Category Archives: Farm Chores

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.

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….!

Horse-Logging with Draft Horses: Natural Horsemanship in the Woods

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.

I was not willing to hold Kate back with the excessive force that would have been necessary I asked Cathi to bring Ann over and drive her in front of Kate – to set an example of a relaxed and comfortable working pace.
Not to mention creating a moving physical barrier as we each drove our respective horse down the skid trail.
Kate was not happy with the slower pace initially. However, once she realized she would not be allowed to go around (“pass”) Ann she started to relax and accept the job on my terms. We made it difficult for her to do the “wrong” thing and easy for her to do the “right” thing. Thanks to Cathi and Ann I was able to avoid heavy pressure and harshness on the bit in order to get the job started at a safe and comfortable pace. It doesn’t matter that Kate has done this type of pulling in a relaxed way many times before, what is important is that for whatever reason (and they always have a good reason as far as they are concerned) she became anxious on this particular day, in this particular location, at this particular job. Rather than fight with her we used some gentle “creative horsemanship”.

Thanks for checking up on us on our blog,

Doc

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 year-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.

Mix and Match- new learning from the veterans

This past weekend Harley and I had a great time working with the horses. During the summer Tom and Charlie have been his reliable veteran team that helped with making hay. We just didn’t have time to experiment with his other two horses. But this weekend we first ground drove Babe with Tom and then put them to the sled. Having an extra person on the ground that can help Babe understand her task is extremely important.

We drove around the yard for a bit and then things were going smoothly so we headed down the trail to the hay field. I stayed on the ground ahead of the team, one to open gates and two to be there for Babe, if she was hesitant. Babe has been through training, but it has been awhile and we didn’t want to assume anything so we started with the ground driving which she accepted, so we put her to the sled.


We thought that she would be ready for a test of helping Tom take a load of firewood up to the house. We did not overload the sled with wood as it is a bit of a climb up to the house. I was on the ground with her lead rope in hand as I had to encourage her to help Tom get the sled up the hill. She stood quietly while Harley unloaded the wood. I stood at her head and praised her. We took another load up to the house and thought it was a good day for Babe.

Next we ground drove Charlie with Shorty. Shorty is seven and has done field work a few years ago. He has a very short tail and is not as big as the other horses. He can be excited at times and we thought Charlie’s laid back personality would have a steadying effect on him.

The ground driving went well and we put them to the sled. Our goal with them was to haul a few large rocks into the front yard to finish a landscaping project. The pair took the sled up the road to the house and stood quietly while Harley unloaded the rocks. I was at their heads making sure they stood. Shorty did really well and remembered his job in the team.

Sunday it was dry enough that we could start mowing Harley’s last hay field. We put Shorty with Tom. Tom is on the right as he handles the turning extremely well. Shorty is smaller, but energetic and kept a better pace and helped Tom more than Charlie does.

Harley was pretty excited to have a more forward PAIR of horses on the mower.

Since Shorty does not have the condition on him, I caught Charlie and we put him with Tom to finish the rest of the field. It just doesn’t help to overtax a horse that is not fit. You must take it slow and build him up. It was a warm day too.


Monday came and Harley put Babe with Tom to ted the hay. It is easy work and she did okay. With more experience she will do the turning better and have better condition. She didn’t mind the tedder behind her either.

Recently Harley switched Tom and Charlie by putting Tom on the left and Charlie on the right. It helps them to think and hopefully develop their muscles more evenly. We are excited with the flexibility to use all four horses for different jobs and in different positions. So this fall and winter we will have fun mixing and matching horses and driving them to keep and get some condition on them. We want to work three abreast also. With another year of experience behind them, we could even think about putting a four up together. Wouldn’t that be a grand time!!!

Spring:Time to ease into work

From Theresa Burns:
This past weekend the weather was great for getting some manure hauled with the horses. Harley used his veteran team Tom and Charlie with one load on Wednesday and with two loads on Thursday.

I was there to help him on Friday. We took one load out and it is about a mile to the field and the road has a couple of hills on it. Harley asked the horses to stop on the crest of a hill on a flat spot so the horses would not need to hold the load.
They stood quietly and we could see that the respiration rates of the horses was quick and shallow. To see respiration watch in the flank area and you can see the in and out of the flank as the horse breathes. Not sure how long we stood there, but waited until the respiration rate slowed. We rested the horses again once we were in the field as we had some grades to pull up and down and we had full load of manure.

Once we got back to the barn and parked the spreader, we unhooked the horses and tied them to a post while we loaded the second load of manure. It is a tight area and thought it would be safer to not have the horses so close to the skid steer. Before we took this load out we offered the horses some water. They drank. Harley asked about them drinking water with the bit in their mouths. Horses will figure that out and it is better to offer water than to skip it.
So Saturday we went for a six mile tour with Harley’s Prairie Schooner along the Raccoon River Valley. The wagon weighs about 1600 pounds with us it using the same pair. I was in charge of applying the brake on the downgrades to make it easier for the horses. Here again we would stop after the horses had climbed a hill to let them breath. I could apply the brake so parking on the level was not as critical.

Tom is the more aggressive puller of the two horses and he seemed a bit upset with some of the noises of the wagon or brake and external noises. We need to work on some of that desensitization and refer back to Walt’s blog entry on January 12 about noises.

As we headed back to the farm, we had a very long grade. The question was do we let them rest half way up and will they be able to start the wagon again or do we wait until we have arrived at the top of the grade. We thought it would be safer and easier for them to continue to the top.

All the decisions that we make as we work horses depends on their attitude at that time and if they are acting normally and not over tired or stressed. The more you drive horses the more you know them. With ay to day work you get a good sense of what that horse can handle, because of how he handled previous work. But if you have not done the day to day progress then you should be more conservative. I would rather say at the end of the day that the horses did their work well than have to say I have pushed them too hard today.

For me each outing with the horses is an experience to learn from as you are always making decisions and always need to be paying attention and driving the horses. Driving in that you have rein contact and they know you are the leader. It is your responsibility to be aware of their physical and mental boundaries for that day and to build on those and improve.

It was a beautiful tour to see the trees and the forest floor and to see the river valley. Once we arrived back at the barn and unharnessed, we loaded both of the horses in the trailer and fed them hay. They need to get accustomed to the new trailer and the loading and unloading process. You can do that in small steps weeks before you want to haul them which will make the trailering a good experience for them.
What always assures me that the horses took the day okay is the fact that they are hungry and ate the hay aggressively at the barn. The more you work with them the more you know what is normal and what is not normal.

With the way Tom was acting on Saturday, Harley thought it would be a good idea to drive on Sunday also. We took a shorter ride that was less challenging. Tom seemed more settled and it was more relaxing for him. Harley and I talked about our weekend and the good points and the things we want to work on with the horses. We are looking forward to our future days with the team whether it is a tour with the wagon or some type of field work.