March 10th, 2010


Practical Doomsteading: Pulling Loads With Horses.


     Okay doomsteaders looking to convert your equines from over-sized house pets into a practical source of LATOC farm traction and transportation, we've covered initial driving training with riding tack, pulling practice loads, collars, and proper harness.

     Now we'll look at more useful load pulling.

     There are two general classes of loads for horses to pull. Drag loads, and freewheeling loads.

     Drag loads include walking plows, sledges, logs, harrows, and anything else that will not move unless the horse is actively pulling. Drag loads don't coast or build up enough momentum to overrun the horse. So they can be pulled without shafts or tongue. (Although shafts/tongues are sometimes preferred to aid in turning.)

     Freewheeling loads include carts, wagons, wheeled implements, sleighs, and anything else that will keep on going a while after the horse stops pulling, or could go downhill on its own. Without some sort of rigid pole to hold it back, a freewheeling load would crash into the horse's rump when the animal slowed down or stopped, or when going downhill. (And horses don't like that sort of thing!)

     Because horseflesh can be bruised, and bruised horses naturally sour on work, all load-moving is supposed to be done through the harness, which is designed not to bruise the horse. So the rigid poles used to hold back or stop loads are designed to be pulled back (or in) through the harness, never pushed directly by the horse. To accomplish this, we use a pair of shafts on a single horse, and a tongue with neck-yoke for a pair.

     The single horse needs a shaft on each side of him so that he can PULL the outside shaft inward when turning, rather than pushing the inside shaft. Having a shaft on each side also allows him to stop the load evenly.

     The single horse has six points of attachment to a freewheeling load, three on each side. The trace attaches to the singletree to pull the load forward, a hold-back strap attaches the breeching to the shaft to apply braking force, and the shaft loop attaches to the back band to hold up the shaft and provide steering.

     A pair of horses need only one pole, called a tongue, that runs between the two animals. It has a cross piece that goes in front of the horses, like the letter "T". This piece is called a neck-yoke, and attaches to the pole straps at the bottom of each horse's neck collar. (Not to be confused with a neck yoke for oxen, which is a whole different thing!) With one animal on each side of the tongue, nobody has to push it in on turns, and holding it straight between them is easy on stops.

     Each horse in a pair needs only three points of attachment to the freewheeling load. The trace on each side of the horse attaches to his singletree on the load's doubletree. The pole strap of the harness attaches to the neck yoke on the tongue, serving triple duty by holding up the tongue, allowing the horses to steer the load through the tongue, and holding the load back through the tongue. (The pole strap of each horse connects through the harness quarter-straps to the breeching, which allows the beast to sit back and stop the load.)

     Many vehicles pulled by horses are equipt with some sort of brakes. These are to assist the horses in slowing the load, and do not eliminate the need for shafts or tongue.