Horsepowered farming

threehhorse
By threehhorse on Wed, Jan 30, 2013 - 2:33pm

    I have been a long time follower of the crash course/ peak prosperity website. I have been preparing for a different future for about five years now. I have been around horses all of my life and live close to the Amish community here in Ohio. So it was not a stretch for me to decide to use horses for the tractive power in my farming and gardening projects. 

    Several years ago I bought a 15 year old Percheron mare named Hope. Hope had been in the Amish community for 12 years and a horseback riding center for 3 years. Hope was used on all farm machinery and over the highway wagon trains in that time. The nice part  is that she has been there done that and very little surprises her.

    Since aquiring her I also purchased a manure spreader, mowing machine, plow, disk, harrow, corn planter, sled and desiigned and built a forecart with hydraulics and winch for pulling in firewood.  I plow, disk, cutivate, and mow my vegtable garden, corn and some hay with her.

    We use the manure from her and several other horses to fertilize the crops. We use a bioextensive garden system developed by Ann and Eric Nordell to make the use of manure safe in our organic garden.

    We read The Small Farmers Journal and Rural Heritage magazines. Draft Animal Power and Rural Heritage"s website are very good sources for information.

    There are thousands of people out there that have experience with horses and the Equine Colleges turn out hundreds of young men and women with horse knowledge each year. All of these people with the right incentive could learn to do this, partnering with a person with a farm or gardening background.  

    I hope this starts a great discussion. I am going to follow this up with dicussions about  the particulars of this endeavor.

 Threehhorse 

16 Comments

rheba's picture
rheba
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 22 2009
Posts: 29
Horse Farming

The Draft Animal Power Network is the place to go for specific answers to questions about farming with draft animals. DAPNet.com.

They are planning for draft animal power field days to be held up in Vermont in September 2013. As soon as details are firmed up I will post them here. In future years they expect that field days will be held somewhat further south.

I must say that the learning curve is steep, even for those of us who have been riding all of our lives. Moreover, this is something where you have to be trained and then mentored a bit while you get used to working with your own horse and there aren't many around New England who can or will do that.  I have been lucky to find people who will help. Even so, we have had a few hair raising experiences with our young mare.

Furthermore, even people who are starting to farm with horses are mostly buying hay that has been produced using fossil fueled tractors, balers, etc. If we run into a sudden shortage of fuel or money I cannot see how I could get my horse through the winter. I think there is a workshop coming up in Massachusetts on how to put up loose hay in a hay mow if you can't bale it.  My fields soils are so depleted I couldn't see how livestock would survive. So..I need a few more years of the current system working.

I think there are more than a few amish farmers making a pretty good living raising draft animals and fabricating horse powered machinery. I don''t expect that they take on debt though.

threehhorse's picture
threehhorse
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Horsepowered Farming

I agree it is not easy. I was very lucky to have several mentors. I still made several scary mistakes, but survived alright. I always suggest that people start with a older well mannered horse that has been used quite alot.

I buy old equipment  and restore it to a usable condition. I suspect that more schools will start to teach draft hosemanship and I am thinking of starting an apprentiship program here.

I wish you luck

threehhorse

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Posts: 1583
horsepower!

A far-sighted neighbor of mine seems to be doing just that. I will recommend those sites to him.

robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
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if

i could type i'ld love!! to jump in here.

jasonw's picture
jasonw
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Another reason I am loving my new community

Seems there is large gathering of draft horses and horse powered activities at our local fair grounds called the Draft Horse Classic.  From what I have heard, it a really big event and there should be some wonderful information to gather there.  I look forward to attending this year and seeing what I can learn.

http://www.nevadacountyfair.com/dhc/index.html

threehhorse's picture
threehhorse
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Posts: 8
Horse Progress Days

Horse Progress Days will be held July 5-6 in Arcola, Ill  There will be demonstrations of newly manufactured and modified horse drawn equipment. They will have educational seminars and a horse breed parade.

Each year this gathering is held in a different state in a Amish community. It is amazing some of the equipment they have come up with.

