I’ve always been fascinated by working animals that have been bred and trained to perform specific tasks afield, and do so in admirable fashion. The music of a beagle baying in hot pursuit of a hare or a team of draft horses working an Amish farm come to mind.
Although well-versed in scientific forestry, woodlot management practices and forest history, I had not actually witnessed horse logging until a friend decided to have some timber removed from his 40-acre woodlot by an Amish family. They had two teams of draft* horses, a black and white team of seasoned veterans and a chestnut team of young horses in training. (*note: even though some of my very best friends are equine fanatics, I know virtually nothing about horses and must therefore leave the horsey details to the reader!).
This photo shoot was fast and furious, and not without risk. The Amish lads were very cooperative, allowing me to photograph their logging operation. However, they themselves did not want to be photographed, and they made a bit of a game of it. There is someone at the reigns in each photo, but they’re either hanging “side saddle” style behind the horse and rig, or trotting along side the rig out of view. They did this every time they saw me positioned ahead with camera in hand.
Bred for hard, physical labor such as plowing and logging, these animals commanded my full attention and respect. I never fully appreciated the strength, massive build, mild temperament and beauty of a draft horse until this experience.
Despite their inexperience and youthful enthusiasm, the young team performed amazingly well, backing up, inching forward, waiting, hauling, etc. That said, I’m glad I wasn’t standing on the small, two-wheeled carriage platform as they rumbled and crashed through the woods with a load in tow!
Long after the pre-industrial era, horse logging is still practiced around the world. It can be a useful tool for achieving certain forest management goals. It is a “green”, low-impact alternative to mechanized logging.
Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.