I have decided that the farmers who switched from horses to tractors, who sold their animals for dog food in exchange for loud, smelly, irritating and expensive machinery were idiots. Well meaning idiots, but still idiots. Farming with horses was the most enjoyable experience I’ve had in a long time and I never want to go back to using mechanical farm equipment.
Ok, granted there are some limitations to farming with horses. You have to do a bit of training, you can’t just jump on and turn the key, they have a mind of their own and sometimes don’t do what you want, it takes longer to farm. But the advantages are so much bigger.
Driss Abraham, the owner of the farm at Prophetstown, led the workshop. One of the stories he told really got to the heart of things. When horses on his family farm and his neighbors farms were replaced with tractors, his mother said it was the end of family farming. Horses, she said, were the heart of the farm. Life centered around the horse and community centered around the horse.
During the course of the workshop, this was undoubtedly true. The early morning was spent getting the horses ready and doing various farm chores. Breakfast was eaten together around the table in the old authentic Sears Home (Sears used to sell modular homes in their old catalogues). After breakfast (when the horses were eating as well), we hitched the horses up and hit the field. Hitching can be done by itself, but it is so much easier with others there to help. After a few hours of working, the horses were brought in, bathed off and put in their stalls for water and hay snacks while we happily found the air conditioned house for lunch. Afterwards, we were back out hitching up the horses. A few more hours of work, wash the horses again and back in for dinner.
The point is that the daily schedule revolved around the horse and the horse’s needs. A tractor doesn’t have daily needs-not like a horse does. A tractor doesn’t need an hour break every 4 hours like a horse does, which provides just enough time for 3 meals a day together. Instead, today’s farmers often skip lunch or eat a quick 5 minute lunch on the tractor. A tractor doesn’t need a day off like horses do and a day off for horses means a day off for humans too. A day off that today’s farmers tend not to take.
I will argue more advantages of horse farming in future posts, but I am convinced. If only for the quality of life that horse farming provides, it is far superior. But there are even advantages beyond quality of life! More posts to follow soon!