Are Horses On Farms

Bob Roberts
• Saturday, 07 November, 2020
• 23 min read

Pat Miller, 160 acres, Montana: “I raise horses and cattle, restore wagons and work an outside job at a lumberyard. They're good for our poor soil, long winters and mud season.

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Robin Reading, 1,500 acres, Alberta: “I'm a cattle farmer, raise 120 head and 120 calves every year. We were pretty much out of horses in the '60s, but then we got a lot of snow and couldn't feed the animals with tractors.

Chris Austen, 30 acres of grapes, California: “I use my Percheron's a lot in the vineyard for spraying, sulfuring, cultivating, hauling boxes and harvesting. They don't get stuck in wet weather and can work hillsides that are too steep for a tractor.

Interestingly, many these farmers use both horse power and horsepower: draft animals and tractors. However, a number of farmers, such as Gary Eagle and Paul Bird sell, demonstrate that you can farm only with horse power.

Then there are the thousands of Amish farmers farming with horses, using only draft power in their fields. To a large extent, the Amish themselves credit the horse with keeping their farms intact.

Wendell Berry (author, essayist, poet and draft horse farmer in Kentucky) once heard a Mennonite farmer say to an Amish one, “I wish I could persuade you people to use pneumatic tires on your equipment. The Amish farmer replied, “If we do that, we'll make our machinery able to be pulled by a tractor, to go straighter in the fields and so forth.

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This promotes a diversified farm that includes pasture, hay and grain. Not only does this dramatically lower a farmer's expenses and raise his or her independence (no bill for tractor fuel), but it promotes soil-conserving diversity and crop rotation.

As Maurice Ellen puts it, “Using draft horses flies in the face of monoculture.” Once you're using land to produce horse feed, the easy and logical next step is to raise some other livestock.

Most draft horse farmers do, indeed, raise cattle, sheep or some other stock as well as their work animals. Draft horses supply nine to 15 tons of manure a year, each.

Manure's so valuable for soil fertility that farmers like Chris Austen claim, “You can't have an organic farm without having animals.” They compact the soil less, cultivate it more cleanly, plow the right depth more often and log with less damage than internal combustion machinery.

As Wendell Berry remarked after examining horse-and tractor-worked fields, “I can say unhesitatingly that, although the tractors do faster work, they do not do it better.” Overall then, draft horse farmers can't farm as much land, but they make up for that on the debit side of the ledger: no fuel bills and fewer fertilizer bills.

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The initial cost is also less: You can get a team of good horses for around $1,800, while a small tractor runs $12,000 to $15,000. Most businesses expand in good times, but draw back and cut costs in bad.

As mentioned earlier, the work goes more slowly, so you can't cover as much ground. You can take the key out of a tractor and leave it alone for two weeks, but horses demand daily attention whether they're working or not.

Maurice Ellen: “Today at lunchtime, the hired man turned off the tractor switch and went home. You need to know how to properly feed a horse, work it, deliver its offspring, care for its health problems.

Paul Bird sell: “When you're working with a horse, you always have to know what to expect and anticipate any possible trouble. Lynn Miller edits the quarterly Small Farmer's Journal (subscriptions $15 a year; sample issue $5, from SF, Eugene, OR) and is the author of the Work Horse Handbook ($14.45 postpaid from the same address).

Maurice Ellen edits the quarterly Draft Horse Journal (subscriptions $14 a year; sample issue $3.50, from DJ, Waverley, IA7) and wrote The Draft Horse Primer ($12.95 postpaid from the same address). Both Ellen and Miller readily admit that the only good way to learn is from an experienced teamster.

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Search for one in your community, enroll in one of the instructional schools listed in the draft horse magazines, apprentice for a season on a horse-powered farm. Such hands-on experience will also help you make up your own mind concerning the factor that many farmers consider either the main advantage or disadvantage of farming with horses.

Jack Carver (Belgians, 60 acres, New Hampshire) puts it this way: “Oh, I can tell people all the 'good' reasons why I farm this way, but the truth is I like to use horses. Ken Defers (Percheron's, 150 acres, Massachusetts): “When I drive a tractor, it's just a job.

But when I pick up the lines and drive a pair of horses, I'm about eight feet tall. The purpose of these guidelines is to help reduce the risk of injuries and fatalities by providing practical guidance on how to manage various horse riding and handling hazards.

Please read this guidance in conjunction with all relevant industry standards that apply to you as a PCB. This guide provides practical advice for safe horse riding on farms.

The guide covers using horses for farm work and recreational riding. This guideline outlines the main hazards of riding and working with horses and provides recommendations on how to eliminate, isolate and minimize them.

