Draft Animal Power – Draft animals and sustainable land stewardship › Forums › Draft Animal Power › Horses › Is it okay to have just one horse?
- February 18, 2016 at 11:53 pm #87751
In starting out I think it’s best for me to just get a single horse, but horses are herd animals. Is it stressful for them to be alone? With my sheep, if I isolate one for some reason, they get very upset.
If I had only one horse for a year, but they were with sheep, goats, dogs, and chickens, will they be okay?February 19, 2016 at 10:37 am #87752Tyler SageParticipant
I have a single horse and she seems very content. She came from a farm where she was with 2 other horses. When she first arrived she seemed slightly edgy, whinnying occasionally for the first few days but in the past few months she has settled in nicely. She gets harnessed and worked about twice a week and on the days where she doesn’t get harnessed I try to do a small amount of ground work to keep her engaged.
The only problem I am running into with my single is deciding whether to set up my equipment for use with a single or double. I am shopping for an additional horse right now so I don’t want to invest to much in setting up my wagons, sleds, forecart or log arch to be used with a single only to have to switch them back once a get a second horse. If i had to go through a summer season with only one horse I would probably purchase or fabricate a set of shafts. For now, a lose hitched stone boat has been helping me accomplish most tasks with the use of shafts.February 19, 2016 at 7:37 pm #87762Brad JohnsonParticipant
As we talked about on Monday, I think it really depends on what you want to do with the horse power. The farm I was on in Maine was one horse powered, along with a small tractor (no implements besides sickle mower, bucket). The mare was always my first option, and it worked great. But, we were not doing any winter time commercial logging on steep VT ground! A single horse is a great tool for many, many tasks, but there are field and forest jobs for which a team makes a lot more sense…
-BradFebruary 20, 2016 at 12:49 pm #87770Michael LowParticipant
I have had a single horse for 10 years. He seems to prefer working single and has at times lived as the only equine on our place without misery. I work or ride him almost daily so that helps, also he gets tie-stalled every night so more attention and interaction there too.
MCM- yes having the horse in the heart of the farm helps too, we have always had him stabled or yarded near goats, cows, sheep, chickens and dogs. I think they like that company and activity.
At some point I ran into demands of farming and logging that Brad points out surpass a singles capacity(steep VT). I bought a team of oxen and really enjoy having both the team and the single.
Why I never went for another horse to make a team is another story, and in fact I really like the oxen for the segregated ‘heavy’ work and especially like them in the woods.
Pioneer equipment has a new Summit Series forecart with a great quick exchange for pole or shafts. I retrofitted my wagon, sled and forecart for this style. Now I can switch between team or single in less than five minutes on any piece of equipment. Scoot, Bob and dump cart are team only still.
Here is a picture of abuilding I made last year for my biochar business. The team of oxen yarded the pine for the siding and 2″x12″x18′ planking. As well as the rest of the frame and plates. They also hauled in the 30 tons of rock for the foundation.
The single horse twitched the poles for the rafters 42- 14′ spruce and fir. He also drove me to work and hauled misc. tools and materials to the site.
Attachments:You must be logged in to view attached files.February 21, 2016 at 12:15 pm #87782Donn HewesKeymaster
MCM, Just curious why you feel one horse is the best place for you to start? I think there are some good reasons to work with a single horse; many mentioned above, but I also find some beginning teamsters thinking a single will be the “easiest” place to start. While this may be true in some regards, I don’t think it is true in all regards. Just curious. As a barn / herd question I think barn animals can bond with almost anything. Being able to look over the gate at sheep may be all it takes.February 21, 2016 at 1:16 pm #87785carl nyParticipant
I think I have to agree with Donn. I think they are calmer with another horse beside them. Saying that, I always start a horse alone, just my personal preference. JMHO
Carl nnyFebruary 21, 2016 at 3:25 pm #87787
Thanks to all for the responses.
