April 20: Small Farmer’s Journal Auction

Over 60 people attended Doc's "Being the Person your Horse needs you to be"  presentation at SFJ 2013
Over 60 people attended Doc’s “Being the Person your Horse needs you to be” presentation at SFJ 2013

SUCH ENERGY!!! There is nothing like it! As  always this is an Amazing event! So much more than a auction; Four days filled with continuous varied educational programs, networking with like minded people, experience and expertise of teamsters, craftsmen and artists.

2013 Teamster Roundtable Q and A
2013 Teamster Roundtable Q and A

 

 From the inspirational young farmers with their energy and enthusiasm to  learn and choose a life of farming, coupled with the energy and enthusiasm of seasoned and knowledgeable teamsters wishing to pass on their expertise in an effort to help keep animal powered revival moving forward. The auction, with all of the equipment and vehicles assembled in one venue is in itself a wonder.

SFJ JETHRO TULL PLOWING 2013
SFJ JETHRO TULL PLOWING 2013

 

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.

Workhorse Workshop at Live Power Community Farm

4th Annual Farming and Working Horses in Harness Workshop begins in the Decater’s barn

On the evening prior to the start of Doc Hammill’s Farming and Working Horses in Harness Workshop,  Doc often gives a presentation,“The Mind of the Horse” that is open to the public and free of charge. This provides Doc an opportunity  to share with people his insights into how  horses perceive, react, think,  learn, respond and communicate.  Doc believes by giving people this fundamental knowledge, they then can use the information to get horses to willingly cooperate  as partners, rather than being forced.

The workshop starts the following morning with a combination of sharing more information about horses’ minds, physiology, reactions and perceptions and students being involved in hands-on activities. Having a variety of presentations and activities for students considers and addresses different learning styles. Having instructors to assist Doc provides students more one-on-one time.

Dirk driving Laura

For beginning students, getting the harness on a big horse can be just a bit overwhelming. Steven Decater, an experienced teamster, and his wife Gloria, owners of Live Power Community Farm  made it understandable. His explanation and demonstration of how to put harness on a horse was thorough and straightforward. Then students in this workshop were given plenty of time to practice harnessing and unharnessing the horses themselves.

Live Power Community Farm, an Organic and Bio-dynamic horse powered farm, hosted Doc’s 4th Annual Farming and Working with Horses in Harness here at Covelo, California. Ten students from California and Washington attended this 2 day event.

The diversity of the students attending Doc’s workshops is always amazing.  In attendance in this workshop were an administrator of a Non-Profit organization, a NASA construction engineer, farm managers,  farm apprentices, and the co-owner of a winery and vineyard.

Suzy driving Pete

Some students were in their 20’s and just planning their careers. Others were older and thinking about retirement. Such diversity among attendees makes for lively discussions and exchange of ideas around the breakfast, lunch, and supper tables. Even though some students had many years of experience around horses and mules, this was the first time most took the driving lines into their hands.

When asked why they had come to this workshop, one person said:

“I want to learn about driving horses to get work done.  I have been a professional  horse trainer, of dressage and jumping horses, for more than 15 years; I want to give this a try.”

Doc explaining how to handle the lines

Another person added:

“Doc’s presentation ‘The Mind of the Horse’ is of particular interest to me; I want to learn the language of horses;  I know I am talking to them, I just don’t know what I am saying.”

This year, we had four capable instructors available to work one-on-one with students in hands-on activities. Doc and Cathy as well as Steven Decater and his oldest son Alexander were all here to help students gain as much understanding, wisdom, technique, and skill as possible during the workshop.

Initially students cycled between ground driving single horses with Doc, Cathy and Alexander and driving two horse teams with Steven.

We covered a lot of ground in this workshop! The next Workshop at Live Power Community Farm in Covelo, California, is set for November 1-3, 2013. More information about this workshop…

If you are interested in attending one of Doc’s workshops at Covelo or elsewhere, click on “Workshops” in the menu above to view all of the workshops we have in the works!

Antonio driving Peg and Molly
AC driving Peg and Molly
Luke driving Peg and Molly
Luke Driving Laura
Gloria Decater collecting memories!

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.