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!

When East Meets West…in Montana

 EAST MEETS WEST

We feel privileged to have recently shared our home for a visit from Jay and Janet Bailey,  of Fair Winds Farm, for a couple of days. The Baileys live in Vermont, own and operate a horse-powered, organic market vegetable farm.  Like us, the Baileys also offer intensive, hands-on horse-powered workshops that teach people how to drive and work horses in harness.
We and the Baileys both admire, own, and use Suffolk Punch Draft horses in our personal farm work and in our workshops. We had much to talk about with this love in common…our own horses, their tractability, their energy, their great minds, and current trends in breeding. It was a great time for the Baileys to learn about the other breed of horses we own and use on the ranch and in our workshops, Norwegian Fjord Horses.
The time together with the Baileys also gave the four of us the opportunity share, connect with resources, and network with each other about what opportunities, information and activities we provide (and would like to provide for Workhorse Workshop students). We want to stay connected to help each other provide the best educational experience possible for all of our combined current and future students.
Jay and Janet were interested in local history and had not heard of spring-board notches.  (Loggers in the early days cut springboard notches into which they could insert springboards which then could be used as platforms, allowing the loggers to stand and use their cross-cut saws to cut higher-up the base of the tree where the trunk is narrower.)
We spent some time hiking with them near the ranch to show them the remnants of the early logging in our area.
Of course, what is a visit among horse-friends without a little horse work?  We shared a favorite activity with Jay and Janet….log skidding with Solven and Brisk, Norwegian Fjords, to get in a little firewood.
 Doc and I consider the time spent with these great people valuable to not only enjoy their company, but also to exchange ideas and to take time for recreation as well.
Thanks Baileys for taking the time to ‘stop by and see us’ at  Doc Hammill Horsemanship, here in Montana.

DOING WHAT WE LOVE!!

For the past several years, Cathy and I have spent the Fall months on the road…

doing what we love … offering Workhorse Workshops to students in Oregon, Washington, and California, and providing personalized instruction to students and their horses on their own farms.

The workshops have turned out to be wonderful events for us, the hosts, and students alike. These recurring Workhorse Workshops are being hosted in some amazing places … most of them are horse-powered organic farms. The working farms are perfect environments for hands on learning, with remarkable owner hosts who co-instruct with us. Thanks to our hosts the students get to work with outstanding horses and a wide variety of equipment. Opportunities for learning, networking, and sharing are endless.

Stephen Decater demonstrating collar fitting on Pete at the 4th Annual Doc Hammill Horsemanship  Workhorse Workshop at Live Power Community Farm, October, 2012

Cathy and I would like to share some of the experiences we’ve had during these times. Keep an eye on this “What’s New” section of our website — we will offer educational insights where it makes sense and share photos and commentary from the workshops, private lessons, and training sessions.

We are honored to work with so many enthusiastic and dedicated students. By teaching people to better understand, communicate, and interact with horses, we are also following our passion of helping horses have better lives.

Check back often, you might just see yourself or someone you know!

Doc Hammill, Norgaards, and Hebels Honored by Montana Draft Horse and Mule Association

The Montana Draft Horse and Mule Association has selected 2012 inductees into the Montana Draft Horse and Mule Association Teamster Hall of Fame. 2012 Inductees are Jim and Donna Norgaard of Roy, Rusty and Margaret Hebel of Dillon, and Doc Hammill of Eureka, Montana.

The Induction Ceremony will take place during the Big Sky EXPO, in Deer Lodge, Montana, on Saturday,September 15, 2012 Check the EXPO website for more information http://www.drafthorseexpo.com/

The draft animal era in America dates from the mid-1800s to the 1930s when expansion and industrialization depended on horses, mules, oxen, and the teamsters who drove them.  The majority of people who use our modern highways and are served by railroads may not realize that draft animals were used to build early transportation systems.  Draft animals served our nation in many ways in the past.

The use of draft animals has not entirely ended. Indeed, while many think the use of draft horses, mules and oxen is novel, there has been increasing use in recent years.  Without individuals, such as those honored by the Montana Draft Teamster Hall of Fame, skills needed to use draft animals would be difficult to obtain.

The Montana Draft Teamster Hall of Fame is dedicated to those individuals that have made significant contributions to the preservation and dissemination of knowledge, education, and use of draft animals and or draft equipment for work or pleasure in Montana.  Induction into the Montana Draft Teamster Hall of Fame is based on an outstanding record of contributions to teamster education, preservation and use of draft animals or restoration of equipment used by draft animals.

