Draft Animal Power – Draft animals and sustainable land stewardship › Forums › Draft Animal Power › Horses › Is it okay to have just one horse?
- March 3, 2016 at 2:30 pm #87933
I live in Northern New York in a place that has some of the coldest temperatures around. My horses are outdoors 24/7/365 and have a pasture that is mostly woods for protection. In the 30 some years that I have been here I have had one horse catch a cold and that was in the summer. Just saying.
Carl nnyMarch 3, 2016 at 5:49 pm #87934
Dash board later. Sorry about the typo. And Ed Thayer, the perfect solution for your horses not liking to be worked alone is to add my Canadian gelding to your herd!! He’s still available. Rides and drives. 🙂March 5, 2016 at 7:01 am #87957
I am having a really difficult time trying to think of a reason why starting with two horses makes sense as a novice in your position. It sounds like you are at such a basic level that just making decisions about husbandry are a quandary. Perhaps there are some advantages to having two horses for power, or for convenience regarding equipment, or even possibly for confidence as a team, but what I see is you facing this from the very bottom.
A single horse can become accustomed to any situation you place them in. Stop thinking about this from the horse’s perspective. You need to come up with cash to buy the animal, equip it, and care for it. You need to begin to develop the routine for care and work. These are huge and while it is basically nearly as easy to do this for two, it is far too often a recipe for failure.
I am not saying it cannot be done, but I believe that as a beginner you have significant responsibility to the animals, and to the culture at large. Almost to a person, the folks I know who started out with one horse, a harness, and a singletree, are still working their animals and doing amazing work. However I can list many who bought a team and all the fixings before they even knew how to pick up a foot, who ended up with challenge after challenge, publicly displaying the worst of what it means to have working horse on a small farm, to eventually end up a a testimonial to why animal power is a choice of the past.
As Donn says, there may be some aspects of comraderie that assist the working, but the second animal can bring more expense, more attention required, and more responsibility right off the bat. These are the things that wear down the value of the animal power system, and they can make or break the future of your choice.
I think there are some great reasons to set up a single horse farm, like Brad described, but that is different than starting out. I think a single horse farm is something that grows out of the mind of an experienced horse person who knows how to use a single horse effectively. There are many reasons why having more than one horse makes sense, not the least of which is that you have two singles, but as I wrote before there is a difference between doing the work and having working animals.
My own personal experience was scraping together enough money to buy horse, harness, and singletree. It took a while of trials to determine the best stalling, watering, and general caring practices. Vet bills and farrier services, and feed were all paid for through other sources of income…. The horse was not making me any money. I eventually made the transition to where the horse was actually part of an income stream, and within a year I had enough money for a second horse, and the equipment to make the upgrade. I also had the knowledge that I could utilize that investment in a useful and functional way.
In other words, I think that there is a foundation that needs to be built if animal power is going to be successful on your farm. There may be people with experience and means who can buy what they need and put it to work. I am not hearing that from you. As I wrote when I began, other folks I know who began like you, including myself, who used the single horse, low investment, flexible integration method are still going strong. It would be my suggestion that you continue to seriously consider that approach as well.
Good luck, CarlMarch 5, 2016 at 12:16 pm #87959
Carl and others-
Could not agree more with the perspectives shared here. I started working with horses on a farm that was powered by one Belgian and a small tractor. We cultivated 1-2 acres of veggies, raised all kinds of livestock, hayed, and cut 30-40 cords of firewood each winter with that mixed power arrangement. My farm and horse mentor often lamented the fact that many farmers buy two horses when one would do fine. The old timers say that a single fit horse with the right teamster and equipment should be able to cover 20 acres of mixed farm work. The single is a terrific tool for a farm that size, and more importantly it is a perfect foundation for building your teamster skills and relationship with that one animal. Our single spent a lot of time on pasture with cows, sheep, and poultry and she did just fine. We did have to make sure that we spent time with her each day, but if you are willing to make that commitment, a single is a super option. And, if you can handle a single horse with skill and poise, working a second horse in is not that much more difficult (and in some cases easier…).
