Horse Logging

By Eleanor Paddock of Hitch-In Farm H

orse logging may seem like a historical concept, but a small determined group of people are bringing horse drawn work back to British woodlands. Winter is the season for horse logging, as this avoids disturbing nesting birds. Over the next few months our horses will be busy managing woodland for ourselves and on forestry contracts.

But why use horses? They are the ultimate low impact extraction method, as they lighter than machinery, and can bring logs out by different extraction routes to minimise damage. They don't require access tracks to be cut in, that would be needed by bigger machines. They are also very ‘green’ with no fossil fuel requirements just grass, which

turns into compost for the next generation of trees.

Horses excel in the early stages of forestry, for example when removing the first thinnings 10-15 years after planting. They can go into narrow spaces with a chainsaw operator and take out any poor quality trees, leaving more light and space for trees which are intended for milling (the highest value crop a woodland can produce). As they are maneuverable these can be extracted without damaging the trees you want to keep. They can even reverse logs out of tricky spots! When doing this process with machines it is common practice to remove the trees by the rows, leaving some poor quality trees and taking some good ones.

We also do many contracts on steep and inaccessible sites, and those which are ecologically or archaeologically sensitive areas, as we can pick our way out without causing damage. Later growth can also be extracted easily using horses, they can pull their own body weight on flat ground, and double their body weight when travelling down hill. There are also many logging arches and sledges available which increase the amount of weight they can pull, but we prefer to stick with a simple swingle tree and chain. Which requires minimum time to hitch up to, and you can keep a spare in the car for when you inevitably break something!! Smaller horses are our preferred choice for logging, as they tend to be more agile than the heavies, and poor Humphrey our shire always has his head up in the branches. With a pair of 14hh cobs, and with a short extraction route we can pull around 30 tonnes of timber a day.

The average logging day usually starts early, and ends late. The logging team will send working for a 9-5 day, with a lunch break and 2-3 tea/hay/ barley breaks. These help to keep everyone's energy levels high, and are good for morale especially on a cold day. Historically logging workers and their horses in Canada would have eaten up to 11 meals in a day! We usually work the horses in pairs, with a single horse only used when the sight is too narrow to take a pair through. We find working them

16 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019 call 01295 404077 to advertise or email

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