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

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”.

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  1. Nice Blog Doc. It is the traditional way in England to drive in tandem. It is often the way horses will move when at liberty, nice calming effect, especially when the alpha is in front. I would like to hear your thoughts about open bridle versus blinders? Maybe we can strike up a conversation on your blog about that. Was very happy to see you are offering some logging classes in the west. Keep up the good work Doc and Cathi!B

  2. Dear Doc Hammill,

    Your shared insights and open thoughts about how Kate needed tandem driving with Ana’s lead helped me to understand the special relationship that a driver has with his team. Please continue your illustrative blog entries!

    How often do you find yourself problem solving the work like this, in dealing with the temperament of a horse?
    10%, 20% …times out per job?

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