Lessons to Be Learned: Horses, Logging, Honor
by Sabrina Matteson
reprinted with permission from the February 2007 New Hampshire Farm Bureau News, The Communicator
Les Barden is always looking for practical ways to make mechanical things better. He likes to think of himself as a gadgeteer and an innovator, but one of the most important things he has done is to build men.
Evan Ames of Moultonborough is the latest in a long string of young men that gravitated to his farm to learn of important things in life. Do a good job. Emphasize the details. Produce a quality product. Do a good job. Work hard. Treat animals and tools with respect. Be safe. Take care of the land. Do a good job.
Evan came to Les with many lessons already learned. His father, Ronald Ames, had taught him a great deal about working with horses and how to work in the woods. Sixteen-year-old Evan is smart, polite and enthusiastic, and hopes to become a large animal vet. He values highly the lessons that 80-year-old Les is teaching him about how the old masters of different trades performed their tasks: harnessing horses, building logging scoots, designing eveners and neck yokes. Horse logging, haying and dignifying the horse are other skills Evan is learning.
Shoeing horses in the turn-of-the-century style of Dr. Adams was one of the lessons learned over Evan’s winter break from school. Les did the teaching and Evan did the heavy lifting and continues to learn his lessons. Do a good job. Treat animals and tools with respect. Be safe.
Les is best known for his work with draft horses. Because of his concern for the comfort, safety and dignity of the horse, he has produced a definitive video on the essence of the D-ring harness. He also designed the Barden Logging Forecart, of which he has built dozens for sale and shared the plans with many others.
Treating horses with respect does not mean treating them as humans, stresses Les. He is teaching Evan how to appeal to the natural instincts of the horse so that it will respond to the stimuli presented and in the manner it is conditioned to perform. A horse is a noble steed but needs to be subordinated to the desires of its master. Les and Evan drive the team with reins rather than loud voice commands in honor of tradition. Les explained that when horsepower came exclusively from teams, the driver always spoke softly so that only his own team could hear. In a chaotic construction site, dock- or lumber-yard where many teams were working, it didn’t pay to speak loudly enough to have another’s team respond to a loud command.
Les works with horses because he likes it and because he treasures the silence. When raking hay with his horses, Les can hear the dryness of the hay as it crackles. Being able to hear over the plodding feet of his team, rather than over the roar of a motor, keeps him in tune with the job and his animals and allows him to do the job better.
The silence also allows him to think and to talk – about English grammar, foot music and his beloved Red Sox. And Evan’s lesson? Do a good job. Emphasize the details. Produce a quality product. Do a good job. Work hard. Treat animals and tools with respect. Be safe. Take care of the land. Do a good job.
“It isn’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble — it is what you know for sure that isn’t so.” – Les Barden