Draft Animal Power – Draft animals and sustainable land stewardship › Forums › Draft Animal Power › Horses › When to buy a second horse?
- February 27, 2017 at 10:39 am #90115
My old mare, Annie, is an absolute pleasure. She’s slow, and perfect for me. Until I bought Annie, I had always worked teams and was nervous about making the transition to a single horse. It turns out I love working Annie single. For the vast majority of the year, she can handle everything I need her to do. I did end up hiring out plowing last year, but the cost of that was well less than half the hay bill for a second horse would have been. The disking is slow, but again, I’ve figured that my extra hours disking cost far less than the maintenance of a second horse. In the winter, Annie and I only get up to the woodlot once a week, sometimes even less. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to logging with a team because I enjoy twitching with a single so much (and will be spending the next decade clearing/thinning trees small enough for Annie to twitch several at a time anyway). When other aspects of the farm get in the way of hitching up for a stretch, Annie never gets hot to trot. We bought her a cow for company, and the cow earns her own keep. With all this, we felt very settled about our decision not to look for a second horse.
That was, until last week.
Annie came up lame on Wednesday. It turned out to be an abscess, which worked it’s way out by Friday. She’s on the mend and the wound seems to be healing nicely. I’ve owned her about 1.5 years, and this is the first time she’s come up lame. But she is old– possibly 18, but my vet suspects she’s well over 20– and had a bout of lymes before I bought her.
This week gave me a scare. What if she went lame during the growing season? How would I handle the harrowing and cultivating without her? I had an almost similar situation in 2015, when over the winter I created a runaway situation with my former team of haflingers who I was attempting to retrain, lost their trust, and was unable to work them safely the following spring. I hired in some tractor work, but my back is still sore from that season. And at that point I only had 1 acre in production. Now we have 2, plus a third in cover crops. On the other hand, we now have my father-in-law’s 28 hp tractor residing on our farm. The purist in me balks at the idea of taking it in the veggie fields (would it be dishonest to continue to call ourselves Helios Horsepower Farm if we use a tractor?). It could help us with harrowing in a pinch, but we don’t have any other implements for it, and the wheel base isn’t right for our rows.
So we’re considering starting a search for a second horse. I’m nervous about the financial commitment at this time– it seems like a very expensive insurance policy when who knows, maybe Annie will work slow and steady for another 5 years or more. I’m also completely spoiled by Annie– she’s the most confident, steady horse I’ve ever met which is exactly what I need in a horse right now. The benefit of a second horse will be very apparent every time I disk, and I do like using a 2 horse cultivator to make raised beds (not that I have one). We have plenty of pasture for 2 horses, but the pastures are years away from being in hayable condition, so hay is a big expense.
How have others of you made this decision? We’d really appreciate any thoughts and advice.
LizzyFebruary 27, 2017 at 10:43 pm #90119
Are there other options that you can tap into? Is there someone within a reasonable distance that you could borrow a horse from? Is there someone that you could borrow a more fitting tractor from? Can you train you bovine to work? There is no shame in hitching the cow and Annie together if they tolerate each other.
If you do go for a second horse, can you get a way with a small horse that will take less feed to keep?
If you do go for a second horse, don’t forget to consider Canada, you will have to pay to get over the border, but the exchange rate is in our favor, and there are some nice horses there. https://www.facebook.com/groups/PercheronHorsesForSale/permalink/1228540843908848/?sale_post_id=1228540843908848
Best wishes with your decision and or search.February 28, 2017 at 8:02 am #90121
We all pay an awful lot for insurance, and rarely see anything from it, but when we do it has a lot of value. It seems a second horse for you is a form of insuring that you can use draft power as a motive force. As Erika says you may have other options. In your shoes I would start looking as the likelihood of debilitating illness and injury is higher in older horses. Good care can reduce this and I know you manage her workload well.
I’d start looking, myself, maybe not too hard yet.February 28, 2017 at 9:14 am #90122
I love working single as well, I had originally been looking for a single when I found my current team. It was too good of a deal to pass up and the work that I can do with 2 logging pays out much better in the end. I justified the cost of hay because I need the manure. I was going to board heifers in the winter to collect the manure, now that I have a team and my house cow I am getting just about the right amount of manure for the garden and half of my pastures.
Hay is pretty cheap in the end if you shop around, I spend about $2000 a year for my team and my house cow. I also got an offer from one of my local hay guys asking to trade log length firewood for hay next year.
Personally I would get another horse started before you actually need it. Your old mare can show them the ropes and you wont have to press them too hard. If you need to generate some income to buy hay on the side, it is pretty easy with a team.
That being said I would love to see your jersey cow yoked up in the garden!February 28, 2017 at 1:56 pm #90123
I guess I kinda agree with Jared. Get another younger horse,doesn’t have to be a 3 year old but maybe a 7 or 8 year old. One that has some experience. Use them when you need a team and when you get to the woods you can split them and use them alternately as single to do the twitching and then as a team to haul out a bigger load. I don’t know how big Annie is but a 15.2 to 15.3 hand is all you need. My son sold a nice 15.3 team last year and I did an awful lot of work with them, double and single. That is actually my favorite size, don’t eat as much and easier to throw the harnesses on. LOL Also, if they are mares you can raise and sell a colt out of one or both to help pay for the hay, if you so desire.
Just my humble opinion,
carl nnyFebruary 28, 2017 at 5:20 pm #90124
Liz I know of a single horse that you are familiar with that may be on the market this spring. Email me, and I will put you in touch with the owner, you can have first refusal if you would like.March 1, 2017 at 7:29 pm #90127
It is weird being away from a computer for a week. I would have said everything above. Good answers pro and con. One thing that affords you, which all farmers often miss, is the luxury of starting to look for something you will need at some point in the future, but the demand isn’t urgent right now.
This can really make a difference in what you get and what you pay. Take you time, let a great horse come to you, but let folks know you are looking. Go visit something that sounds good, but don’t buy it unless it is what you want. Sounds like fun to me.
Donn Hewes from Bethel, VT.March 1, 2017 at 11:45 pm #90129
As a young teamster to feel you have the experience and then the opportunity to offer a perspective. I think you should start looking for a second horse. Take it slow and shop around. Go look at horses that are not perfect and practice shopping. Its worth the time and expense. You come away from each interaction with a clearer idea and picture of the right horse.
What I’ve learned about buying horses:
Don’t buy a horse that was trained, handled and worked, by a single person.
Insist on a trial period.
Make sure they pick up their feet and can be trimmed without stocks.
All basic, but worthwhile. Good luck in your search.
Give Ani a hug for me and tell her that Abby misses her.
CarlMarch 4, 2017 at 12:46 pm #90140
Thanks everyone! This is great advice, and has helped us think through a lot of things. We are officially looking, so please let me know if you hear of any leads.
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