To get a horse feels like a pretty monumental event for all people and critters involved (my sheep, goats, dogs … the chickens maybe not so much). My animals all comingle, so the only separation I have right now is that the rams are off by themselves. So, introducing this new creature to the farm seems like a lot. Introducing two REALLY BIG (comparatively) new creatures feels pretty overwhelming. When I get a horse, I had planned to keep them in the ewe pasture with ewes, a great pyr, and chickens. It’s always challenging when any new animal is brought in and we seem to have a settling in period where everyone works out their differences. I also only have three pastures right now, and I need 3 separate pastures when I have young ewes, young rams, and the breeding group. A horse is going to have to camp with at least one group.
Also, starting out I plan to use my horse for these things: helping me plow, harrow, and cultivate a 1/4 acre garden, pull a small wagon with tools or feed/water around the farm, and ride to deliver eggs to neighbors. Right now I do all of these things by hand or with a tractor. Once I get confident about these things, I may get a second horse and start mowing. My pastures were REALLY bad when I started 3 years ago. The man that owned this before me clear cut and bulldozed everything so it was solid blackberries and broom sedge. I’ve fenced each pasture as I could afford it, and finished the third this year. I need to finish another by October because I’ll have two breeding groups. Where the animals have been the longest, the pastures have improved the most. All this to say that my sheep, goats, and chickens have done a really good job of slowly improving things as I’ve enclosed pastures. I’ve been bushogging pastures and unfenced areas on a tractor once a year. The pastures could use more bushogging, but I just feel like I’m compacting soil and burning fossil fuels. The animals are a much better way of improving things.
Also my land is really hilly and I can’t get anyone with a lime truck out here. Or, rather, they come out and look and then won’t bring their truck out. I have a chicken tractor in each pasture that I pull by hand on an as needed basis and that has a pretty dramatic impact on the soil and vegetation. Anyway, I don’t have anything worth mowing for hay right now, but I’m hoping to have that in the future and I’d like to mow with a horse rather than bushogging.
Also, there’s a bonding issue. Maybe I’m mistaken but it seems like it will be easier for me as a beginner to bond with a single horse rather than two. I’m the mother of twins and always knew that I came in second place to their relationship with each other (not a complaint, that’s just the way it is and there is plenty of love to go around).
And, I don’t think there’s enough work for a team at this point. I still work full time and only have an hour or two and day during the work week and Saturdays and Sundays to do farm work. I can “work” my horse daily during feed time and then for more extended periods on the weekends.
So, it’s the amount of work, the impact on my other animals, and my time limits.February 21, 2016 at 6:03 pm #87789Donn HewesKeymaster
MCM, I think all your reasons for wanting a single horse make sense. I think for beginning teamsters to start with a single animal is totally possible. I just want to suggest that you not start under an illusion that it is the simplest arraignment.
Like Carl NY, I also start young animals single, but I don’t do it because it is the easiest way. I do it to ensure they focus on me for direction and leadership. While I don’t want a team of animals to look to each other for leadership or direction, as a herd they still look to each other for confirmation. They will react differently in situations where they are unsure if they are working single, versus when they are in a team. This is the pitfall beginning teamsters can fall into with a single horse.
I think this limitation can be overcome, by ensuring the animal and teamster are well prepared for each new task. Just some food for thought.February 21, 2016 at 8:26 pm #87794JaredWoodcockParticipant
Sounds like you have a lot on your plate, get involved with as many workhorse people as you can and enjoy this year as a time to learn and adjust your systems on the farm accordingly to possibly take a horse or two on in the future. The more you hang out with horse people the more likely you will find a horse that works for you.February 22, 2016 at 3:43 pm #87802dominiquer60Moderator
“Also, starting out I plan to use my horse for these things: helping me plow, harrow, and cultivate a 1/4 acre garden, pull a small wagon with tools or feed/water around the farm, and ride to deliver eggs to neighbors. Right now I do all of these things by hand or with a tractor.”
