Monday, November 26, 2012

Workhorse Workshop at Live Power Community Farm

 On the evening prior to the start of Doc Hammill's Farming and Working Horses in Harness Workshop,  Doc often gives a presentation,"The Mind of the Horse" that is open to the public and free of charge.This provides Doc an opportunity  to share with people his insights into how  horses perceive, react, think,  learn, respond and communicate.  Doc believes by giving people this fundamental knowledge, they then can use the information to get horses to willingly cooperate  as partners, rather than being forced.
The workshop starts the following morning with a combination of sharing more information about horses' minds, physiology, reactions and perceptions and students being involved in hands-on activities. Having a variety of presentations and activities for students considers and addresses different learning styles. Having instructors to assist Doc provides students more one-on-one time.
4th Annual Farming and Working  Horses in Harness Workshop begins in the Decater's barn
For beginning students,  getting the harness on a big horse can be just a bit overwhelming.  Steven Decater, an experienced teamster and owner,with his wife Gloria, of Live Power Community Farm,  made it understandable.   His explanation and demonstration of how to put harness on a horse was thorough and straight forward. Then, students in this workshop were given plenty of time to practice harnessing and unharnessing the horses themselves.

Live Power Community Farm, an Organic and Bio-dynamic horse powered farm, hosted Doc's 4th Annual Farming and Working with Horses in Harness here at Covelo, California. Ten students from California and Washington attended this 2 day event.
Dirk driving Laura
The diversity of the students attending Doc's workshops is always amazing.  In attendance in this workshop were.... an administrator of a Non-Profit, a NASA construction engineer, farm managers,  farm apprentices, and the co-owner of a winery and  vineyard. Some students were in their 20's.. just planning their careers, others older, and thinking about retirement. Such diversity among attendees makes for interesting and lively discussions and exchange of ideas around the breakfast, lunch, and supper tables. Even though some students had many years' experience around horses and mules....this was the first time most took the driving lines into their hands.

Suzy driving Pete

When asked why they had come to this workshop, one person said:

"I want to learn about driving horses to get work done.  I have been a professional  horse trainer, of dressage and jumping horses, for more than 15 years; I want to give this a try."

This year, we had four capable instructors available to work one-on-one with students in hands-on activities.    Doc and Cathy, as well as Steven Decater and his oldest son Alexander, were all here to help students gain as much understanding, wisdom, technique, and skill as possible during the workshop.

"Doc's presentation , 'The Mind of the Horse' is of particular interest to me; I want to learn the language of horses;  I know I am talking to them, I just don't know what I am saying."

Luke Driving Laura

                       Initially students cycled between ground driving single horses with Doc, Cathy and Alexander....

 and driving two horse teams with Steven.
Antonio driving Peg and Molly

AC driving Peg and Molly

Luke driving Peg and Molly

Gloria Decater collecting memories!

We covered a lot of ground in this workshop......check back to this blog soon for more hi-lights from 
Doc Hammill's Driving and Farming with Horses in Harness Workshop, Covelo 2012. 

Special: we'll post video of students driving horses hitched to 
 Annie's-All-In-One multipurpose implement dig potatoes!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Horse Drawn Plows and Plowing

 For Doc and I, Plowing with  horse-drawn walking plows is a favorite activity.

  We both enjoy plowing with one, two, or three horses hitched to a walking plow.

 The sounds, the smell, the feeling of holding the handles, and working with the is all part of it for us, as well as working with the horses as partners to get a job done. Helping the horses gain skills and understanding of the task and to make their contribution in a relaxed and comfortable way is very important to for us.

We both share an interest in horse drawn equipment of the past and have somewhat  of a "collection".

We are enamored with the details of parts, engineering, design, history of the manufacturers, adjustments, maintenance, and attachments of this old equipment. We both think there is beauty and art in the form and function of many of these older pieces, particularly the walking plows.
 The "plow hitch plate assembly" is one of those very appealing artistic components of walking plows.

This "plow hitch plate assembly" is one from a plow we recently found in eastern Oregon, a Vulcan #14.It has been fun for us to do some research on it, find out about the Vulcan Manufacturing Company, think about getting it in working order, ready for it's use next spring.

Below is an excerpt from the Evansville Currier Press
William Heilman, a German immigrant and U.S. Congressman, founded Heilman Plow Works in 1847. Renamed Vulcan Plow Works in 1890, the company was a leading manufacturer of various farming equipment in the Ohio Valley before merging with three other companies in Illinois and Ohio, to form Farm Tool, Inc. The last known vestige of that company in Evansville left in 1949 and went out of business all together in the 1950s.

We are getting very excited after we received recent news that two 'new-to-us' plows are being shipped to us by Tommy Flowers, and will have a new home here in Montana.  A Chattanooga 43 a 10" two horse walking plow that will be perfect for our Fjord Team,  and a Lynchburg 6  an 8" single horse walking plow to use with our single Suffolk Punch horses should be arriving soon! The ground isn't frozen and there is no snow yet...maybe they will get here it time to try out before winter hits......

 Learning to plow is one of the favorite activities for students in our workshops.
Doc and I always look forward to sharing our passion for plows and plowing with  students in our workshops. Learning to plow is one of the favorite activities for many students. One of our students, who had waited since his youth to plow with a horse was particularly excited about "taking the handles"  for the first time and said to me this year, "Cathy, I have yet to try this thing that you love so much, but I am ready now." You should have seen the smile on his face as he looked back after completing his first furrow!