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Workspace NZ accepts these recommendations in this guide as current industry best practice. You need a combination of common sense and caution when dealing with horses.

You can’t eliminate all these hazards, but you can reduce the chance of injury or being less severely hurt if you have an accident. This guide applies to people using horses to do farm work and recreational riding.

Industry experts helped Workspace NZ develop this guide. Workspace NZ also conducted a thorough review of accident statistics and published academic literature, and looked at how overseas health and safety regulators manage the same issues.

Workspace NZ has made every effort to ensure the guide’s recommended hazard controls reflect current best practice. To handle horses safely, you must take their instincts and senses into consideration.

Accidents can easily happen if handlers (or visitors) upset or frighten horses. Horses detect danger through their vision, sense of smell and keen hearing.

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A horse lowers its head to look at close objects. Remember these blind spots and know where your horse’s attention is focused so you don’t scare it.

In the paddock A frightened horse will throw its head up and prick its ears, tense its muscles from its muzzle to its tail, open its nostrils and fill its lungs with air to get ready to run. Figure 1: A startled horse, ready to run In the stable A frightened horse will still try to run away first, but because it’s cornered in a stable its survival instincts will kick in.

It will warn you by swinging its rear end, swishing its tail and flicking its ears. It will either kick or lay its ears flat back with wide-open eyes, curl its mouth and lunge forward with a straight neck, ready to bite.

Causes of fear Any sudden movement, noise or strange event can frighten horses and ponies. Horses are creatures of habit and have the instinct to flee in new and unfamiliar environments.

Stay alert and be careful when riding in places that could upset your horse and cause unexpected behavior. The most common hazards faced by horse riders are set out on the following pages.

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Guidance is provided about ways for farmers, horse riders and handlers to effectively control these hazards. A horse’s hind legs are very strong and can deliver a powerful kick.

If the horse lunges forward, paws or tries to bite, you have no quick escape path. This stops the horse from developing a habit of running away in excitement and accidentally knocking over or kicking the handler as it leaves.

If the horse is likely to run away in excitement when released (such as if it’s been in a stable for a long time), turn the horse towards the gate, put the lead rope around their neck, hold the rope as you undo the halter, then let the rope slide off as you step back, away from the horse. The handler stands on the ground and directs the horse to run in a circle around them.

By lunging your horse, you can watch it from the ground and check its movement, soundness and natural frame. The horse can also stand on the handler’s foot, causing bruising or broken bones.

An inexperienced rider on a difficult horse increases the chance of an accident or fall. Managing the hazard: Match riders to horses within their handling abilities.

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Novice rider: a person who is competent at riding the horse at a walk and can rise to the trot. Closely supervise or control the horse when taking it out of its usual environment or activity.

Some horses frequently behave in ways that make them more difficult to ride and handle. Some horses are ‘hot’; they want to take off at speed and can be difficult to slow down or restrain.

Only tolerate a bucking or bolting horse during breaking-in and the early stages of training. Then mount the horse in a small yard before riding it in an unconfined area.

You will need to take extra measures to reduce the risks of difficult behavior. Whenever possible, give horses the chance to exercise freely and graze in a paddock (rather than keeping them in a stable).

Make sure the block is sturdy and steady, and is placed where it is not a tripping hazard. The helper tells the rider to place their left foot in the stirrup, take most of their weight themselves and not depend on the assistant completely.

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The rider takes up the reins, normally holding onto some mane, but faces the side of the horse. Their right hand is on the waist or pommel (front of the saddle) and their left leg is bent at the knee.

On the agreed signal (on the count of three) the rider springs up from the right foot and is helped high enough to get their right leg clear of the castle (back of the saddle) and to ease into the saddle. To reduce the risk of back injury, the helper should stay close to the rider, keep the lower lumbar curve in their back and bend their knees before lifting.

Figure 3: Helping a beginner rider to mount Most riding injuries happen from falls. An approved helmet will reduce the risk of head injury if you fall or a horse kicks you, because it protects your brain.

Read the equipment section of this guide for more information on the correct helmet type. If riding through water or bush, kick your feet out of the stirrups in case you fall.

In difficult terrain such as narrow passes, paths and tracks, it may be safer to get off and lead the horse. Horses are easily frightened by noisy, large vehicles and other things they don’t normally meet in a stable or paddock.

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Managing the hazard: Only horses used to traffic should be allowed on the road, especially if being ridden by an inexperienced rider. If you have to, wear reflective gear and fit leg bands above the horse’s fetlock (ankle) joints.

If necessary, get a senior rider to dismount and control the road traffic while others cross. Wear fluorescent and reflective vests and armbands, and provide horses with leg bands.

When a farmer working alone in a remote area has a riding accident, there can be dangerous delays in getting help. Carry a mobile phone, radio or emergency locator device.

