Ingenious Implements: Horse-Operated Farm Machinery Going Strong

Horse Progress Days highlights the latest innovations in horse-operated farm machinery

Setting pepper plants with a Nolt's Produce Supplies transplanter

Two young ladies set pepper plants during this demonstration of a transplanter made by Nolt’s Produce Supplies, Leola, Pa. The transplanter is pulled by a team of Belgians on a standard forecart made by E-Z Trail Mfg., Fredericksburg, Ohio.

Sam Moore

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Last July 4th weekend, I attended the 16th edition of Horse Progress Days (HPD) in Odon, Ind.

The annual two-day event demonstrates the latest innovations in horse-operated farm machinery, as well as showcases other horse-related products. I’ve been at every HPD (except the first two) primarily because of my fascination with the machinery.

The show is rotated among six major Amish communities: east of Lancaster, Pa.; Holmes County, Ohio; near Clare, Mich.; Arcola, Ill.; Daviess County in southern Indiana; and LaGrange County in northern Indiana. Since these are the major draft horse-using areas (tractors are not commonly used for field work by the Amish because of their religious beliefs), it follows that most spectators would be Amish. While that’s true, many, many non-Amish attend the events, including some from overseas.

By 1950, because of the proliferation of tractors on American farms, the demand for horse implements had virtually dried up, causing farm implement manufacturers to stop making the stuff. This left the remaining horse farmers to get along with existing machines that became increasingly worn out with the passing years, as well as obsolete due to changing farming practices.

There were, however, individuals in these horse-farming communities who grew up on Amish farms, recognized the need for new machinery and set out to provide it. Although they received only the traditional eight years of formal schooling and no engineering training, men such as Jake Blank of I&J Mfg. and Henry King of White Horse Machine, both located near Gap, Pa., and Wayne Wengerd of Pioneer Equipment in Dalton, Ohio, (along with many others) thought about, tinkered with and perfected innovative machinery to make the lives of horse farmers easier.

White Horse Machine has developed a way to provide hydraulic lift capabilities by using chain drive from a wheel of the White Horse forecart to operate a hydraulic pump. The hydraulic pressure thus generated is stored in an accumulator tank where it can be used to control remote cylinders on drawn implements and provide power steering for the forecart. A pressure gauge and the necessary hand valves, hoses and quick connect outlets are provided as well.

To work with the forecart, White Horse makes a 2-wheeled trailer with a hydraulic 3-point hitch that allows any category one, 3-point, non-PTO implement to be used. White Horse offers a 2-bottom, 3-point plow to use with the carts that has a unique trip feature in case an underground obstruction is struck. The vertical standard that holds the bottom is pivoted to the rear end of the beam. A hydraulic cylinder connects the top of the standard to the front of the beam and is plumbed into the hydraulic system. When the plow point hits an obstruction, the bottom kicks back and up, compressing the fluid in the cylinder. After the obstruction is passed, increased pressure causes the cylinder to automatically reset the bottom into position.

White Horse makes a non-hydraulic sulky plow as well, along with conventional steel eveners, and a rope-and-pulley hitch system that eliminates the need for heavy eveners between each team in a multiple hitch.

For horse farmers who want to use PTO-driven implements, such as balers, corn pickers, combines and the like, Pioneer Equipment offers a full line of motorized forecarts. Though pulled by horses, these carts feature gasoline engines from 20 to 35 hp, as well as Deutz diesel-powered models from 27 to 120 hp. The carts are quite sophisticated, with electric start and a fully instrumented control panel. The throttle, clutch lever and hydraulic valve levers are all within easy reach of the comfortable, air-ride armchair seat. Hydraulic brakes and steering complete the package.

Pioneer also makes a full line of walking, sulky and gang plows, spike- and spring-tooth harrows, regular forecarts, and wagons and sleds. In addition, the company offers steel and wood eveners, wagon and implement tongues, rope-and-pulley hitches and steel wheels of all sizes.

Some horse farmers are reluctant to use engine power of any kind, so I&J Mfg. has come up with ground-driven PTO forecarts that have a PTO shaft that’s driven from the action of the cart’s wheels as they turn. The regular-duty model is said to have power equivalent to a 9 hp engine and is capable of running PTO trailer mowers, small hay tedders and rakes, field sprayers and small manure spreaders. The heavy-duty model, which is still in the experimental stage, was demonstrated running a 7-foot-cut New Holland Haybine while being pulled by four horses, so it probably puts out about as much power as an 18 hp engine. These carts have a 12-volt battery and an electric motor-powered hydraulic pump that gives them the ability to operate lift cylinders on the pulled implements.

I&J makes a wide array of machinery, including standard and engine PTO forecarts, small 3-point implements (such as a 1-bottom plow, a potato plow, and a spring-tine harrow), 1- and 2-row and walk-behind cultivators, a trailed PTO sickle-bar mower and a ground-driven or PTO rotary hay rake, among others.

There are, of course, scores of other, smaller manufacturers who make field sprayers, PTO and standard forecarts, wagons, bale movers, manure spreaders, planters, tillage tools and machines such as mulch layers and lifters, and transplanters for use in raising vegetables and other produce.

While none of these manufacturers employ hundreds of workers, they do furnish work for a good many of their neighbors and fill a real need in the horse farming community. FC