The Class of 2012 has a remarkable record has a remarkable record of achievement in the preservation and use of draft horses and mules and the education of teamsters.”

The Class of 2012 Hall of Fame Inductees are Jim and Donna Norgaard of Roy, Rusty and Margaret Hebel of Dillon and “Doc” Hammill of Eureka, Montana.

http://www.montanadrafthorsemule.com/teamsterhalloffame.htm

 

 

Doug “Doc” Hammill has many, many years of experience with horses in harness.  “Doc” often tells students about how he, as a youngster of 7, decided to hitch and drive his pony. He recollects that he nailed ‘shafts’ (two small pieces of lumber about the right size) onto a two wheeled cart.  He fashioned a harness of found objects, including leather straps and bailing twine, and secured the pony to the cart. Using more twine for lines, he jumped on the cart-Ben Hur style and drove off…..never bothering to check to see if the pony had ever been trained to drive.

He countered much of what he learned the hard way as a youth, by seeking out good older teamsters to spend time with when he moved to Montana as a young veterinarian in the ‘60s.  Doc often credits his many good teamster mentors with really teaching him to drive and work with horses in harness. Over time Doc, a well-respected veterinarian, acquired his first team of Clydesdales and a piece of ground.  There, he raised many colts, farmed his eighty acres near Creston, Montana,  using horse drawn plows, discs, rakes, harrows, mowers, balers, drills, and combines, wagons and carts pulled by his Clydesdales and mules. Throughout, his learning process, Doc has taken what he has learned from research, his own trials, and his mentors, and has created his own style of horsemanship; he calls it “Gentle Horsemanship”.

Doc created of “Old West Adventures” and as owner/operator for over ten years, he treated thousands of customers to wagon and sleigh rides pulled by his Clydesdales at Big Mountain in Whitefish, Montana.  He also organized and   participated in authentic wagon trips in Montana, some for pleasure, some commercial, with horse drawn wagons pulled by hitches of two and four horses or mules.

For the last 15 years or so, Doc has combined his passion for teaching and sharing his knowledge of equines and driving horses in harness to help interested people learn to drive and work horses in harness. He often says, “Passing on what I’ve been so fortunate to learn in over 45 years of working with horses is also a way of honoring my teachers.”

First at his remote Hard Trigger Ranch near East Glacier, Montana and more recently at Therriault Creek Ranch near Eureka, Montana, students come from all over the US, Canada, some traveling from Europe and Australia to learn driving skills and how to work with horses from Doc. Students of “Doc Hammill Horsemanship” number in the thousands. He regularly travels to other locations in the US and Canada to do Driving and Working Horses in Harness Workshops. He has dedicated his life to bringing “gentle horsemanship” (his term for natural horsemanship) to people and especially the draft horse and mule world through workshops and clinics, written words and educational DVDs.

Doc has written a draft horse driving column, “Ask a Teamster,” in The Small Farmers Journal for more than 15 years, as well as a regular contributor to Rural Heritage Magazine. He is a frequent presenter at Horse Progress Days and other draft horse events around the country. Doc has produced several educational DVDs, featuring his gentle horsemanship techniques that have helped many, many people learn to drive and work with horses.

Teaching Equines to Pull Loads

Horse Drawn Stone Boat


Good morning Doc,


I have a question related to a pony pulling in harness.
What would be the appropriate size of a stone boat for a pony that is approximately 12HH and 600 pounds?

Thanks,  Jeri

Hi Jeri,


Good to hear from you.


 

The size of the stone boat will not matter as much as the weight you put on it and the terrain/ground conditions on which it will be pulled.

 

We have a wooden stone boat about 3′ wide and 6′ long that Cathy’s pony (about the size of yours) can pull easily with 50 to 100 lbs. on it over a hard surface or grass. He can pull it with greater effort loaded with 150 lbs. for short distances with air/rest stops in between pulls. In conditions like loose dirt, sand, mud, up hill, etc. it would pull harder with whatever load was on it.


 

There are two very important considerations when asking any equine to pull a load: 

  • 1. What are they physically capable of pulling? 
  • 2. What are they psychologically capable of and comfortable pulling? In my experience most animals are physically capable of pulling more than they can handle psychologically.

 

However, if we train and manage them skillfully they will get better and better at pulling – if we don’t they will go the other way.

 

Always start with a very light load to test them out each time you work.Then gradually increase the amount they are asked to pull. In other words, warm them up and give them confidence before asking them for the heavier pulls.