Most of these tasks are very well suited for a good single. I think it is good going into beginner horse ownership with an already established Plan B for these tasks. You can slowly incorporate the horses with the easiest tasks to master first, and can work your way into you list, rather than taking it on all at once out of relying solely on the horse. With an experienced horse, harrowing your garden is going to be a great way to get to know each other and build a relationship. As your working relationship builds so too will your list of tasks that you are able to accomplish.
The only task on your list that I would avoid at first, is plowing. Plowing with a single is perhaps one of the most challenging ways to plow period. There are a lot of factors to consider to make it successful. Gaining experience with the other tasks, especially cultivating, and doing them well will help set you up for success when you do take on the task of plowing with your single horse. Don’t feel defeated when you have to use the tractor to plow at first, using your horse for that will come in good time. You will also be fortunate to have the tractor when you start the task of plowing with a single, the first few passes with the tractor give the horse something to follow and sets you up for success the first time out.
Single work can come in handy at times even when you expand your herd. It can then become a challenge to separate the horses for single work, the instinct to be with the herd is strong.
Best Wishes with your new adventures,
February 22, 2016 at 11:32 pm #87808
- This reply was modified 4 years ago by dominiquer60.
All good advice that I am grateful for.
Does it make sense to y’all that I would start out having my horse tote things for me with a pack saddle: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Outfitters-Supply-Pack-Saddle-TrailMax-Sawbuck-Latigos-Brown-WPS350-/231845185910?
This seems like a good way for us to get to know one another because it is all lead work.
I’m thinking from there to riding, then start cultivating with a one horse cultivator? Then add in things with plowing last as Erika recommended.
I am a ways away from being able to afford a forecart, etc.
I WISH there were working horse people around me. As far as I know, there is no one. The closest teacher I can find is in Mississippi at Russell Farms and I hope to do that this spring.February 24, 2016 at 11:16 am #87821Ed ThayerParticipant
As Don suggests, starting with a single horse can be a challenge. But it is what I did and it took some time to develop the trust and proper signals to make it work. We did mostly light tillage, discing and logging with the single but quickly realized the need for another once we expanded our gardens and required more power for winter logging and saw logs.
My problem now is trying to work a horse single. It keys up the other horse when left in the barn and it can be a challenge if you are working within earshot or eyesight of the barn. Both have their advantages and it really can come down to what you are comfortable with and can support and afford. I purchased all my hay before I had my team, now I make all my hay because the cost was so much more.
EdFebruary 24, 2016 at 3:59 pm #87828Will StephensParticipant
As far as the pack saddle. They aren’t cheap. I bought a used forecart for less than that $200.00 home made)and it is more versatile. A used wagon to pull it or even a simple stone boat you could make yourself. A couple of used 4×4’s, some planks or even plywood, and some chain is all you need. It doesn’t have to be fancy. My first stoneboat was made from two locust fence posts where too rotten for that use. I cut some old 2×6 and nailed it on. Ran a chain and ring through the front of the runners. I used it with my single horse for about 6 years. I even added a dashboard latter with more left over fencing parts. Just be careful to not let it underrun the horse on steep hills but there are simple solutions for this too. Good luck!February 25, 2016 at 1:05 am #87845
I’m having a hard time picturing this stone boat. I saw one in a video, but didn’t really understand what was going on. I’ll see if I can find some more info about it online.
Is it a platform on two runners? What is a dashboard latter?
Sorry I’m so dense! I really appreciate your suggestions.
I can see a left behind horse getting crossways and irritated.
Do most people always keep their horses in a stall? I was assuming that mine would be on pasture most of the time. Is that bad?March 3, 2016 at 9:35 am #87929Brad JohnsonParticipant
My horses are out on pasture all but a couple of nasty weather nights a year. They will be happier and healthier kept outdoors, provided that they are well fed and can get out of the wind when they want to do so.
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