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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Mini Horse Haying
Mini Horse Haying

Three abreast on the modified one horse mower.

Mini Horse Haying

by Ken Gies of Fort Plain, NY

If you have followed my articles over the years, you know that I am a compulsive minimalist. First, it was haying with one horse, then with Haflingers, and now, I have hayed my little farm with minis. My hope is that you will be inspired to find uses for your minis. I know they don’t eat much, but just think, what if you could turn that feed into work?

I have learned that the only way to really find out if something works is to eliminate alternatives. So, I sold my experienced Haflinger ponies and set out to see what I could do with the little horses. Having no other options forced me to find ways to make a workable system. I hope you find the inspiration you need to put your minis to work.

The first mini I bought was a three year old gelding named Casper. He taught me a lot about what a 38 inch mini could do just by driving me around the neighborhood. He didn’t cover the miles fast, but he did get me there! I found that 5 miles an hour was about as good as he could do with me on the cart. However, as he hardened up, he could trot up a half mile long hill that gained over 500 feet in elevation with me and the cart just fine.

It wasn’t long before several more 38 inch tall minis found their way home. Some were too jumpy for me, so I learned to be selective in my purchases. I presently have four minis that are relatively quiet, responsive to the bit, and can work without a lot of drama.

I also purchased strong harnesses and good collars. Mini harnesses are not cheap! They are almost as costly as full sized harness. However, I have found that animal comfort is well worth the price. I have had minimal irritation from my present collection of harnesses, collars and pads. The one place where there was rubbing was on the necks of the minis when they pulled my ground drive mower. It has a dolly wheel so that they only carry the weight of the tongue, but the effort needed to turn the mower at the corners eventually caused some minor rubs. I am presently designing a steerable tongue, so that the team swings the tongue and pulls the mower around, much like a wagon steers.

Mini Horse Haying

My mini-sized equipment lineup includes a two wheeled one horse cart, a three wheeled team cart (made from a lightweight trailer frame), a team forecart that I call my chariot, a modified one horse ground drive mower, a small hay rake that I found online (an estate rake – usually used to rake leaves), a cut down tedder and ground drive pto cart made from a lawn tractor transaxle, a scratch built 5’ by 8’ running gear and hayrack, a 7.5 cubic foot miniature manure spreader, a 6” walking plow, 4’ chain harrow, 3’ springtooth harrow, cut down 3’ single disk, a three section gang mower with its own homemade tongue for the lawns, and a homemade 4’ roller. I also have a collection of failures that I try to pretend never happened. I am working on a miniature hayloader but that will be a story for next winter, if it works!

I think that mowing is the most demanding part of haying with the minis. It takes quite a bit of power to pull the physical weight of the machine plus drive the cutterbar. I went through several steps getting an acceptable balance between cutter bar length and horsepower. My first attempts at mowing used the full 40 inch cutter bar but that was way too much for the little troopers. I cut the bar down in increments until it was only 18 inches long. That was ridiculous. I researched different cutter bar designs including the double acting types. The double acting systems are actually too heavy for the minis besides being too costly for me. I finally settled on the SCH style cutterbar, which bolted onto the existing bar with only a few modifications. The final length of the cutterbar is 32 inches.

Mini Horse Haying

The SCH guards are a different height than the original guards. I had to shim the ledger plates up in the outer and inner shoes to bring the knife into level from end to end. I also couldn’t use the existing wear plates and hold down clips. Instead I used the SCH roller backs to hold the knife forward in the guards. These are little wheels that allow the back of the knife to roll instead of rub as on traditional wear plates. I used sickle section bolts instead of rivets and found that I could use the countersunk ones too. I will probably never use a rivet again now that I have discovered how easy the bolts are to use. I added a carrier spring to the inner shoe to lighten the drag against the ground and put a small wheel on the outer shoe for the same reason. I figured every little bit had to help.

Mini Horse Haying

The shimmed-up ledger plate and counter-sunk bolts.

I had originally built the tongue and dolly wheel on the mower for my Haflingers. It was a simple job to move the draw point and tongue to fit the minis. As I said, I plan on building some sort of steerable wheel to aid the team in turning the mower. I have seen several versions of mower axles. I’ll see what I can come up with. The other option I have seriously considered is building a small motorized mower like many of my Amish neighbors use. Adding a motor is a last ditch effort. I tend to be stubborn that way.

My little rake works very well except when I try to double or triple up windrows of first cutting. The long hay wraps around the wheels too easily. I can always rake several windrows of second cutting hay together. It pulls very easily and the shipping weight was under 200 pounds. It was less than $1,000 dollars delivered and well worth it since it really licks up my normally short second and third cuttings.

Mini Horse Haying

Doubling a windrow with the ATV rake.

The tedder started out as a narrow four star Kuhn tedder. I removed the two outer wings and set my pto cart up to run the shaft backwards. This turns the two stars that remain so that they sweep from the outside edges into the middle as a regular two star tedder would do. The little garden transaxle has six gear settings. It was easy to find a setting that matched my ground speed to the right spinner speed.

