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We are transitioning over to a market garden this coming year. I have a great team of working mares, but they have not done actual garden work yet. We have only done general pulling, scraping, plowing, and logging type work, as well as carriage work with our teams. We will be plowing with them in late winter. I have worked with a new horse on that. Otherwise, though, I am not sure how to train them to work in the garden. One of the mares in particular walks like a drunk sailor in a gale. I have to stay right on top of her to walk a straight line. My plow furrows are going to be bad enough, but my real concern is once the seedling rows are up and growing and I need to cultivate or hill. We will be using the Pioneer Homesteader, which does allow some adjustment to keep it in line, but then what? How do I train the girls to walk slow, steady, and straight in the garden rows? Thanks in advance.

Klaus Karbaumer says 2017-12-22 09:12:47 (CST)

First of all, Danielle, let me congratulate you on the decision to have a market garden. Although there is a steep learning curve involved, this can be quite lucrative. I assume you have the two pertinent books by Stephen Leslie, which contain a lot of invaluable help and hints.
To your horses. You have already done a lot preparatory work with them, so I don't think you will have to worry too much. The great educator John Dewey coined the phrase " Learning by doing", and that applies to horses,too. With the horses in front of the forecart you can practice following a straight line, horses prefer following paths anyway. For working in the gardens horses absolutely have to be able to respond to lines immediately, that means they must not be hard-mouthed or else you'll knock out half a row before you can correct it. How do you prepare them for that? Well, that is a question of bitting and how one handles the lines. I found the Liverpool bit and the Achenbach system the best way to do that .

12 months ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Charlie says 2017-12-23 08:44:53 (CST)

I second what Klaus said--congratulations! You're about the enter the most thrilling aspect of working with draft animals, imo. The only thing I would add is to develop a mindset of precision when you work your team. The next time you are driving the carriage, imagine that there is a valuable row of tomatoes just 6 inches from your right front wheel. You must drive a straight line, or the crop will be damaged.
Make up different challenges and pose new problems for your team any time you can. Once you are in the garden, be open to letting your team take over. Many times I've had a death grip on the reins, only to discover that I could drop a lot of the contact and the donkeys knew what to do. They will learn faster than you think sometimes. Get out of their way and let them work!

12 months ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

Ralph in N.E.Oh says 2017-12-23 20:39:09 (CST)

Set up a long row of pop cans in soft dirt or even an arena filled with sawdust, Cultivate the pop cans from now until time to cultivate. As for furrow walking, that is the ticket, put her in a furrow and walk over and over. She will catch on... Good luck! Pat yourself on the back. You have come a long way and are doing very well!

12 months ago via Forums | Front Porch Forum

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