|How to Plow: Striking Out
by Ralph Rice
Once you are satisfied that you, your horses, and your equipment are ready to plow, it's time to strike out. A good beginner's trial plot is a rectangle about 50' wide by 100' long. A piece this size is big enough that you won't spend all your time turning around, yet small enough to see timely results in your progress. A small garden-size plot is not good for a beginner, as the horses, eveners, plow, and plowman stretch out 17' to 20' feet, and that's a lot of equipment to get in and out of the backyard. Horses just starting out may get nervous by all the stopping, starting, and turning, and it's hard to keep the traces straight and the horse's feet between them with all that turning. After you've spent some time in the furrow, plowing a small plot will seem like child's play, but avoid it until you gain experience.
Before you take the horses out, lay out your 50' by 100' plot. Measure the 50' width and put a stake in the center at 25' from both ends of the field. Make sure your stakes are tall enough to see from either end. Paint the tops or tie a rag onanything to make the stakes clearly visible. To make your first furrow, plow from one stake to the other. The horses need to walk straight without benefit of a furrow to guide them.
Start with the point of the plow right at the 25' stake on one end of the field. Pull the stake out and look to the stake on the other end. Keep the stake at the opposite end of the field in view by looking between your horses. Walk slowly (it is not a race), trying to aim the plow at the stake. Look down field, not at the plow, but at the stake.
Don't fight the plow. Raise the handles slightly to get the point to suck in or go deep; pushing down will cause the plow to come up out of the ground. To steer the plow to the right, raise the right handle; turn left by raising the left handle. Controlling your plow requires only a gentle touch, so don't jerk or wrestle with it.
Upon reaching the stake at the far end of the field, stop, tip the plow over to the right and let it ride on the plowshare and the right handle. Turn your horses around to the right. Make a big circle or pull the plow back out of the way as you turn. Stop the horses right alongside the upturned sod from your first furrow. Your near horse should walk next to the dirt about 3" away from it. Start your horses for the other end of the field. The strip you are now turning over should lay right next to or just slightly on the first strip. Congratulations, you just opened up your field, also called striking out.
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Phone: 319-362-3027 Fax: 319-362-3046
26 April 2012 last revision