys walked. We spent the rest of the evening raking hay with them. They continued to work quietly, steady, and calmly.
May 5, 2011
Tomorrow, Doc is working on getting that bigger harrow going….!
Cathi and I love to work in the woods. It’s even better if we can work with our horses in the woods. On March 8 we had some fire wood logs ready to skid out and each of us took a horse to do the job. Here we have Kate and Ann, our Suffolk Punch Draft Horses.
Kate was very relaxed, comfortable, and interested as I prepared the first log to hook to her.
However, when she started off with the first small “warm up” log she became a bit anxious and was not very responsive to my attempts to calm her and slow her down. As so often happens, a training opportunity (not a problem) presented itself.
After stopping several times, letting her relax, and then attempting to start her again in a more relaxed and easy way I realized she was not able to control her anxiousness.
Thanks for checking up on us on our blog,
Here is a video of Doc plowing snow in Montana with Belgian mares, Molly and Dolly.
What are you doing with your horses this winter? Please send us photos and stories that we could consider posting on our blog…
After moving a wagon out of the crib, we hitched to the slip scraper to take some compost up to the house. This device could be called a horse-drawn scoop or drag scraper. Steve Wood tells me that this device was used to build roads in the earlier days. Folks would turn out with their horses and scrapers and work together to build roads in their area. The Fresno scrapers were similar, but pulled by a multiple of horses.
So back to our compost moving project: Two horses easily pulled the scraper up to the house. It is tight quarters around the raised flower beds, so we wanted to do this with just one horse. We thought Tom would be good to go with this single project as he is the more forward horse in the team. He surprised us both by not wanting to go forward even when I was out in front with the lead rope. We tried ground driving him on the flat by the barn but decided that we would need to spend much more time driving single before we ask him to pull the slip scraper.
Next it was Charlie’s turn to ground drive single. We put the single lines on him and asked him to walk forward into our flat area. He surprised us by willingly moving out without my help. Both Harley and I were pleased with his confidence. He was comfortable with the slip scraper too.
The approach to the house is steep but Charlie did a great job for us. He pulled the slip scraper up without hesitation and was steady when we dumped the load. He stood quietly for us while we flipped the scraper back.
On the way back to the compost pile we found that a little of the lift the handle would pick up a load of fresh manure to add to the compost pile. I have seen these slip scrapers before but never in use. It was great fun learning something new to use with our horses. What a great piece of equipment to move dirt, gravel or manure, plus giving a horse a job that is not too tasking.
The next day was also great for doing horsey things. Harley wanted to drive three abreast, so we put Tom on the right, Charlie on the left and Babe in the middle. Babe is a four year old Belgian trained by Steve Wood. Harley used a butt rope around all three horses.
We ground drove them first just to be safe. Babe was very comfortable with the two other horses and did as we asked so we felt comfortable putting them to a heavy stone boat.
With Tom’s leadership they swung around easily to their position in front of the stone boat. Starting off slowly and together we headed down the lane to the south hayfield.
What a joy it was to see them work evenly to pull this stone boat. We were surprised by a fallen tree blocking the lane. The road was too narrow to turn the horses around so Harley stopped the horses and we tied Tom to a tree. I stood in front of Babe and Charlie while Harley walked back to the barn to get the chain saw.
I really enjoy making every experience a learning experience for the horses. Babe was very relaxed during our wait. She fussed a little with her head, trying to rub the other horses but she was very cooperative when I corrected her. While Harley was running the chain saw, she watched but was not frightened with the noise. She has had some experience working in the woods while in training with Steve Wood.
Once the roadway was cleared we circled the hayfield a few times. We had put the best rope halter on Babe with the longest lead rope. But I also wanted a long lead rope on Charlie who was on the left side. If I had a problem with Babe, I could easily move it to her halter and have control rather than trying to untie her lead rope from her hame. I felt doing that could put me in an unsafe position. Things were going well so I left it on Charlie.
The horses had a reasonable workout going around the field.
I had a great time driving them back to the barn. Both Harley and I were thrilled with the way the horses pulled together and worked as a team. We are going to enjoy doing more of this during the winter months. Driving three is a great way to get more horses in condition for next summer’s work.