The great draft horses are making a comeback

I have always admired these working giants, and I am glad they are making a comeback on the farm.
I suppose my feelings are, at least in part, nostalgia. I quite easily can recall, as can many of you, when the really heavy work was done by a horse, or a team, or even several teams.
And from my days at the Ontario Agricultural College, I can recall with a good deal of pride the college show team–six beautiful big prancing Clydesdales pulling the colourful O.A.C. wagon.
The Scot who drive this famous team could, when special days called for it, do figure eights on the football field, or even in the main square of downtown Guelph.
The heavy horses are coming back to the farm. As the price of gas and machinery goes sky-high, many farmers are finding there are a lot of jobs which can be done more easily, cheaply, and efficiently by horses.
There is a big demand for draft horses in the northern States, in Nova Scotia, and in the west generally. More and more horses are being used in logging operations again in Maine and the Pacific States.
The use of horses on the small farm once more has become practical.
Horses use food which can be produced right on the same farm. They can produce valuable fertilizer for use on the same farm. And they can reproduce themselves–something like getting a little new tractor every year or two.
How big are the big horses? The figure which is generally quoted is about a ton–2,000 pounds. Many mares are smaller than that but stallions or geldings can go well above that figure.
The largest horse on record was a Belgian which weighed in at 3,200 pounds. How would you like to have him standing on your foot?
The most popular breeds are the Belgians, Percherons (originally from France), Clydesdales from Scotland, and the English Shire horses.
Draft horses are getting to be quite a big business. Prices run from a modest $1,500 or so to many thousands of dollars for a good brood mare, or a proven stallion.
These horses originally were developed in the Middle Ages to carry noble knights with all their armour.
If you can imagine yourself a simple foot-soldier, watching a mass of these huge horses charging toward you on the battlefield, with men covered completely with steel, you can easily understand how the “war horse” dominated warfare for a very long time.
A horse will last for a working life of about 15 or 20 years. And even when he gets fairly old, he will still be happy to do some of the less demanding work on the farm.
That’s a lot better than an old tractor.
Horses are judged by their ability to pull heavy loads. A champion team can pull a load equivalent to a 25-ton wagon.
In these days of energy conservation, it is good to see the heavy horses making a comeback. They don’t run on expensive gas, they can pay for a lot of their own upkeep, and they’re always glad to see you in the morning.
And that’s a lot better than a tractor, too.

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