German Version of Horse Progress Days: Pferdestarke – Part One
Back in Volume 37 Number 1 of Small Farmer’s Journal we featured a pictorial article by William Castle of England of Pferdstarke 2013. That issue is available from the Small Farm Market on this site. We offer in this spot on our site an opportunity to see all of the photos William sent us and in full color, something we are unable to do in the print edition. There are so many we are going to do it in two parts. What follows are Mr. Castle’s words on the topic.
Enough already, then already! Pferdestark
by William Castle
There is a rather neat phrase in German – ‘wenn schon, denn schon’ – which literally translates as ‘enough already, then already;’ but what it actually means is ‘if a something is worth doing, it is worth doing well. That would be a fitting description of Pferdestark, the German version of Horse Progress Days, not just because of the abilities of the individual teamsters, but also because of the organisers’ achievement in attracting teamsters from far and wide and putting together a wide ranging, interesting and enjoyable event.
For sheer variety of different breeds of draught horses, regional and national harness styles, or for that matter, languages or hats, it would be hard to beat Pferdestark, but the main point of the event is to show what horses can do and to showcase new machinery. This year the event also hosted the finals of the European Logging Championship as well as ploughing matches and main ring displays of dressage, driving and pulling competitions, draught horse football and horseback gymnastics, so there was plenty to see and entertain the casual visitor as well as the dyed-in-the-wool work horse enthusiast.
In comparison with North America, the number of working horses in western Europe is relatively small, so the use of forecarts with tractor machinery is common, and there were plenty in evidence at Pferdestark, though there does seem to be a movement towards using more implements made specifically for horses, especially for work in vineyards, for logging, and other work using a single horse. Given that working horses are spread thinly across many countries, Pferdestark is an important event, bringing together working horsepeople and enthusiasts, idea-smiths and invention-makers from all points of the compass, from Norway to Italy, the Czech Republic to Ireland.
What the pictures cannot convey is the great atmosphere at Pferdestark. From its beginning in 1995, an important objective was that the participants should enjoy the whole experience. In achieving that aim they have also done something more – they have created almost a family atmosphere as the teamsters, the helpers and designers of machinery worked together. As the enthusiastic and knowledgeable commentators with their roving microphones explained the features of different implements, introduced the horses and their drivers, or explained why a field is ploughed in the way it is, each part of the event moved from being a spectacle to an education, from an education to a communal gathering; and in that process drew everyone into the world of the working horse.
The HISKO hitch cart with the new ground driven hydraulic PTO, made by horse farmer and inventor Kurt Ohrndorf, seen here driving his pair of Rheinisch-Deutsch geldings who had an easy job running the four rotor tedder.
Herbert Heussler’s Black Forest gelding with a light Y-shaped ‘singletree’ underneath the belly to avoid catching the vines
Amongst the equipment designed to work independently of tractor tools, another Polish company, Handmet, who make a large variety of carriages, exhibited their vehicle for collecting rubbish/recycling. This has a covered seat for three people and a mesh cage ideal for light materials such as paper or plastic bottles, and when full the body can be tipped backwards or to either side with the battery powered hydraulic tipping gear. The tipped body shows the light but rigid construction of the under frame. Vehicles such as this are in use in over a hundred French towns.