A May Bear(y) Encounter

This spring day in April of 2013, Doc was working Ann and Shelby, Suffolk Punch mares, hitched to a forecart, driving around tracks on the ranch near Eureka, Montana.

He noticed Shelby’s behavior was ‘off’: she was snorting, distracted, and not her usual calm self. We know  “horses think they always have a good reason for their behavior” so we look for what could be bothering them. While staying seated on the forecart, Doc looked for clues to her behavior:  on her bridle, on her harness, with her teammate, checking the hitch setup, but he saw nothing unusual. Cathi was nearby on the ground looking for photo opportunites while Doc worked the ‘Girls’.  She noticed the nice BIG BLACK BEAR grazing in the lush grass near Therriault Creek and pointed it out to Doc.  It became evident that the Bear was the object of Shelby’s attention.

Northwestern Montana has  abundant bear populations so both of these mares, actually all of our horses, have seen Black Bear and Grizzly Bear while grazing in their pastures, and paddocks.  Much less frequently have they seen them while they (the horses) are harnessed and working. We believe horses see every situation differently…so even though they had seen bears while grazing …not having seen them while they were harnessed and working was a new situation, and caused upset to at least one of the horses.

Shelby’s concern over the grazing bear gave Doc the opportunity to  remain a reasonable distance from the bear, and let both mares observe it grazing.  We have learned to zero in on cues from our horses that tell us they are concerned.  We always ask them to WHOA when we see this, so that stopping when concerned or worried becomes the response.  We give them the time it takes to figure out what is happening. Doc used the approach and retreat concept to get the team closer to the bear, then when relaxed, he would drive them away from the bear.  It is our goal to manage the  horses’ behavior for comfort and relaxation. Doc also remained calm,  and emotionally neutral.  He of course thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to see this beautiful bear, and the opportunity to help Shelby become more relaxed at seeing at least this bear. Desensitization worked here for both the horses, with time just standing and observing, and moving the team to different locations where they could still observe the bear’s activity allowed them to become comfortable with the sighting. Shelby’s teammate Ann, remained relaxed during this entire time.  Doc believes that Ann’s calmness contributed positivly to Shelby’s positive desensitization.

Cathy did not become completely desensitized to the bear sighting. Given that the bear was observed between the house and barn, Cathy chose to not walk, but rather drive her car to the barn and back in the several days following.

New Book!

  

Doc Hammill’s decades of experience working equines in harness coupled with his never-ending quest to ensure that equines work more comfortably and safely, gives him an unequaled perspective on the teamster’s art.
Author and researcher, Jenifer Morrissey, an accomplished teamster in her own right, has artfully condensed many generations of wisdom from Doc, herself, and numerous other master teamsters and craftsmen in this unique book about harness and using it safely and well.

Now assembled in one place, this series of articles on harness and the teamster’s art by Jenifer Morrissey with Doc Hammill and Friends originally appeared in Rural Heritage Magazine. Introductory chapters include choosing a harness for your equine and understanding harness materials and styles. The key chapters on the geometry of harness adjustment and finding the ideal point of draft resulted from months of research and collaboration. Rural Heritage’s Publisher remarked,  “Our most extensive articles on the most essential aspects of draft horse driving. Jenifer Morrissey’s much researched articles cover everything you need to know to correctly adjust your harness and collars for the best performance and comfort.  Accompanied by very helpful photographs and illustrations. You will keep and reread these articles forever!” And now it is even easier to do that with the book, Harness Lessons With Doc Hammill and Friends.
Available Now!:   $38.00 + $7.50 shipping.
order from Doc via
  • phone  406-250-8252
  • Mail:  send Name, address, phone number and payment to PO Box 785,  St. Ignatius, MT 59865
  • Web store

 

A Fine Team of Three

A Fine Team of Three

 

We visited with them as they were getting ready to leave, in the early Montana light. Here is a fine team of three. We have been fortunate to know Balyn for several years, and were quite excited that he made an overnight stop to see Doc and I at Borderland Ranch to take an overnight break in his travels with his new team, Bruce and Bud, from eastern Montana to Western Washington.

Balyn is now working his own farm with wife Ellie, in North West Washington. Please join us wishing them well as he puts these nice boys to work .

 

Doc Plowing Snow with Ann and Shelby

 

The photo shows Doc working Ann and Kate, our Suffolk Punch mares, at plowing snow with a

Pioneer Forecart and Pioneer Back Blade accessory.

DSC02206

 

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.

Realizing a Dream – Horse Powered Farming

Focus on a Doc Hammill Horsemanship Student: Balyn

Balyn, a 30 something Californian, has been gardening and farming for more than 10 years.  All of his early gardening and farm work was on fairly small scale family and market gardens.  These gardens were cultivated by hand or with minimal tractor work to assist the human power.  Balyn’s interest in gardening and farming intensified while he was studying agro-ecology and environmental studies as a student at the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2004  http://casfs.ucsc.edu/.

In 2012 Balyn and wife Elli  began working as farm managers of  WHOA (Work Horse Organic Agriculture  http://whoafarm.org/), a non-profit organization that grows food for donation to Sonoma County (California) agencies serving people who do not have access to or cannot afford fresh, wholesome, healthy, organic produce.  WHOA also advocates, promotes, and supports working farms and gardens in a sustainable way with horsepower.

