Draft Horses

Horse Power for Natural Farms:
Advantages of Draft Horse

by Ken Laing
  • They eat oats, hay and pasture — all crops that can be grown on your own farm and are important components of a good crop rotation.
  • They give you back most of their feed in the form of easily composted manure to feed your crops. Have you ever found a use for used diesel exhaust?
  • They produce baby tractors to replace momma tractors and extras to sell.
  • When you buy a horse you are supporting another farmer. When you buy a tractor you are supporting a transnational corporation.
  • It is not easy to buy a horse on credit, so you avoid interest payments. When the UN keeps track of starving bankers instead of starving farmers we will have our priorities right.
  • Horses are largely self repairing. Have you ever tried to give your tractor 6 weeks off to get over a broken connecting rod?
  • Horses are modular power units. One horse can scuffle the garden, but when you have a heavier job you can hook 2, 3, 4 or more together.
  • Horse machinery is often simple and easy to repair.
  • Horses can usually get on the land a few days earlier and with less compaction than tractors.
  • You have to rest your horses in the field, giving you time to think and dream and make notes and enjoy your farm and the nature around you.
  • Horses are pleasant to work with. They are quiet, intelligent, sensitive, and alive.
  • Working with a rare breed helps insure the survival of a breed that has already served humans for centuries, as well as producing more income that a common breed.

Horses do require a certain level of care year around, as well as requiring a higher level of management to work with compared to tractors. As is true of organic farming in general, the labor required for a horse-powered farm is somewhat greater than for a tractor-powered farm of the same size, a factor that can be offset to some extent by using larger hitches of horses.rh horse logo
Ken Laing offered this information in his presentation at a Guelph [Ontario] Organic Conference workshop on using draft horses for farming. He owns Orchard HIll Farm and is a member of the Good Farming Apprenticeship Network, offering apprenticeships and workshops for people interested in learning to work with draft horses.

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