Mini Horse Haying

A well-tramped load of second-cutting hay heads to the barn.

I shopped around for a running gear for several months. I wanted a small one and cheap. All the light weight running gears have press fit bearings and hubs. I wanted tapered bearings and bolt on rims in a standard size. I finally built my own running gear, including the steering axle and tongue. It is light and works well. I also built the deck from pressure treated lumber and used cattle panels cut in half to create sides for second cutting since it doesn’t hold together even when tramped tight on the wagon. The 6 acres of hay was all hand loaded. I really hope to fabricate a functional miniature hayloader by summer. I unload with my existing hayfork and trolley. A team of 2 minis can lift as much hay as the forks can hold. It is a real blast looking back and seeing a 6 foot wide jag of hay rise off the wagon as the team moves forward.

Mini Horse Haying

Harrowing one acre in one hour.

When it came to field work, I actually measured off an “official” acre of 209 feet by 209 feet and then used the minis to do the secondary tillage behind a tractor plowed field. (Hey, I hadn’t found a little plow yet!) A pair of minis can springtooth, harrow or roll an acre in one hour. I find that very acceptable! I suspect that someone could tend a large garden with a pair of minis if they tilted their heads and thought it through for a bit!

Mini Horse Haying

Green team, green plowman, dry hard clay, still fun.

Now for a few thoughts on plowing. Butch Miner from Palatine Bridge, NY used a pair of his pulling minis on a 10 inch plow in light soil. I have sticky clay. When I finally got my little plow, the ground was hard and dry. It took three minis on a 6 inch plow to do a poor job on old sod. I don’t blame anything. I had a new plowing team, a new plowing teamster and almost the worst plowing conditions. I hope to triumph at some point this year. I really want to plow with a pair on the walking plow without any assistance. The Amish boy helping me in the photo is the only one who didn’t smirk at me when I asked for help plowing. He actually started to grin when a few furrows turned out nice. I can’t wait to grin over a whole field.

My initial assessment of using minis is positive. The only job that takes significantly longer than what the Haflingers could do is the mowing. I doubt that I can improve that without a motorized sicklebar. However, since I only mow about six acres for three cuttings it is not a big deal. Tedding and raking are about the same as using bigger animals. Hand loading hay is always slow work, so I don’t even measure that. However, I really want that miniature hayloader to work so that picking up the hay can be speeded up. I do limited cultivation. That is mainly for entertainment. But, I have never fulfilled my longtime dream of learning to use a walking plow well, so I’ll keep trying.

I think that with a bit of ingenuity and time, more minis could be doing some sort of useful work on small acreages around the world. Lawn mowing is a good place to start. Then there are all kinds of ATV implements that could be adapted to minis. These days the opportunities are almost endless for the mini. So how about it? What can your minis do this year? Look what mine did!

Mini Horse Haying

A head-on view of the team.

Spotlight On: Livestock

Ask A Teamster Driving

Ask A Teamster: Driving

I have been questioned (even criticized) about my slow, gentle, repetitious approach “taking too much time” and all the little steps being unnecessary when one can simply “hitch ‘em tied back to a well-broke horse they can’t drag around, and just let ‘em figure it out on their own.” I try to give horses the same consideration I would like if someone was teaching me how to do something new and strange.

Mini Horse Haying

Mini Horse Haying

by:
from issue:

The first mini I bought was a three year old gelding named Casper. He taught me a lot about what a 38 inch mini could do just by driving me around the neighborhood. He didn’t cover the miles fast, but he did get me there! It wasn’t long before several more 38 inch tall minis found their way home. I presently have four minis that are relatively quiet, responsive to the bit, and can work without a lot of drama.

Shoeing Stocks

An article from the out-of-print Winter 1982 Issue of SFJ.

Ask A Teamster Tongue Length

Ask A Teamster: Tongue Length

My forecart pole is set up for draft horses. My husband thinks we should cut the pole off to permanently make it fit better to these smaller horses. What would be your opinion? Like your husband, my preference would be a shorter tongue for a small team like your Fjords. The dynamics and efficiency of draft are better if we have our horse(s) close to the load. A shorter tongue will also reduce the overall length of your outfit, thereby giving you better maneuverability and turning dynamics.

Work Bridle Styles

Work Bridle Styles

Here are fourteen work bridle styles taken from a 1920’s era harness catalog. Regional variants came with different names and configurations, so much so that we have elected to identify these images by letter instead of name so you may reference these pictures directly when ordering harness or talking about repairs or fit concerns with trainers or harness makers. In one region some were know as pigeon wing and others referred to them as batwing or mule bridles.

Horseshoeing Part 1C

Horseshoeing Part 1C

The horn capsule or hoof is nothing more than a very thick epidermis that protects the horse’s foot, just as a well fitting shoe protects the human foot. The hoof of a sound foot is so firmly united with the underlying pododerm that only an extraordinary force can separate them. The hoof is divided into three principal parts, which are solidly united in the healthy foot – namely, the wall, the sole, and the frog.