 

The most common mistakes people make are to ask them to pull too much before they are ready, and to pull them too far without a stop for air and rest.


Repetition, repetition, repetition with gradually increasing loads is critical. 

If they get anxious or confused stop, calm them down, lighten the load (rather than removing it), and proceed when they are relaxed and comfortable. Lighten the load to a point where they can pull it and remain relaxed and comfortable as they work.  Add weight in small increments to keep the equine comfortable and working in a relaxed way.


 

Please contact me if you have more questions.


 

Take care, stay safe, and enjoy those horses, ponies, mules, and donkeys!

Doc

Jay Jay and Tom Triplett

Here is a photo of Tom Triplett and Cathy’s Welsh pony Jay Jay, approximately the size of the pony Jeri inquires about.  Jay Jay is a great cart pony and he also ‘pulls his share’  around the ranch by hauling loads that are suited to his size.  Here, he is dressed in the collar style work-harness Tom made for him (notice the antique wooden hames: some Tom’s father had used ranching in Montana in the 1900’s).   Smaller equines, like Jay Jay and Jeri’s pony, can make  great working contributions on your ranch or farm.  Smaller equines are well suited to get into (and out of) some of those tighter spaces that are trickier for our larger equine workers. 

 



 

"The Mind of the Horse" Doc’s presentation at SFJ 2012

WOW!  This is amazing….nearly 100 people were up early to attend Doc’s presentation, “The Mind of the Horse” here at the Small Farmer’s Journal Auction on Wednesday.  It was a great turn out and fabulous beginning to activities at the 2012 Small Farmer’s Journal Auction.  Thanks to all who attended.

Below is a question from an attendee:

Ben:

 I really enjoyed your class yesterday. Which of your  DVDs would you recommend to a beginner? I can harness and hitch but am pretty inexperienced.

Doc:

Hi Ben, Thanks for your comment. There are two very important areas of consideration. The first area of consideration, the basics, details, and safety considerations of harnessing, hitching, driving technique, equipment, and working in harness are covered in our Fundamentals 1, 2, 3, and 4 DVDs. The second area of consideration, equally important, is an understanding of the nature of horses, how their mind works and how we can influence behavior and learning in ways they inherently understand and willingly respond to. These topics are covered in Gentle Training – The Round Pen and Gentle Training 2.

Doc Answers Questions about Issues when Bridling a Horse

“Bridling a Horse: It’s a Relationship Thing”

This student has generously given her permission to share her story of challenges and triumphs she is experiencing with her horse in hopes that it might benefit other people and their horses.

A bit of background:

Heather is one of our many very committed students and is incredibly dedicated to her horse and to using gentle/natural horsemanship techniques with her. It is very common for us to work with people who want alternatives to using force, pain, and physical punishment when working with their horses. These people seek our advice because they do not yet have enough effective and gentle “tools” to achieve their goals and deal with the many levels of challenges horses can and do present us with. Our student’s horse came to her owner with a long-standing issue with difficult bridling. Lucy is a wonderful horse, very gentle, generally a willing and cooperative mare; and has the dominance qualities of a lead mare. The mare has been responsive to the new techniques her owner is using, and has responded extremely well to the techniques of natural horsemanship compared to the more conventional style of harsher training from the horse’ past.

The text that follows is our students’ questions and concerns, Doc’s responses, and the students’ response to Doc’s statements.

Hi Doc and Cathy,
I was hoping that you could help me with a problem I am having with Lucy. A horse-friend of mine has a great horse facility in this area, and lately he has invited me there to attend a monthly training session with a local trainer. She does English, Dressage, Western, and driving. He even trailers Lucy there and back. We have gone 3 times. I figure just trailering her anywhere is great for her, no matter the reason. She is still trailering pretty well I think. Anyway, I think these sessions have been generally beneficial to Lucy & I. Last Sunday, I asked for help with 2 basic problems that Lucy came to me with, bridling (you knew that one) and mounting. We really made great progress actually. We made progress on Sunday, and I have been able to repeat our success several times since then (success on every attempt). I have also seen Lucy every day since then. We had an absolutely awesome time together last night. She bridled perfectly, walked and stopped perfect when led, and mounted perfectly. I was on a cloud all day today because of it. Then tonight I went out to see her, just clean her stall & bridle her again, just because I thought that was a good idea. I expected success, we both seemed just the same as we were last night, she had finished her dinner just like last night, and for some reason it went terribly. I tried to bridle her for 45 minutes tonight, without success. I did exactly the same things that the trainer had shown me, which had worked perfectly at least 4 sessions in a row. I just don’t understand. I am so sad, upset, confused, and tired right now. I’m afraid it is going to be as bad or worse next time because we didn’t even get the bridle on tonight. Do you have any advice at all for me?
Sincerely,
Heather



Doc working with Lucy



Hi Heather,

Horses are our ultimate teachers, they make us soar and they humble us, teach us patience and persistence and constancy and the value of repetition and baby steps.

