Teamster’s Roundtable 2001 Part 3
Teamster’s Roundtable 2001 Part 3
Teamsters: Bud Dimick – Charlie Jensen – Dr. Don Mustard – Bud Evers – Bulldog Fraser – Clay Maier – Dr. Doug Hammill – Ed Triplett
Moderator: Lynn Miller
February 3rd 2001, Sisters, Oregon
This is the final part of our transcription from the 2001 Teamster’s Roundtable. In case you do not know, we held a public panel discussion at our office in Sisters, inviting seven master teamsters and moderated by Doug Hammill and myself. Approximately sixty people showed up to listen, watch and ask questions. It was a lively and appreciated session. We tape recorded the event and transcribed the tapes, editing out the ribald humor and unrelated materials, to present the bulk here in the Journal. We maintained much of the awkward, conversational tone of the day. As our letters section of this issue will attest, this has been a very popular article series. We have had one knowledgeble, lifetime horsefarmer who wrote in to say that he didn’t like it. It was, in his words, a waste of space, difficult to read, and troubling. He did not want us to print his letter. And he didn’t want us to print any more of these segments. We trust he will forgive us because dozens of people are clamouring for the information and we are running more of them. Thanks for letting us know. LRM
LYNN MILLER: We’re right in the middle of the harness discussion. I’ve had a lot of students that couldn’t handle a set of (leather) harness like this when they had to throw it up on the horses. When they picked up the biothane and put it over the horses, it went clean over, it was so light.
CHARLIE JENSEN: I’ve used both kinds of harness and a lot of people let their brichen get too low, and that’s mean or cruel to a horse when you go to back up. You want to keep your brichen up there where his leg doesn’t interfere with the brichen.
LYNN MILLER: Bud Dimick, do you have any preferences about harness?
BUD DIMICK: Leather. When I hauled all those people over in the valley, I’d use rope tugs. They made their own tugs out of an inch rope. All the loggers and everybody used them over there when it was wet all the time and when they were working. Leather was never flat when they were out in the rain every day.
ED TRIPLETT: The Amish use chains don’t they?
LYNN MILLER: In Pennsylvania some of them use chain tugs. They’re using leather or nylon. Nylon is really kicking in in some circles in Ohio and Indiana. What about the care of the harness?
BULLDOG: Oil it up.
DOC MUSTARD: I’ve got harness that’s older than I am. That’s pretty old. I like leather harness but you got to take care of it. Like he said you oil it, clean it and oil it.
DOUG HAMMILL: All of my harness except some odd replacement parts I’ve put back on is 75-100 years old. Dirt will ruin it quicker than anything. Dirt’s just like sandpaper when it gets in the stitches.
LYNN MILLER: In answer to his question though, it is true, there’s no reason you couldn’t have chain or rope tugs. It’s just a matter of preference.
BULLDOG: I would think that a rope tug would be hard to adjust.
DOC MUSTARD: There’s always some give in it.
BULLDOG: Yes, it couldn’t be even.
BUD DIMICK: One you got a shorter length than on the other. One of them will stretch and then when you get up in the morning, they’ll be so tight you can hardly get them hooked. By the time you work a little bit and they stretch out where they’re supposed to be, they’ll probably be too long.
DOUG HAMMILL: It’s just like tightening your cinch.
BUD DIMICK: Out working in the woods and hauling lumber and tying stuff in that mud all day long, why those leather tugs just wouldn’t last. That’s all, they’d just rot away.
DOC MUSTARD: You didn’t ask me which I liked, this type of brichen or the Yankee brichen.
LYNN MILLER: Oh, I’m sorry, which kind do you like Doc?
DOC MUSTARD: You ignored me. Well, I don’t know because I’ve never used the Yankee brichen.
LYNN MILLER: Well, that’s why I didn’t ask you.
DOC MUSTARD: But, I’ll tell you this, with the brichen behind the horse, if you get it too low, it’s going to interfere with his hind legs when he’s backing up. You’ve got to keep it up right below the cim bones. Like with a young horse, if you don’t let them get used to that, the first time you go down a hill and that brichen hits him, he’s going to want to take off. So what I do when they’re harnessed up and they’re standing out there, I’ll pull on the pole strap so that its pulling the brichen up against the leg and pull on it and pull on it and pretty soon, no big deal, and they stand there. I’ve got a small hill I can take them down and I hitch them to an empty manure spreader or wagon or something that’s not too heavy and we come down and the brichen hits them and I deliberately will stop them, then let them go down a ways and stop them again so that the brichen hits them again. But by the time you pull on the pole strap a dozen times over two or three or four days, they don’t pay any attention to it and they’ll hold.
BULLDOG: You can have a downhill runaway with a Yankee brichen outfit when the crupper comes tight too.
DOC MUSTARD: Yes, they don’t like the crupper under their tail.
BULLDOG: You bet, they pick up more speed than you need.
