( ploughing with cobs )

(joined) by linkages through their bits and collars. “This is the whipple- tree”, says Tony attaching two hori- zontal bars between the horses and their load. “The whippletrees’ job is to distribute the weight of the plough equally between the two cobs.” As Storm and Mars walk forwards, I am immediately hypnotised and taken back in time by the sound of moving linkage chains. “It’s an amazing sound”, agrees Tony. “Both horses wear ‘ears’ to help soſten the sound of the clanking.” The ground is bone dry, so Tony’s

precious plough is given the day off and is replaced with a huge tractor tyre to show me the ropes. “There are two communications with the horses and that’s your reins and your voice”, instructs Tony. “I use simple commands, sometimes they listen and sometimes they don’t!” Tony holds on to the set of rope

reins and asks Storm and Mars to ‘walk on’. “If we are on the leſt rein, I will ask them to ‘come round’ to turn and on the right rein I say ‘get over’”, says Tony. “A ploughing horse has to be able to work in both directions. Straightness is key in ploughing and the horses must always finish away from the ‘crown’ (starting point). “Together, together”, instructs Tony to Mars and Storm. “If you want them to slow down and then stop you say ‘whoa’ and if you want them to stop straight away you say ‘stand’. Soon it is my turn and with Jo at Storms head and Tony by my side I am handed the reins. At first, I feel all fingers and thumbs but as I relax, I realise that it’s very similar to long reining. Even though we are only in the school, I can still feel the power of the two cobs in front and I am very grateful for their perfect manners and tolerance!

Tony is an extremely empathetic and sensitive man when it

comes to his steeds and when he talks about his past horses, I spot a tear to his eye. “I rescued a Clydesdale cross and when he died it really got me”, says Tony. “Anyway, we don’t talk about that as it will set me off!” Tony is also extremely passionate about the future of the

working plough horse and believes this part of history needs preserving. “The working side of things is definitely dying out; everyone seems to want impressive show quality shires. People forget that horses were originally bred to do a job not perform in the show ring”, concludes Tony. “We owe the horse our future and aſter all, all our history is their industry.”

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