-BradMarch 5, 2016 at 12:27 pm #87960
I have to agree also I ran my first farm 15 acres with a single horse at 1200lbs did my garden pastures loose hay and firewood never had any problems getting things done
kind of wish for those simpler times
also new an old timer who cut many thousands of bdft of pine and moved them all with a single horse
I believe nothing you cannot do with a single it is all judgement on load size and patience
if you have first time heavy tillage hire it out
I cut many loads of hay with a one horse mower a dump rake and a scoot to move it to the barn
some of the best hay I ever made
BillMarch 30, 2016 at 4:09 pm #88521
I’m back! Wanted to thank everyone for their comments. I lost water off and on through the month of March and that took a toll.March 30, 2016 at 4:26 pm #88522
I can’t remember how to start a new thread 🙁
Does anyone here know where the link is to a video that shows a man logging with a dark percheron team? I think there was a bluegrass soundtrack, no dialogue. I think it was someone from here on the forum. I’ve looked all over for it and can’t find it.
The team does this incredible set of turns in a tight place between some trees – I mean they do a full 180. With a log.April 3, 2016 at 2:59 pm #88586
In case people haven’t said enough about using a single horse for a small farm, I’ll add my two cents. Some time ago, when I was farming with tractors, 1990 actually, I came across an article written by Alan Slavick in the spring Small Farmers Journal. At the time I lacked the resources and certainty necessary to start using horses. After reading this article I began to see the single horse as a way to try out this new way of farming without a big investment. Alan was farming about 20 acres of vegetables, hay, oats, corn, plus logging in winter, and it was his sole income source. He explains in detail how he accomplished all this with just one 2000 pound Belgian. He plowed (8″ and 12″ walking plows), disked, drilled oats, planted corn, planted potatoes, cultivated, dug potatoes, mowed hay, raked hay, brought in and stacked loose hay, and designed a reaper to use behind his No. 7 mower.
I bought a well broke Belgian, harness, etc., and experimented with the one horse possibilities. I got a forecart with shafts to pull my manure spreader, hay rake, and some other jobs like moving wagons around. I built shafts for the hay wagon for hauling firewood and husking corn. He could pull a 3 foot section spring tooth drag. I, of course, knew one horse couldn’t do any significant part of the work on my 120 tillable acres, but I did find out I enjoyed working with the horse. This led to my eventual graduation to a team, then later to 5 working horses. Maybe this should be a warning to any wife who hears her husband say, “It’s just one horse…”
Alan wrote a follow up article in the Winter 1992 SFJ, which is still available in their back issues. It’s called Single Horse part Two. I don’t believe the original article in spring 1990 is available any longer, but I do have a copy and could possibly make a photocopy for someone who is seriously interested. I must point out that Alan and His wife were extremely hard working people with very clever, analytical minds. They lived a subsistence lifestyle with no phone, electricity, and the other things people consider necessities. As I recall they had only one solar powered light bulb in their house. Not everyone is that determined to live simply. BobApril 3, 2016 at 8:24 pm #88587
I would be very interested in the first article, I have a team and probably always will from here out but he sounds like my kind of guy. If you have a way of scanning and sharing it that would be great, if not I could try to write to SFJ.April 4, 2016 at 6:56 pm #88590
I don’t have a way to scan it, but I’ll look into the possibility of doing it at the library.April 5, 2016 at 7:20 pm #88595
I emailed SFJ to see if they might find a lost back issue somewhere, or possibly reprint the original article. BobApril 11, 2016 at 9:36 pm #88648
I am definitely interested in seeing the single horse article.
I have a little update on my progress. After getting my well running again, there was time to do a little more exploring and found someone close to me who raises and drives miniature horses. I realize that’s a long way from a draft horse, but she does drive them, and she said she would be happy to teach me how to drive. Since I’ve never driven, it seems like a step forward and will allow me to learn about harnesses and hitching to a cart.
Anyway, I’m pretty excited about this development. I need to get my planting in and then I can start with her.April 11, 2016 at 9:59 pm #88649
I will look in my stack and scan the article if I can find it.April 12, 2016 at 8:55 pm #88655
Thank you so much!
I found an article in the 2016 Winter SFJ about doing a market garden with a single.
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