Logging Horses vs. Farming Horses
by Glenn French

Can you use your logging horses for farming and vice versa? When you hook a team to various pieces of equipment that rattle and clang and go bang in the night, you need horses that aren't bothered by noises and commotions. Such horses are usually docile and not easily frightened by anything. They don't often have to move heavy loads, although at times they might be called on to pull some extra weight. As a result of not caring much about anything, they may not care if a heavy load comes or not.

Logging horses, on the other hand, are often asked to pull all they are capable of pulling. Every horse has its limit, and if one can't pull a particular load you will have to go do something time-consuming to get the load to the landing.

Time is money in any production job such as logging. A horse with a good deal of determination to go ahead on a load may be more difficult to handle and keep headed in the right direction. The animal may not make a good farming horse if it is a sizzling mover and always wants to go faster.

For farming you need a gentle team that doesn't much care what happens. For logging you need a team with determination to go ahead. Some horses are good all-around horses that will do well in either situation. If you need to do both farming and logging, they are the kind to have. Otherwise you may need two separate teams, one for farming and one for logging.

As your logging skills improve, you may appreciate a team that's a little hard to handle. A beginning logger, however, is better off with a quieter team that is 10 or so years old, doesn't have much juvenile foolishness, and knows what logging is all about. Such a team is usually not among the cheapest on the market and will cost around $5,000 bare naked. Save your pennies, because this is the team you need and well worth the price. You would make a serious mistake to buy a young untrained team that costs less up front than an experienced team. In the long run it could cost you your future logging career.

Beginners tend to make one of two mistakes when it comes to working their horses:

  • asking too little

  • asking too much

In both cases the logger won't get enough done, not to mention the damage done to the horses, although asking too little isn't as damaging as asking too much. Unfortunately beginners aren't the only ones who make these mistakes. Developing good judgment takes time and study. The key is to form a mental image of what horses look like when they're trying hard. It won't just happen as you wallow around in the brush—you have to be thinking and observing.

To assess whether or not your team is trying, see what they look like when they are pulling hard. Go watch several pulling contests to see what the final teams look like as they pull the heavier loads. If your team is trying hard, learn how to hang a block, use an arch, or add more horses to your team so you don't ruin them by asking too much.

The bottom line is that a good farm team may not make a good logging team and a good logging team may not make a good farm team. Although you may find horses that do both, you are more likely to find a team that excels in one or the other. Wisdom dictates that you not make too many assumptions until you have tried a team at the job you expect them to do.


Glenn French is former president of the North American Horse & Mule Loggers Association. This article appeared in The Evener 2000 issue of Rural Heritage.

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29 April 2012 last revision