Hand Plucking Poultry

Hand Plucking Poultry

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from issue:

I confess that I am cold-hearted and cheap. Though I love raising poultry, I hate spending time and money anywhere but on my little farm. So I process at home. If you are only raising a few birds for yourself, say 25 or 30 at a time, I recommend having a party and doing it all by hand. My journey backward from machines to hands started with a chance encounter with a Kenyan chicken grower visiting the United States. He finishes 15,000 broilers each year.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 1

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 1

by:
from issue:

For the last ten years, I have made hay mostly with a single horse. This has not necessarily been out of choice, as at one time I had hoped to be farming on a larger scale with more horses. Anyway, it does little good to dwell on ‘what if ’. The reality is that I am able to make hay, and through making and modifying machinery, I probably have a better understanding of hay making and the mechanics of draught.

Horseshoeing Part 1A

Horseshoeing Part 1A

Horseshoeing, though apparently simple, involves many difficulties, owing to the fact that the hoof is not an unchanging body, but varies much with respect to form, growth, quality, and elasticity. Furthermore, there are such great differences in the character of ground-surfaces and in the nature of horses’ work that shoeing which is not performed with great ability and care induces disease and makes horses lame.

Irish Dexter Rose Veal

Irish Dexter Rose Veal

by: ,
from issue:

“Farm to Fork” food programs are a revival of the past. Big Horse Ranch & Little Cattle Company is now involved in developing “Old School” free raised Irish Dexter rose veal. We are trying to replicate ranching as it was 100 years ago. This is not a fast paced business venture; it does allow us to best use our ranch to provide old style food for those who are seeking food that has a history of quality.

Step Ahead Horse Progress Days 2016

Step Ahead: 23rd Annual Horse Progress Days 2016

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from issue:

I had only been to Horse Progress Days once before, at Mount Hope, Ohio in 2008. It had been an eye-opener, showing how strong and in touch with sustainable farming values the Amish are, and how innovative and sensible their efforts could be. So at the 23rd annual event in Howe, Indiana, I was there partly looking for signs of continuity, and partly for signs of change. Right off I spotted an Amish man with a Blue Tooth in his ear, talking as he walked along.

Camel Power in Georgia

Camel Power in Georgia

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Last spring we got the bright idea to plow some corn with one of the camels, so we went to the shed and drug out the “Planet Jr. one camel cultivating plow”. My 86 year old Grandfather said “Son, don’t worry about thinning that corn, those camels are going to do a fine job of it, for you!” We plowed corn and I have some video to prove it, and as soon as I quit running over the corn and learned how to “drive the plow” we didn’t lose any more corn!

On-Farm Meat Processing

The demand for fresh, local meat products – with no taint of industrial process – is absolutely staggering.

Cultivating Questions A Horsedrawn Guidance System

Cultivating Questions: A Horsedrawn Guidance System

Market gardening became so much more relaxing for us and the horses after developing a Horsedrawn Guidance System. Instead of constantly steering the horses while trying to lay out straight rows or cultivate the vegetables, we could put the team on autopilot and focus our whole attention on these precision tasks. The guidance system has been so effective that we have trusted visiting chefs to cultivate the lettuce we planned on harvesting for them a few weeks later.

Feeding Elk Winter Work for the Belgians

Feeding Elk: Winter Work for the Belgians

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Doug Strike of rural Sublette County is spending his second winter feeding wild elk in nearby Bondurant, Wyoming. Strike is supplementing his logging income as well as helping his team of Belgian draft horses to keep in shape for the coming season. From May to the end of November he uses his horses to skid logs out of the mountains of western Wyoming. I found the use of Doug’s beautiful Belgian team an exciting example of appropriate technology.

Livestock and Predators No Easy Answers

Livestock and Predators: No Easy Answers

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Since we’ve raised sheep commercially, we’ve been committed to trying to live with the predators in our environment. Over the years, we’ve lost just a handful of sheep — several to coyotes, at least one each to mountain lions and rattlesnakes, and four in one night to a neighbor’s dog. Mostly, though, our commitment to nonlethal predator protection tools has worked. A combination of electric fencing, livestock guardian dogs, sheep selection and grazing management has allowed us to co-exist with the predators in our environment.

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

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Our farm, here in the center of New York State, consists of 101 acres, about 90 in grass, the rest some woods and swamp. It is inhabited by forty-six jersey cows, twelve breeding ace heifers, one bull, and because it is calving season — an increasing number of calves. Also, four Belgian mares and a couple of buggy horses. Last, and possibly least — the farmer, farmer’s wife, and five grown children.

The Milk and Human Kindness Stanchion Floor

The Milk and Human Kindness: Making Friends with Your Wild Heifer

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So let’s just say this is your first experience with cows, you’ve gone to your local dairy farm, purchased a beautiful bred heifer who is very skittish, has never had a rope on her, or been handled or led, and you’re making arrangements to bring her home. It ought to be dawning on you at this point that you need to safely and securely convey this heifer to your farm and then you need to keep her confined until she begins to calm down enough that she knows she’s home, and she knows where she gets fed.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT