Friday, September 9, 2011

Horse Drawn Haying with a Side Delivery Rake

What a great Workshop!  Not only were we able to work through our typical hands-on activities with our human students, but we also had the opportunity to help our new horses learn to accept a piece of noisy equipment while working on our hay at the same time.

We had hay down in our biggest hay meadow...25 acres.  Doc decided to use Brisk and Solven, our Norwegian Fjord geldings to demonstrate  a safe way of introducing horses to unfamiliar equipment.  We acquired this team last fall.  They are a well-experienced team, with a life time of pulling carriages and wagons in a variety of situations.  They work quietly and willingly.   Brisk and Solven however are new to all farm activities. This noisy hay rake is the first piece of farm equipment that these horses have EVER been hitched to, so we wanted to make sure it was a safe and comfortable experience for all.

Solven and Brisk checking out the rake

Doc drove the team to the hay meadow, where the truck and rake were parked.  He drove them to the rake, let them see and smell it while it was idle.  Cathy then drove the pickup with the side delivery rake attached, around the edge of the mowed hay meadow. She first pulled the hay rake out of gear - not raking hay. Doc drove Brisk and Solven hitched to their fore cart behind the moving rake. The horses were completely comfortable being driven behind the rake while it was  traveling out of gear, so Doc then drove the Boys  along the side of, and in front of the pick-up and hay rake. There was a point, when the rake 'dissappeared' (due to their blinders) behind the Boys  that they showed some concern.  Doc slowed the Boys down so the rake again came into their view, and they regained their comfort.  After a few times forward and back, the horses showed no concern at all when the rake and truck were behind them or beside them.  All these steps were repeated next with the rake traveling now noisily in gear behind the pickup. The horses showed no signs of concern at the  rake traveling behind, beside or in front of them even when they were driven very close to it.


This advance and retreat method is a technique we use to expose any horse to new equipment, processes, environments and activities. This process gave the horses the  ability to see and hear the machine working, and to ensure they were comfortable with it before they were asked to rake hay with it. Breaking activities down into small steps, like this, lets horses accept new situations in small increments and stay comfortable.  If we see concern on the part of the horses, we  drop back a  step to again allow them to feel comfortable. We go back (retreat) as far as is necessary to allow the horses to regain their comfort.
Incidentally, this process also gave us a chance to make a couple of necessary adjustments to the rake before we hitched the horses to it.  It is good to  make  adjustments  to and make sure equipment is working well BEFORE putting the horses on the equipment.

After one round of the meadow with the rake attached to the truck, Doc determined that the horses were not concerned about working in this new area or the noise associated with the side delivery rake.  We stopped the truck, unhooked the rake from it.  Then hitched the rake (again out of gear)to the fore cart with Solven and Brisk; the Boys walked off comfortably.  Next, we put the rake in gear and when given their signal, off the Boys walked. We spent the rest of the evening raking hay with them.  They continued to work quietly, steady, and calmly.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Montana Workhorse Workshop July 10-16, 2011 Update

Announcing New Staff at Doc Hammill Horsemanship!

Solven and Brisk step into their teaching positions at our Montana Workhorse Workshops!

Noah driving Brisk and Solven, White Fjords

Here is a picture of a great little (big for Fjords at 15 and 15.1 Hands) team that Cathy acquired last fall.  They have been just AWESOME in this, their first workshop here at Doc Hammill Horsemanship in Montana. 
We want to give our continuing thanks to Dave and Pam for training this great team and selecting ours as their second home in life. These experienced, smart, and gentle horses are proving to be the quiet, dependable, willing, solid, and powerful  BOYS that we hoped they would be.

The following video is of Laura, first time Doc Hammill Horsemanship student, skidding a small chunk of wood with  Solven.  This is Solven's second time working single for us.  What we appreciate about this short video is  that Laura asks Solven to ease into his load, and he does; notice how he begins (and continues) his pull: quietly and careful eases into the work, and doesn't hurry as he drags this log to the bigger pile.  Congratulations to Laura for her gentle commands and soft hands, a big Thanks to Brisk for being such a willing staff member! This is the epitome of relaxation and comfort, exactly what we want for ourselves and our horses as we work with them.

Laura working the Boys on a stone boat.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Montana WorkHorse Workshop: July 10-16, 2011

Wow!  Here we go!  This workshop is underway!

"I feel like I came to this with a lot of horsemanship skills, but here, I am learning the kind of techniques that are not really something you can "get" from reading a book or even watching a video. It is pretty great!"

"I was taken back with the whole RHYTHMIC DRIVING concept, I had no idea how well that could work."

(Student comments after their first day)

 Doc is giving a student silent physical signals that simulate cues we give our horses while driving. 

We moved on to harnessing
student-harnessed horses ready to be hitched

Beautiful Montana! One backdrop scene to our Workhorse Workshop

come back to see more photos from this workshop tomorrow.....

Monday, July 4, 2011

Tom Triplett and Jay Jay the Welsh Pony

Tom Triplett, (Doc's mentor and step-father) along with his wife Betty,  cared for  Jay Jay, Cathy's Welsh pony, for the last 2 years.  We all thought he would be a good cart driving partner for Tom.  Jay Jay enjoyed life with two standard Donkeys, and being cared for by Tom and Betty.  In the winter of 2011, we all agreed that Jay Jay might benefit from living on the wider open spaces at Therriault Creek Ranch with Doc, Cathy,   their horses, and mule for a while.

Tom knew that if Jay Jay was to live on a ranch, he best be ready to do ranch work.   Tom didn't figure that the light driving harness that Cathy had for Jay Jay was a proper ranch harness. So he made a work harness for Jay Jay.  This one is complete with wooden hames that belonged to Tom's father.

 Tom and Jay Jay

 June 20, 2011, Father's Day, Tom fitted the harness to Jay Jay.  It is perfect! 

In the photo at left, Tom is adjusting Jay Jay's new work harness.  This harness is complete with:
  • Painted wooden hames, originally belonging to Tom's father
  • Leather belly band, back pad, back straps, lazy straps and crupper
  • Fire hose covered chain tugs

Tom, taking Jay Jay for a spin in his new harness:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

"The Mind of the Horse" presentation for Sunburst Foundation

"Thanks to you & Doc for a great seminar on Gentle Horsemanship! So much to learn! You guys are great. Thanks for sharing your knowledge." K from the Sunburst Foundation. 

Doc and I had a terrific time doing  two nights' presentation as a fund-raiser for Sunburst Foundation, in Eureka, Montana. Attended by 25 students both nights, it was a chance to share  information for horse enthusiasts in our community and to meet some of our great neighbors here in North West Montana.

Doc's presentation, "The Mind of the Horse" gives students a foundation of information to understand horse behavior and the natural horsemanship approach to working with and training our horses.

For me, it is energizing to watch people as they listen to this presentation; hearing their insights and  'aha' moments as they begin to understand why their horse behaves in certain ways, and also begin to understand how changing their own behavior will help their horse behave in a different way.

Thanks to you Sunburst, for having us. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

2011 Doc Hammill Driving Clinic at The Natural Gait, near Marquette, Iowa

June 23-26, 2011
We have a few spots left in this fun and informative clinic..

A Quote from a 2009 student at the  Natural Gait Clinic:

"This clinic was AWESOME! The people, the setting and the general atmosphere was like no other clinic we have attended. The free flowing of information was special."

This Driving Clinic is one of the few that Doc holds where students may bring their own horses  This is a unique opportunity for students to have instruction directly related to them and their own horse or team of horses. Students may also come WITHOUT a horse, and drive the quiet, well trained horses that we will have there.
This is also a unique clinic in that Steve Woods and Theresa Burns are co-instructors with Doc.  Students have tremendous advantage of three very knowledgeable instructors to help them advance their driving skills during the 4-day clinic. 

Pictured below are Doc and Steve helping 2 students work with their saddle horses laying a foundation for driving as a team.

to see the beautiful setting, fabulous accommodations and additional information, 
check out

to make reservations, contact Linda at the Natural Gait
or 877-776-2208

Theresa helping a student work with the student's team.

Come join the fun, we hope to see you at The Natural Gait for
June 23-26, 2011

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Horsemanship Class With Doc Hammill, DVM

News Release from the Sunburst Foundation, Eureka, MT:

Tuesday, June 14 and Thursday June 16
7-9 pm LCHS Auditorium
Eureka, Montana
Sponsored by the Sunburst Foundation

This Class is open to anyone wanting to learn more about getting the most from your horse.  The cost of the class is $30.00; Children who are accompanied by a paid adult are welcome for free.  Dr. Hammill's lifetime of studying and working with horses, combined with his equine veterinary experience give him a unique perspective on horsemanship.