Hi Doug, Thank you for taking the time to send me your thoughtful reply today.


– Yes, they are the ultimate teachers… I am trying to do better with the consistency and the baby steps, I guess I’ll always be working on those things.

Most of all they teach us that relationship is about visualizing the best and accepting best efforts and best responses – no regrets, no judgments, no guilt, no shame, no blame.

– At least I had part of that right; I did visualize “the best”. … I know, there is no right…

Several times in your letter you mention variations of the words “success” “progress” and “perfectly”.You also mention the word “problems” and the phrase “…went terribly”.

– I knew that you would say something about that, too, but I didn’t know how else to say that everything had gone so well, and then so not-well.

As long as you give Lucy (or anyone else) the power to cause you to be “sad, upset, and confused” you will bounce between euphoria when you get what you want and sad, upset, and confused when she gets what she wants.

When we do this we set things up as a competition and in competitions someone wins and someone loses.

– It made me smile when you said that it is basically a bad idea to let anyone “make you feel happy, sad, or upset”. The funny thing is that I TOTALLY know that, I never let human people affect me that way, I just never thought of applying my thinking about this to animal people. Maybe that is why my sadness and upsetness (sic) was so profound, I’m just not accustomed to being affected like this, I have no practice (thank goodness). You also said that when I did this with Lucy, I set us up for being in competition. I know it is a very bad idea to be in competition with Lucy, there is no way I could ever win, and I do not want to go there!

Rather than spend 45 minutes trying to get her to do anything that is not working, evaluate in the first 10 to 30 seconds if she is resistant or receptive to what you are starting to ask for (accepting the bridle). If she is receptive proceed in baby steps and pause often to reward her cooperation.

– I knew I was in a death-spiral, but after I had missed that 10 – 30 second clue that this wasn’t going to work, I didn’t know I could stop asking her to accept that bridle. I wish I had figured that out then…

***If she is resistant: FIRST create a consequence for resisting and then SECOND immediately ask for (and reward when you get them) a series of other things you are pretty sure she will willingly let you do (back up, pick up a foot, disengage (move) her rear end to the side, disengage her front end to the side, put her head down, flex her head and nose to her side, etc.)

– O.K. – that gives me a game plan that was what I was missing (or at least an important thing that I was missing). That looks like a good plan. Even after last night’s “whatever-it-was”, there were still things she would still do willingly for me, and I will assume that she will still be willing to do some things with me today. Thank you, I felt lost, not having any idea where to go next.
I still can’t stop myself from wondering, though, how long it will be before she will accept the bridle after what I did last night, if I were her, I don’t know why I would ever accept it. I might not be able to ride her for months that would be sad. I will do what you suggested, and I’ll keep you posted.

Better yet test her out on a bunch of these things each time BEFORE you try to bridle her. If she won’t cooperate and do these small, easy things for you the chance of her accepting the bridle is low. Build a pattern of successful requests and responses before you ask for her to accept the bridle. However, if you meet inattentiveness, resistance, or refusal at any time you must create a soft, appropriate consequence or she will take advantage of the situation and increase her inborn tendency to have her own way – this is just a natural part of being a horse. Anna Twinney, an amazing horsewoman, explains it best, “If there is a leadership void somebody must fill it; the horse will if the human doesn’t.”

– Thank you. I need to remember this. Do you have a suggestion as to a appropriate consequence? I have one idea, but I’d guess that you have a better one. I am so happy that you got to meet her, so you have her & I in your mind as you think about this. I think I should be paying you for this much of your time.

How long did you work with her putting her head down for you before you went and got the bridle?

– I did almost not at all. She had been accepting the bridle with my barely doing it for maybe 2 times previous.

The mere sight of the bridle is a concern to a horse that has issues with it. We can’t expect to hide it from them but if we get cooperation on some other exercises and get them relaxed and comfortable and cooperative first we sometimes have a better chance with the thing that concerns them.