You should have a way of raising the alarm if you are injured, like a mobile phone or emergency beacon. Some mobile phones have GPS, which helps people find your location.

You can also download applications (apps) onto smartphones that help you monitor where a phone is in real time. Develop an emergency plan with workers and family members, so they know what to do if something goes wrong.

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Sometimes fatigue, stress, attitude (e.g. over confidence or recklessness), drugs or alcohol can impair riders. These cause poor judgement, reduced balance, co-ordination and reaction times, which increase the risk of a serious injury or death.

Managing the hazard: Never ride a horse while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Reassess tasks and find alternatives if the worker is stressed or tired.

Managing the hazard: If the horse has a history of biting, tie it with a very short lead rope to the halter to restrict movement. Don’t hurry the grooming, especially with a young or easily spooked horse.

Make sure the truck or float is safe and suitable for the horse’s size. Take extra care if you are transporting horses that are young, old, pregnant or difficult to handle.

Animal blood, urine or manure splashed in your eyes, nose or mouth bugs entering your bloodstream through cracked skin or open cuts inhaling dust or micro-organisms in the air eating or drinking infected animal products being bitten by flies, mosquitoes, ticks or fleas that have also bitten infected animals. Run vaccination and parasite control programs (e.g. for ticks and worms).

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Tell, teach and supervise workers to stay clean and healthy when working with horses and in animal areas. It should include running water, liquid soap and a way to dry hands, like disposable paper towels.

Provide PPE to protect workers’ clothing, exposed skin and face, from contact with a horse’s blood and body substances. If people are hurt at work, clean the wound properly and cover with a water-resistant dressing.

Injured people should seek medical advice, particularly if they have a serious or open wound, or have a health condition that increases their chances of infection. Isolate horses showing signs of illness from people and other animals.

Use PPE if health and safety risks can’t be properly controlled by other means. This includes wearing suitable footwear if there is a risk of foot injuries, helmets for head injury risks and suitable outdoor clothing.

You might have to think about protective equipment for horses, like breastplates and cruppers to keep the saddle in place if you are riding in steep country, and boots to protect their legs from injury. Do not wear damaged or dropped helmets until they have been checked by the manufacturer or other competent person.

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Clothing Cover arms and shoulders to reduce cuts and grazes in a fall, even in hot weather. Fasten loose clothing so it can’t flap or distract the horse or rider.

Avoid tight clothing that restricts your movement, such as skinny jeans. Rings can catch in the horse's mane and cut fingers (or wear gloves to protect your hands).

Do not wear a backpack, or carry a camera or other loose items that could affect controlling the horse. Footwear Riding boots have been developed over centuries for safety and durability.

Riding boots should have a good heel (up to 2.5 cm) to help stop the foot from slipping through the stirrup iron. Horses can easily crush feet, so wear sturdy footwear.

Make sure your shoes can slip out of the stirrup easily, i.e. they are not too wide or bulky. Keep your tack in good condition to stay safe and in control when riding.

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Check the stitching, as the thread’s life is short compared to the leather. Horse sweat rots the stitching and leather, so keep tack clean, supple and well-maintained.

Clean your tack with saddle soap often and oil it regularly (or use other suitable leather treatment products). Girth straps and their attachment: Make sure your saddle is secure before you ride.

If you don’t have one, then use a single buckle girth and a surcingle (a long strap that goes around the horse) or other extra support. Girth straps are stitched onto webs that pass over the saddle tree.

(If it’s too loose, replace the strap) broken or decaying stitching holding the buckle damage around the holes. Punch extra holes in the stirrup leathers if they are too long for the rider.

Stirrup bar safety catch: If there is one on the saddle, always keep it in the open or down position. You can be badly injured if you can’t get your foot out of the stirrup when you fall; the horse can drag you along the ground.

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All safety irons use a design or device that releases the foot if the rider falls off the horse. Only trained and experienced people should ride horses for farm work.

Provide riders with information about the best routes to take, ‘no-go’ zones and what tasks are suitable for using horses. Riders must learn how to control their horses before leaving the safety of the lesson environment.

This will vary depending on the rider’s skill, training, the horse’s temperament and the farm’s terrain. Horses are a significant risk for children and young people unless you take special care.

The representative will work with the employer in good faith to find a solution. This representative can take two days paid leave each year to go to approved health and safety training.

It includes both the headstall (which holds the bit, which goes in the horse’s mouth) and the reins that are attached to the bit. CantleThe raised, curved part at the back of a saddleContractor‘A person engaged by any person (other than as an employee) to do any work for gain or reward.’ Crupper crupper is used to keep equipment placed on a horse's back from slipping forward.

