Category Archives: implements & harness

Suffolk Punch Draft Horse on a Bob-sled.

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.

Horse Drawn Plows and Plowing

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.

plow hitch plate assembly
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….


Learning to plow is one of the favorite activities for students in our workshops.

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!

Horse Drawn Haying with a Side Delivery Rake

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.




Tom Triplett and Jay Jay the Welsh Pony

Tom Triplett, (Doc’s mentor and step-father) along with his wife Betty,  cared for  Jay Jay, Cathy’s Welsh pony, for the last 2 years.  We all thought he would be a good cart driving partner for Tom.  Jay Jay enjoyed life with two standard Donkeys, and being cared for by Tom and Betty.  In the winter of 2011, we all agreed that Jay Jay might benefit from living on the wider open spaces at Therriault Creek Ranch with Doc, Cathy,   their horses, and mule for a while.

Tom knew that if Jay Jay was to live on a ranch, he best be ready to do ranch work.   Tom didn’t figure that the light driving harness that Cathy had for Jay Jay was a proper ranch harness. So he made a work harness for Jay Jay.  This one is complete with wooden hames that belonged to Tom’s father.

 Tom and Jay Jay

 June 20, 2011, Father’s Day, Tom fitted the harness to Jay Jay.  It is perfect! 
In the photo at left, Tom is adjusting Jay Jay’s new work harness.  This harness is complete with:
  • Painted wooden hames, originally belonging to Tom’s father
  • Leather belly band, back pad, back straps, lazy straps and crupper
  • Fire hose covered chain tugs
Tom, taking Jay Jay for a spin in his new harness:

Horse Powered Farm Work: Harrowing

May 5, 2011

We are having a very normal Rocky Mountain Spring time this year; We woke three days in a row last week to new snow! Here is a view we walk past on our way to the barn.
This photo shows Ten Lakes Farm  www.tenlakesfarm.com, the  organic market garden and CSA, owned and operated by farmers, Todd and Rebecca, on Therriault Creek Ranch. Snow doesn’t stop them, they are set to deliver their first CSA baskets to customers the third week in May!
Misty and Duchess, the Equine Grand Dams of Therriault Creek Ranch, are in the center of the photo. From this prestigious vantage point in their pasture they monitor all human, animal, and plant activities undertaken on the ranch. A disproportionate amount of  their time seems to be devoted to gazing dreamily at the carrot patch and hay meadow growth.
Sunshine!
What a welcome sight! One thing about N.W. Montana,  only a bit of sunshine is needed to see the pastures ‘green up’. Therriault Pass is beyond the meadow and pastures.
Finally! An opportunity Doc has been waiting for….the chance to get out and get some work done!
What is the first thing he did? Hook Kate to a harrow.

Tomorrow, Doc is working on getting that bigger harrow going….!

Introducing a horse to new implements

From Walt Barnard

Hello. Here is a brief description of how we introduced a particular horse to some new implements. The horse, Belle, is a Suffolk and there are some earlier posts about her training on this blog. Anyway, Kris and I had been working her up to actually pulling real farm implements by skidding a small tire for short periods.

I occasionally would sit on the tire to add some weight and change the ‘feel’ of the pull for the horse, making sure to not overwhelm her with too much weight for too long. When we actually had some real work to do over the past few days, Kris drove one of our broke horses and I drove Belle along to investigate and later, if she was mentally ready, to participate. With each new implement, I first lead Belle to it to investigate, lead her along behind and to the left, right, and front of the implement as Kris and the broke horse worked, then ground drove her as I had lead her above. If she was mentally ready, I then hitched her to the implement and Kris lead her while I drove.

Kris gradually dropped back to Belle’s shoulder and then as all was well stepped aside to let Belle work by herself. I had the lead rope tied up to the hames so if Belle needed more mental ‘support,’ Kris could easily get control of her head with the halter.

Of note, I would not try this technique on a horse that didn’t have a solid foundation of training that Doug describes in his DVDs on starting colts. The horse has to accept you as their leader and be responsive to the halter. Even with a horse with a solid foundation as Belle has, we were very careful to make sure she was comfortable with each step in the process, and would have backed off if things escalated to where we were beginning to see signs of discomfort, fear, or flight potential.

Also, I would not try this by just leading the animal, someone needs to be on the lines. Here are a couple of pictures of Kris driving Jerry on the disc, while I drive Belle along with them. She did well with this introduction but, since the disc is a pretty heavy pull in our deeply tilled hoop house, I didn’t think she was ready to pull a load heavy as this.

A couple of days later we started Belle pulling a section of spring tooth harrow. This is a good starter implement, because you can vary the draft by adjusting the depth of the tines. I started her very light and gradually increased the draft to a moderate amount for a single horse. As I worked her, I changed the draft from time to time, to give a different ‘feel’ on the collar for her. As you can see we lead her initially, then dropped back. I also only worked her for about an hour with lots of standing time and praise.
Here is Belle’s first experience skidding logs. Kris is driving Ray, our grouchy yet excellent mare, skidding small poles to the wood pile. As you can see, I am leading, then driving Belle, getting her used to the sounds, visuals and smells of skidding, as well as the fact that the longer poles are a different experience than a shorter harrow and can kick up brush and debris in sudden and strange ways.

Later Kris and I hitched and successfully skidded some of the lighter wet Doug Fir.

Belle did well.

Here is Belle now working on the disc. We broadcast peas and oats in the hoop houses, then disc it in with the groffdale disc. If you don’t sit on the disc it pulls real light.

I did a lot of short pulls and Kris walked ahead for much of the time for support. She did not stand as well as I would like when facing the barn but overall, for her first time I was pretty happy. At one point, we were standing inside the green house. I was adjusting the lines and accidentally hit the top of the hoop house with my bamboo stick causing a loud noise and plastic movement over her head. She got pretty alarmed and jumped forward, but immediately stopped with whoa combined with line pressure (her bit is tied to her halter in such a way to minimize pressure on the bars, so it functions like a halter more than a bridle; a trick Doug showed us at a past workshop). After she stood for a while we kept discing but she was still a little worried, so we unhitched the disc and ground drove her back and fourth thru the hoop houses until she was calm again. Then we went back to discing in a relaxed manner.

These photos were taken after that.

Walt

Slip Scraper and Three Abreast

After a week of rain we were blessed with a wonderful weekend of clear weather. Harley and I wanted to take advantage of that, so on Saturday we harnessed Tom and Charlie. They are half brother Belgians, 8 years old. They worked one season on an Amish farm before Harley bought them as 6 years olds off the English farm where they had not worked at all since the Amish training. Harley uses them to make hay on his farm. They are a very experienced confident team of horses.

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.