Farming with Horses at the Horse Progress Days
Let's Talk Rusty Iron: Sam Moore relates the breeds, demonstrations and horse drawn farm equipment seen at the Draft Horse and Mule Progress Days in June 2001.
An estimated 10,000 spectators attended the eighth annual Draft Horse and Mule Progress Days, held in June 2001 in southeastern Indiana. Presented by the horse farming community of Daviess County, the show was headquartered at Dinky's Auction Center, northeast of Montgomery, and field demonstrations took place under a blazing hot sun at a farm next to the auction barn.
Farm equipment manufacturers stopped building horse drawn equipment during the early 1950s because they thought the horse was finished as a power source on modern farms. For the next three decades, horse farmers got along by buying up old horse-drawn implements and repairing, rebuilding and modifying the machines.
In time, the supply of old machinery dried up, and at the same time, modern farming methods demanded new and better equipment. And just as the original U.S. farm machinery revolution of the 19th century started with farmers building new equipment or improving existing machines, so too have present-day horse farmers designed and built, or have had built, equipment to suit their needs. In addition, they've figured out ways to successfully adapt modern, high-tech tractor implements for use with animal power.
Local manufacturers cater to local needs in each area of the country that has a large number of farmers using horses, and a few companies have evolved to the point of selling implements all across the United States and Canada, as well as overseas.
The Horse and Mule Progress Days exposition is intended to showcase the many new implements that are being built for use with horses, along with ways of adapting tractor machinery for horse use. The manufacturers of this machinery, or their representatives, were on hand in the demonstration field to assist in putting the implements through their paces and to answer questions.
In addition, the venue gives many manufacturers of horse-related items an opportunity to display their products. Feed, harness and tack, wagons, carts and buggies, logging equipment, shoeing stocks, stalls and feeders, liquid manure handling equipment and how-to books were among the items represented this year.
Most of the draft horse breed associations also were on hand to tout their favorite animals, which were represented in the flesh and put to work pulling various implements. These included draft ponies, Haflingers, spotted draft horses, Norwegian Fiords, American Creams, suffolks, Brabants, Belgians, Percherons and mules. In addition, a span of milking shorthorn oxen named Lewis and Clark did their share of work.
One tool on display that has become essential to the horse farmer is the forecart, which can be as simple as a platform with a seat, mounted on two wheels, or as complex as a huge, 4-wheeled, power-takeoff cart with a 135-hp, diesel engine and a heavy-duty, hydraulic, 3-point hitch. A fore-cart makes it possible to use tractor-drawn implements behind horses while providing a safe place for the teamster to ride.