Don’t Forget Ponies
by Steve Cornelius of Columbia City, IN
I think a lot of people that have huge 2000 lb. plus horses would be happier with 900- 1300 lb. ponies. Some use half draft and half light horse, but a pony of draft type would weigh about the same as some of these crosses and be thicker built and more compact, thus easier keepers. That means a lot if you make a living with them as I do. I log with them and keep the better logs for lumber and sell the rest as firewood. I sell abut 150-200 cord a year and cut and sell year round. I even deliver some with them to the customer.
When the snow was deep this winter, they could go right through to the customers wood pile – sometimes in back of the house through a yard. I have had 4-wheel drive trucks – not worth it. They cost more every day of the year you drive them and any part you get for them is more money too. And when their tires spin, there you sit. A horse just takes another step. I have had to pull my own 4-wheel driver out of mud with horses.
Oh, I know the young generation can’t believe that something with animal traction can be superior to modern vehicles, the only way they are inferior is that they are slower, and sometimes that is a plus. I have used Percherons, Belgians and Oxen and now draft ponies. So many people with the huge draft horses can be asked, ‘what do you do with your horses’ and they have this cart or empty wagon they go around with and a pony could do the job just fine; only be easier to harness, get there a lot faster. Yes, I say faster. Big horses aren’t meant to trot very long, they heat up and tire. It’s hard on their feet and legs.
I pull a wagon 2000 lbs., plus a load of logs 6000 lbs. for miles and miles up and down hills on paved roads with three ponies, and one is only 3 years old, one a two year old and a 12 year old. We can make 4 miles in 30 minutes loaded this way.
Ponies weigh about 3200 lbs. total. They are easy to feed, harness and shoe – no stocks are needed. I haven’t had a sick one in five years.
I don’t believe in going out and buying the expensive Fjords or Haflingers either. There are other crossbreeds that are just as good and some better. These full-blooded breeds have been changed so much for a showing that it is hard to find the working kinds.
Of course this is the same with horses also, except for the Suffolk Punch.
When I had horses and oxen I never thought about why some had ponies until I bought a 750 lb. 48” mare for cart rides and carrying tools to the woods. I found out what she could do and bought a 1200 lb. 56” pony and gave her advantage on the evener and she and he really got a lot done.
Ponies are more active than horses and I use a single twisted wire snaffle on all of them. I like the bio coated nylon harness with red lines, you can tell at a glance where lines are that way. Lines of ¾” wide are tied easier than 1”. Nylon lines of ¾” are plenty strong. And I don’t like butt lines. That snap where they come apart gets caught on the straps too easy. And notice I don’t use blinds either. Bridles go on easier and more comfortable for the animal. And I travel lots of roads with heavy high-speed traffic.
Harness should be simple too, no extra do-dads or spots – save that for show. There is enough to get tangled without adding to it. I use singletrees with rings on the ends instead of hooks. Just run tug chain through ring and back to a solid cast snap. Horses standing at rest in woods always seem to have chains come off those hooks.
I made a snow plow I’d like to share too. It is an A-plow that hinges for folding for easy storage. It has a chain on back for pulling backwards to clean piles out of turn-arounds and parking areas. Pulling backwards you can pick up missed places that an A plow misses. Just pull plow backwards with it full of snow into a side area and then hook to front of plow and leave snow there.