There is a rather large factory in Kentucky that runs on horsepower. They make large industrial rollers and horsepowered treadmilsl that will run grain grinders, saws, water pumps, washing machines, or virtually anything that runs on electric motors. Being Amish they are not on the web. There are videos on you tube, under horsepowered treadmill.

I hope to go to HPD this year, next year it will be held in Mt Hope, Ohio.  HPD is on the web and  You Tube.

Threehhorse

Amanda Witman's picture
Amanda Witman
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Posts: 409
For those in the NY/New England area...

Our good friends at Fair Winds Farm in Brattleboro, Vermont hold a number of highly-regarded draft horse workshops each year for beginners and experienced draft horse farmers.  Workshop information.

Both Jay Bailey and his son Reuben are PeakProsperity supporters and members of our online community here, though they are not active posters.

rheba's picture
rheba
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 22 2009
Posts: 29
Yes, the Baileys are an

Yes, the Baileys are an important part of DAPNet and that includes Bekah.

Going from being trained on someone else's horses at someone else's farm is very hard and I'll bet everyone has had some scary experiences. Even if you buy an old experienced team from an honest Amish farmer they are animals and they are likely to have some issues with a new farm and a new teamster.

For some reason there are a lot of good driving and horse farming videos on You Tube. But nothing substitutes for having an experienced teamster at your side for awhile. I think those folks will be very important in the future.

earthwise's picture
earthwise
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Posts: 829
Got pictures?

I'm fascinated! I've wondered how feasible it would be to revert back to horsepower (real horsepower) for farming tasks, wondered if it would be feasible to, if (when) TSHTF, hitch up my riding/pleasure horses and make them earn their keep for a change.

Threehorse: please elaborate, if you feel so inclined. 

threehhorse's picture
threehhorse
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Posts: 8
Saddle horses for farm work

It is possible, it just isn't easy.  My plan was to use my Quarter horses as a team. I believe that because I had spent many hours getting them to give to pressure, when they felt pressure from the collar they balked at pulling anything. I had hundreds of hours getting them soft to my cues, so I didn't pursue it anymore.

I know people who use their riding horses in harness and they do very well.  A team of 800 lb plus riding horses could pull all of the old farm equipment that farmers used to use. They would have to be rested more than a 2000 lb Draft horse team.

I know of some people in PA that use standardbred horses as a team and single, to do all the work on a 6 acre market garden.

A friend of mine tried to break a very large quarter horse to harness but she never really got it, she just would not stop when in harness but would stop on a dime when riding her.

I hope this helps . If you have any questions, I will be glad to help.

Threehhorse

Full Moon's picture
Full Moon
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Posts: 1258
forgive typing

People  forgive Robie his typing skills . He has been farming with horses a good long time and has so much wisdom to share . 

Cutting off the nose to spite the face will get no one anywhere .

FM

westcoastjan's picture
westcoastjan
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Posts: 466
what about mules and donkeys?

My brother had a mule a few years back that did an admirable job for him hauling gear on hunting trips, and a little bit of riding here and there with the horses. It seemed to be a pretty intelligent animal and did what was asked of it. Would mules be good for plowing?

As an aside, they are also protective in that they will chase off a bear or coyote. Too bad they won't chase off bad humans wink Could be the proverbial low tech alarm system!

Jan

threehhorse's picture
threehhorse
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plowing with mules

The limiting factor is the size of the mule versus the size of the plow, how hard the ground is, and how much area to be plowed.

maceves's picture
maceves
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Posts: 279
mules

My grandfather had a team of mules that he would hitch up to plow the garden.  They were pretty much retired by the time I saw then, and didn't have to work much.  I know that years before they had pulled a wagon and most likely done other farm work.  That was east Tennessee, red clay, and he probably waited until after a rain to do it.

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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Posts: 1583
working demonstration horsepower treadmill

For those in the greater NY area, there is a working horse-powered treadmill in the barn at Old Bethpage Village Restoration in Bethpage, Long Island, NY.

It is also the home of Restoration Farm.

KugsCheese's picture
KugsCheese
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