Book Reviews: Resources for Horse Farming and Implements

Between the Bookends: Pair of new books offers full education in farming with horses.

| December 2006

The appetite for technology seems insatiable in today's world. Cell phones and laptops, though, don't define every life. Increasing numbers of people are choosing a different rhythm, a fact underscored by the growing population of people who've taken up farming with horses.

Some of today's horse farmers are fueled by nostalgia. They enjoy horses; they're interested in antique farm implements. Others are driven by personal conviction. Whatever the motivation, if you're a newcomer to horse farming, two recently released books - Implements for Farming with Horses & Mules, and Farming with Horses - are required reading.

Implements for Farming with Horses & Mules, by Farm Collector columnist Sam Moore, is a comprehensive education on the use of just about every horse-drawn farm implement ever produced. Using clear, deliberate text, countless color photographs and dozens of detailed drawings, Sam carefully and thoroughly explains the history and evolution of each category of implements, the science behind various farm practices, and machinery features, operation, adjustment and maintenance. For the novice, his checklists of common problems are an invaluable resource.

If the internal combustion engine had never been invented, this kind of knowledge would be commonplace today. Tractors and mechanized implements, though, quickly made horse farming - and the ages of wisdom supporting it - obsolete. Raised on a Pennsylvania farm, Sam clearly paid attention to the lessons of his youth. Although he left the farm after completing high school, as his publisher notes, Sam remained interested in farming and farm machinery. He has restored a number of farm implements and at one time or another has used virtually every implement featured in the book.

All of which means that Implements for Farming with Horses & Mules is packed with solid, practical information. Those looking for the easy way out will probably be happier with Horse Farming for Dummies. Sam, on the other hand, is a firm believer in Doing Things Right. On the proper use of a check planter, for instance: "A poorly checked field can't be hidden. From the time the corn plants break through the ground until well into July, the field is a public demonstration of how much care was taken in laying out the wire and adjusting the planter."

An extension of that theme is his unrelenting insistence on preventive maintenance. Simple but thorough maintenance directives accompany each implement category. It seems unlikely that Sam has ever experienced mechanical failure resulting from failure to properly adjust or maintain a piece of equipment. If he has, it's a safe bet he never made the same mistake twice!