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Employer** means a person who or that employs any other person to do any work for hire or reward; and, in relation to any employee, means an employer of the employee; and includes, in relation to any person employed by the chief executive or other employee of a Crown organization to do any work for the Crown organization for hire or reward, that Crown organization.’ The fetlock joint actually corresponds to the human upper knuckle, such as that on the ball of the foot. Girth straps girth strap, girth or cinch (Western riding) is a piece of equipment used to keep the saddle in place.

Salmonella type of bacteria found in the gut of humans and animals. Many salmonella infections are caused by eating contaminated food. StirrupsLight frames or rings that hold the foot of a rider, attached to the saddle by a strap, called a stirrup leather.

A surcingle may be used for lunging and over a saddle to stop it slipping. ZoonosesA disease that can pass between species, from animals to humans or the other way round. ** Both these definitions also cover volunteers and loaned employees, see sections 3C to 3F of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.

Horse Handling (AU), Workplace Health and Safety, Queensland Rachel worked as a farm manager for 3 years in Pennsylvania.

She owned and operated a small farm in Minnesota for 5 years, until 2019. I started driving horses and using them for farm work a little over two years ago now.

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Now that I’ve seen what just a single horse can accomplish, I can’t imagine switching to a tractor-only operation. There’s something really special and unique about having a living, thinking animal as your co-worker and buddy.

Don’t forget that the horses will also provide great compost for any farm that grows anything! Horse manure just needs to be aged properly, and it will supply plants with a rich but gentle source of nitrogen, among other important nutrients.

If you’re dealing with small acreage, something like 300 or less, draft horses could prove to be worth their weight in gold. A smaller operation, say, maybe a 30-acre vegetable farm, is a perfect candidate to profit from the use of horses.

A good two-horse team can plow (turn over the soil in a field) 2 acres per day. Small dairy operations that make their own hay can benefit from the use of horses rather than solely relying on tractors.

Using a sickle bar mower to cut the hay will save on fuel costs. If you have a small market garden, five acres or fewer, and you live somewhere that allows you to keep a horse or two, you should definitely consider the option.

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Cutting back or eliminating the use of tractors, tillers, and other fossil-fuel burners is a great benefit to the environment, and using animal draft power supports sustainable agriculture. Sure-footed horses and draft ponies make excellent logging workers, and these animals are able to access places in the woods that no truck could get to.

Wheeled implements, also called rolling stock, like wagons and carts, help a great deal in increasing the load-pulling capacity of a horse. They can haul stone, hay, straw, feed, other equipment, or just about anything that needs to be moved from A to B.

The average tractor performing a crop-related task uses 7 gallons of fuel per hour. Horses do need fuel in order to work properly, but it comes in the form of grasses and clover, hay, and grain.

Almost all horse-drawn farm implements do not require any gasoline or diesel fuel. Using horses or other animals for power is more sustainable in the long-run, as it is inevitable that man will burn up all the planet’s fossil fuels before they can be replenished.

You can purchase used tractors for $10,000 or more, maybe a little less in some cases, but you had better know how to work on them yourself and be prepared to pay for, or build, replacement parts. A team of well-broke, trained, seasoned horses, aged somewhere from 4 to 8, typically costs $1,700 in Pennsylvania.

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Draft horses don’t need to be shod (wear shoes) unless they will be traversing a lot of paved or gravel roads. Cut it and cure it yourself (with the help of the horses and a sickle bar mower) and feed costs drop dramatically.

Draft horses don’t need expensive pelletized feed or grain. The bottom line is, even if you are buying hay, you still haven’t spent $10,000 in one year on your team of two horses.

I am so into this kind of lifestyle; so many people think I'm nuts for giving up everything and simplifying, but it just feels right to me I have owned horses in the past; lived in Vermont for two years and had Morgans, and they are beautiful and hard-working animals, and anyone who would rather have a tractor has a cog missing.

Rachel Ski Nielsen (author) from Pennsylvania, now farming in Minnesota on July 30, 2012: I'm glad you enjoyed the hub, and I hope you will stick to your plan to use horses on your land.

If you don't have a lot of experience purchasing horses, I recommend trying to find a trader. Your hub has given me many more reasons to stick with horses rather than try to learn a few things about tractors.

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You can discover and learn what life is like on the farm for sheep, pigs, cows, goats, ducks, llamas, chickens and horses. Different breeds of sheep produce many kinds of wool fibers which are made into clothing.

However, all these animals are not just there to provide us with materials, aid and provisions, they also make wonderful pets which give us years of pleasure and devotion. In the heart of Horse Country, among the rolling fields of bluegrass, limestone rich soil, and miles of plank board fences... lies an acreage of land steeped in tradition.

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