Hammill will discuss topics such as the nature of horses, how their minds work, how they learn, interpreting their body language, and gauging their perceptions and reactions. Students of the class can use this understanding to better communicate with their horse and get desired behavioral results.  Learn how to teach your horse to willingly cooperate.  There will be a question and answer session at the end of the class.  To register, please call the Sunburst Foundation at 406-297-0197.

For more information, visit

"Not only does Doc have an incredible knowledge of horses, but he also possesses the gift and patience to teach it"

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Celebrating The Birthdays of Duchess and Misty

Duchess and Misty are celebrating important Birthdays this week. Duchess turns 29 June 1st, and Misty turns 27 May 27!
We feel very blessed to be in the lives of these two magnificent creatures.

Misty, Outstanding in her Field, May 25, 2011
Misty has been with Doc for most of her 27 years, working in various occupations. For the last 12 years, she has been a reliable staff member of Doc Hammill Horsemanship, working as an instructor for begining and advanced students. Misty has  taught hundreds of students to drive. She has also co-starred in several of Doc's Instructional Horsemanship DVDs. Misty is still a regular instructor at Doc and Cathy's Montana Workhorse Workshops, and will be working with students again for the 2011 Workshop season.

Misty teaching a student to ground drive

Duchess, Outstanding in her Field, May 25, 2011

  Duchess, a Suffolk Punch Draft horse, started life at Mountain View Farms where she and her sister Delilah were born.  These two became the leaders of the Mountain View hitch of six Suffolks and were shown extensively in Washington and Oregon. Cathy acquired Duchess and Delilah when their earlier owner retired; these two taught her a lot about driving.  Duchess as a single has been Cathy's 'Go-To' horse for many years now; always having been easy to work with and ready for a parade, some field work, log skidding, a county or state fair, plowing the home garden, a buggy ride, or teaching people to drive. Duchess is the kind of herd leader that Mark Rashid talks about..a leader that gained the respect of the rest of the herd through her quiet, strong leadership. Duchess is retired from most physical aspects of ranching.

Duchess plowing in the garden May 2009

Misty and Duchess now both spend time daily teaching Doc and Cathy lessons about horses and life.

Happy Birthday Gals!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Horse Powered Farm Work: Harrowing

May 5, 2011

We are having a very normal Rocky Mountain Spring time this year; We woke three days in a row last week to new snow! Here is a view we walk past on our way to the barn.

This photo shows Ten Lakes Farm, the  organic market garden and CSA, owned and operated by farmers, Todd and Rebecca, on Therriault Creek Ranch. Snow doesn't stop them, they are set to deliver their first CSA baskets to customers the third week in May!
Misty and Duchess, the Equine Grand Dams of Therriault Creek Ranch, are in the center of the photo. From this prestigious vantage point in their pasture they monitor all human, animal, and plant activities undertaken on the ranch. A disproportionate amount of  their time seems to be devoted to gazing dreamily at the carrot patch and hay meadow growth.

What a welcome sight! One thing about N.W. Montana,  only a bit of sunshine is needed to see the pastures 'green up'. Therriault Pass is beyond the meadow and pastures.

Finally! An opportunity Doc has been waiting for....the chance to get out and get some work done! 
What is the first thing he did? Hook Kate to a harrow.

Tomorrow, Doc is working on getting that bigger harrow going....!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