WHOA’s Mission statement:  “To produce the best and healthiest food possible and deliver it free of charge to people who cannot afford the high price of organic food commanded by retail outlets.” 

Work Horse Organic Agriculture, Inc. (WHOA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was established to promote the use of draft horse farming to support sustainable and organic agriculture in Sonoma County.  All food grown by WHOA is given away to organizations in Sonoma County that serve people who do not have access to fresh organic produce.

Meadowbrook-in-yard
Doc supervises Balyn and Michael hitching a Suffolk  draft horse to a  cart during a Doc Hammill workshop

          Working for a non-profit organization with the slogan of:

     “The best food money can’t buy!”

has been a truly rewarding endeavor for Ellie and Balyn. In 2011, at the urging of the Gelsman Family,( WHOA founders),  Balyn spent time with 2 two young Doc Hammill protégés  and organic farmers, Ryan and Adam, who own and operate New Family Farm near Sebastopol, California. Their sustainable farming practices include using draft horses rather than motorized equipment to work the land. There, Balyn observed Ryan and Adam work their Belgian draft team doing cultivation, planting and harvesting. Eventually, Balyn spent some time working with the New Family Farm horses with Adam and Ryan.

In July of 2012, Balyn spent a week in one of Doc Hammill Horsemanship’s five day  Workhorse Workshops at Therriault Creek Ranch near Eureka, Montana. During the intensive, immersion style workshop, Balyn learned about the nature of horses’ learning, their body language, their emotions and behaviors.  Balyn and co-students also worked horses doing many hands-on activities, including harnessing, collar fitting, ground driving single horses and teams of two, driving singles in two wheeled carts and hitched to plows and other cultivation equipment.  The students also hitched and  drove teams of two horse teams on wagons, a Pioneer Homesteader, and various other pieces of farm equipment to give them a well-rounded intensive experience of working and driving horses in harness safely and comfortably.

By 2012, WHOA operations were centered on an 11 acre patch of fertile ground in Sonoma County, California.  As farm manager, Balyn, built infrastructure on the new WHOA farm and began produce production. In the Fall of 2012, WHOA Farm acquired a team of Haflinger geldings and a Percheron mare to help out with cultivation, planting, harvesting, as well as other farm chores.

Doc Hammill coaching Bayln who is driving  a Halflinger team on a Pioneer Homesteader,
Doc Hammill coaching Bayln at the WHOA Farm in 2012  as he drives their a Haflinger draft horses on a  Pioneer Homesteader

After the horses arrived at WHOA Farm, Balyn and the Gelsman Family called upon Doc and Cathy to continue with their mentor-ship of Balyn’s natural horsemanship and teamster skills.  Doc and Cathy have made on-farm private instructional visits to WHOA FARM, where they have coached and mentored Balyn as he encounters new opportunities while working with the horses.  Doc has worked directly with the horses as well.  Balyn continues to cultivate and grow his horsemanship skills by taking advantage of  Doc’s long distance coaching and mentor-ship opportunities, Doc’s instruction horsemanship DVDs ( https://dochammill.com/?page_id=29 ) and on-going workshops.  In 2012, WHOA  sponsored a  Doc Hammill Horsemanship Driving and Working Horses in Harness Workshop,  and another is being planned at the WHOA Farm in the Fall of 2014.

Coming Soon:  Comments from Balyn

 

 

 

Be Your Horse’s Leader and Partner

Do You Dream of being the Leader and Partner Your Horse Needs You to Be?

 Turn Your Dream into Reality:

attend a Doc Hammill Horsemanship Workshop

at Therriault Creek Ranch in 2014

  Would you like to learn  to

  • develop Trust, Respect and Leadership in your relationship with your horse?
  •  feel safe, comfortable and relaxed while interacting with your horse?
  •  understand what your horse’s behavior is telling you?
  •  understand what your body language is telling your horse?
  •  harness, hitch,  and drive horses
Working in an 'out-door classroom' at Therriault Creek Ranch, home of Doc Hammill Horsemanship
Working in an ‘out-door classroom’ at Therriault Creek Ranch, home of Doc Hammill Horsemanship

Spend a week in Beautiful NW Montana Learning Doc Hammill’s Horsemanship  “Fundamentals”

Come, join us for a very special time at our Montana ranch and acquire the horsemanship skills you have been wanting to achieve. Reserve your spot now! Contact Doc at workshops@dochammill.com   or call him at 406-250-8252 for reservation details.

Become one  Doc’s many successful students!

We are currently booking  for our 2014 Montana Workshops; We would love to put your name on our list of successful participants.

Doc Hammill Horsemanship helps people to understand and build relationships with their horses. We believe that YOU are your horse’s best trainer; we teach you to gently, safely, and effectively communicate and train your horse and to harness, hitch, drive, and work your horses. Through demonstrations, lectures, and hands-on exercises with Doc and Cathy’s personal horses, you will explore and practice the same techniques that Doc uses  in workshops literally all across the US, to build partnerships with  horses. You will learn and practice how to create these same kind of relationships with YOUR OWN horse(s)

Doc working with Julia and 'The Boys' as they rake hay
Doc working with Julia and ‘The Boys’ as they rake hay