– I watch for her reactions when she sees brushes, saddle/blanket, harness, halter, & bridle. She has a reaction to all of these, but only an acknowledgement that she sees them, not an upset or uncomfortable reaction. She doesn’t even react if I place the bridle along the front of her face. If I get a reaction, it isn’t until the bit touches her lips, and then she first wiggles her lips to keep the bit out, then throws her head if I persist.

I’m working with  mare here at the ranch on bridling issues and some days we never get to the bridle because she does not become completely comfortable and cooperative with the preliminary test things I ask of her – so we work on them that day.

– That is good to know.

If you approach next time with the fear of failure you are expressing you will be going backward and doing her a great disservice. You did not fail, she did not fail, she did not win, you did not win. There is no win or lose, there are no problems when playing/working with horses only learning and relationship building OPPORTUNITIES.

The goals of gentle/natural horsemanship are – 100% trust, 100% respect, and 0% fear.This goes for the horse and human alike as far as I’m concerned. You cannot fail with her, give up your goal, success, and judgment based thinking, beliefs, and fears; have fun and learn with and from your time with this horse. You trust her and she trusts you. Work on her respecting you. Eliminate your fears and concerns (completely and at all times) and hers will evaporate.

Become emotionally neutral when with her – there is/are no right or wrong, good or bad, problems or perfection – everything just is and we accept it and move either forward or backward which doesn’t matter because there is no forward or backward either. We just move on to whatever we think of to move on to.

– So much Zen… It is so weird. I don’t know why this work/play/learning with Lucy affects me so strongly, I am NOT normally like this. I am reading your words and thinking about them and crying for some reason and I don’t even know why. Weird.

You are doing just fine, relax, breathe, and smile – especially when she won’t accept the bridle.

– … And laughing now, too….

Thank you for seeking help. Let me know your thoughts about this please.

– I profoundly thank you for your help. I added my responses and emphases’ to your words above.


I appreciate the opportunities I’ve had to spend time with you and Lucy, and enjoy sharing things I hope are of value to both of you.

Doc

– I am grateful, and you know I think these thoughts of yours are valuable.


– Heather



Heather, in the photo above, observes Doc working with Lucy


Dear Doc,

I have been thinking about all of this “Lucy & I” stuff non-stop. I’m sure something must be gelling in my sub-conscious; we’ll see how long it takes to make it into my unconscious mind.
I just wanted to give you an update. I went out to see Lucy after work today, with Aaron for moral support. Lucy & I worked on leading & stopping (she has been doing willingly, something we have developed lately), then I decided to try the bridle. I took baby steps again, lowering her head, touching her lips, putting my thumb in her mouth, putting the bridle up to her face, no resistance. She gave me a small clue that there might or might not be resistance to bridling when we got to that, so I decided to see if she would let me. I went back to the way I held the bridle before, which was easier for me (I’m not so coordinated sometimes, so making this easier for me was a good idea). She gave me just a touch of attitude, just on principal, but she allowed me to bridle her. So, I took a breath, petted her, and then just led her to where I tie her. I picked her hooves, then unbridled her and put her back in her stall, where she likes to be. I feel much better now, I was worried about how long that would take after my “whatever it was” the other night.

Thank you for your help, patience, & support.


-Heather

Doc is Interviewed on the "Driving Radio Show" by Dr. Wendy Ying and "Glen the Geek"

A suggestion from one of our driving horses in harness students, Robin Kane, encouraged “Glen the Geek” and Wendy Ying to contact and interview Doc for “The Driving Radio Show”, which aired April 3, 2012.  If you would like to listen to this fun interview, click the link below. 
http://drivingradioshow.horseradionetwork.com/2012/04/03/driving-radio-show-episode-39-doc-for-the-distance/

Thank you Robin!  Also thanks to the show hosts, Dr. Wendy Ying and “Glen the Geek”

Four States Ag Expo, Cortez, Colorado

Our Clinic here at the Four States Ag Expo in Cortez, Colorado filled!

Photos from the Hands-On Driving Clinic, March 15 & 16, 2012:

Doc discussing with students the finer points of “pressure-release” line handling skills

Thank you to all of the students attending the Hands-on Driving Horses in Harness Clinic

Doc, students, Chuck Baley’s Suffolks, and the sunny Cortez, Colorado sky

A special thanks to Chuck Baley and his great Suffolks.

Chief and Joe, Doc and Chuck

A particular thank you to the Four States  AG EXPO for inviting  Doc Hammill
to Cortez, Colorado, 2012