2011 Small Farmer's Journal Horsedrawn Auction & Swap

April 13-16, 2011 Jefferson County Fairgrounds, Madras, Oregon
This is a very fun, informative and exciting annual event. In Lynn Miller's words, "Right from the beginning the concept was to do an event that was one part auction, one part education, one part theater, one part street market, and one part reunion. And that’s just exactly what’s occurred. I can say without reservation that we are very proud of the event. It has evolved and matured to become a thing unto itself. Thirty some odd years worth."
What will be happening there?
  • 2nd annual Jethro Tull draft horse and mule plowing competition!!!
  • Horsedrawn Field Trials for new and restored implements
  • Swap meet and trade fair peppered with demonstrations, clinics and meetings
  • Horse market fair .
  • Auction: Horsedrawn carriages, wagons and items, antiques and collectibles, harness
  • Teamster Roundtable with these famous Teamsters: John Erskine, Walt Bernard, Chuck Baley, Lisa Hube, Bob Olson, Doc Hammill, moderator. Question and answer format. 6:00pm, April 13 and 14, Maccie Conroy Building.
  Stop by Doc's booth and say HELLO to Doc and Cathy!  We will be playing Doc's educational DVDs and slide shows of 2010 Workhorse Workshops.  We will have available:

  •      Doc's DVD's
  •      Doc’s 2011 Driving Workshop and Clinic Information
  •      Doc favorite Horsemanship DVDs and Books
  •      Safe Driving Equipment
  •      Horsemanship and Safety handouts
 Discount on 2011 Workhorse Workshops at Doc and Cathy's Montana ranch

Real People + Real Horses + Real Work= Real Fun


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Horse-Logging with Draft Horses: Natural Horsemanship in the Woods

Cathi and I love to work in the woods. It’s even better if we can work with our horses in the woods. On March 8 we had some fire wood logs ready to skid out and each of us took a horse to do the job. Here we have Kate and Ann, our Suffolk Punch Draft Horses.

Kate was very relaxed, comfortable, and interested as I prepared the first log to hook to her.

However, when she started off with the first small “warm up” log she became a bit anxious and was not very responsive to my attempts to calm her and slow her down. As so often happens, a training opportunity (not a problem) presented itself.

After stopping several times, letting her relax, and then attempting to start her again in a more relaxed and easy way I realized she was not able to control her anxiousness.

I was not willing to hold Kate back with the excessive force that would have been necessary I asked Cathi to bring Ann over and drive her in front of Kate - to set an example of a relaxed and comfortable working pace.

Not to mention creating a moving physical barrier as we each drove our respective horse down the skid trail.

Kate was not happy with the slower pace initially. However, once she realized she would not be allowed to go around (“pass”) Ann she started to relax and accept the job on my terms. We made it difficult for her to do the “wrong” thing and easy for her to do the “right” thing. Thanks to Cathi and Ann I was able to avoid heavy pressure and harshness on the bit in order to get the job started at a safe and comfortable pace. It doesn’t matter that Kate has done this type of pulling in a relaxed way many times before, what is important is that for whatever reason (and they always have a good reason as far as they are concerned) she became anxious on this particular day, in this particular location, at this particular job. Rather than fight with her we used some gentle “creative horsemanship”.

Thanks for checking up on us on our blog,


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Plowing Snow with a team of Horses

Here is a video of Doc plowing snow in Montana with Belgian mares, Molly and Dolly.

What are you doing with your horses this winter?  Please send us photos and stories that we could consider posting on our blog...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Teachable Moments

Recently I was watching as Doc worked Kate, one of our Suffolk mares. As he helped her through an anxious moment, I was struck by how easily Doc was able to help her through this time of concern, and actually use it to help build Kate's confidence. How often do we miss these opportunities with our horses? I thought I would share what I observed here on
Doc's Blog.

While ground driving, Doc noticed that Katey reacted fearfully in a familiar area. She had been through the area many times in the past, however, Doc knew she had not seen or been in the area covered with snow, and she had never seen the newly installed snow-covered sign at the side of the gate. Kate's fearful reaction to this sign told Doc what he and Kate needed to focus on in that moment.

This photo shows Doc encouraging Kate to examine the sign. He gave her the consideration to gather her own information about this sign. Doc lets her see and smell the object that caused her to worry. Rather than force her to approach the object or ignore her concerns (which could create more fear or greater concern for the horse), Doc allowed Kate the choice to check it out, take a closer look and gain understanding.

Giving our horses the opportunity to check out a worrisome object, helps their understanding that this thing need not be feared, therefore building the horse's confidence and trust.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Doc Hammill Sighting

Doc was seen on New Year's Day, 2011 outdoors enjoying the scenery at home on Therriault Creek Ranch. He reports having been at his computer for days(maybe even weeks!) working at writing an article. He says he is looking forward to the completion of the article and getting outside to "drive our horses".