DOUG HAMMILL: I’ve never used Yankee brichen either but one thing that Ed’s brother, Tom, pointed out to me is that when you talk about having this brichen too low and that can be a problem but it’s hard to, I haven’t been able to find a harness shop that will build the old rolled brichen that has a rolled edge around it. You just have this single strap here and even if they round those edges they can wear on a horse and if you drop the rear hitch strap down a little longer and the front one a little shorter it’ll keep this brichen a little bit like that to fit nice and flat along the curve of the horse’s rump. If you keep it up like level, which might look nice, the top edge will cut in and shave the hair off.
LYNN MILLER: Clay, you want to say something about that?
CLAY MAIER: Yes, a lot of times the old stage coaches would use Yankee brichen because their horses were moving at a little faster gait. They’re legs are stretching out and moving a little more. It was less confining around them and it would be a lot like what Doc’s talking about right there.
BUD DIMICK: A lot lighter too.
BULLDOG: Yeah, they have brakes too.
LYNN MILLER: That harness is pretty specialized too. It’s a two piece tug isn’t it, as a rule?
CLAY MAIER: Yes, a lot of stagecoach harness had a special kind of a buckle to where the tug came off the hame and the trace that buckled into the tug had a special buckle that they used and then on the end it had something called the Lincoln key. These were done so that they could do quick changes. They had a link with a T on the end of it and then the doubletrees would have just a ring there and they would just stick that T through there and hook it.
DOUG HAMMILL: Like hooking your bib overalls.
CLAY MAIER: Yes, I guess. But stagecoach is a different breed of cat.
BULLDOG: They didn’t have neckyokes on them did they, they just used chains?
CLAY MAIER: Yes, they didn’t have neckyokes and a lot of times they just used chains or they just used a leather strap. It’d be about the size of a thick trace.
BULLDOG: Yeah, I don’t know what kept that thing from beating them to death.
LYNN MILLER: Do you have a preference, Ed, on harness?
ED TRIPLETT: I like leather.
DOUG HAMMILL: Tell them your story Ed, about the breast strap harness.
ED TRIPLETT: In Kalispell they had this big parade. Somebody had this big carriage that they were going to (use to) haul these important people that started all this, and I was going to haul it with my team. My friend had a pair of breast strap harness, and he said to use them. I didn’t want to, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings so I said I’ll take them. We went down and hooked up ahead of time and was trying it out and we get out on the race track, it was all plowed up. And it was pulling hard and this mare of mine just started shaking her head. I stopped and I told my brother, Tom, to go to my place and grab my harness and open bridles and bring them back. And so he did and these two old teamsters were laughing about my team not pulling that. They heard me talking to Tom but they didn’t hear me say something about my harness had collars. And so anyway he brought my harness and we put them on with the open bridles and they pulled that thing all over the place. And those two old guys were telling people, man they said I couldn’t believe that putting on open bridles would make those horses pull like that. It wasn’t the open bridles at all, it was my collars. That breast strap had too much weight (against it) and was just cutting right in on them and they couldn’t do it.
LYNN MILLER: Bud Evers, being our resident leather expert, all I’ve ever monkeyed with for 30 years is soap and water, washing the harness off and then I take a paint brush and Neat’s Foot oil compound and brush it on. But some people will literally go to the trouble of dunking the harness in warm oil. As our leather expert, what’s your recommendation?
BUD EVERS: Well, I’ve seen it done that way too. If harness is extremely dry, you can dunk it like that and then hang it and the excess oil will gradually seep into the leather. But if your harness is in decent shape, the best way to do it is just to scrub it off with a glycerin soap and then put it on with either a sponge or sheep wool pad or paint brush or however to put the oil back on.
LYNN MILLER: I don’t like to put a heavy coat of oil or even actually any oil on my lines. I use something that’s called Ko-Cho-Line. It’s like a red shoe grease. It comes in a can. You wipe that on and it brings the leather alive but it isn’t slippery and it doesn’t come off in my hands.
BULLDOG: What’s that leather honey? Have you ever used any of that?
LYNN MILLER: I’ve heard of it but I haven’t used it. Do you guys treat your lines differently than the rest of the harness or not.
DOUG HAMMILL: I don’t touch the face of the collars with any oil. If they’re going to be stored for a long time, I might do just a real light, little bit on a rag, but I don’t ever put oil on the collars I’m using. On my lines, every once in a while, a little bit of oil on a rag, and I’ll hit them maybe in the Fall when I won’t be using them for awhile.
BUD EVERS: Liquid glycerin is alright but some of that stuff like Lexol and that type of stuff is just a mixture of stuff and it rots the threads in your leather.
BULLDOG: Bear grease is good too. That keeps the squirrels from eating on it, pack rats too. (laughter)
AUDIENCE: What’s the difference in using pure Neat’s Foot oil versus Neat’s Foot oil compound?
BUD EVERS: Pure Neat’s Foot oil actually comes as a by-product from tanning. They say it’s the best that you can put back into the leather. The Neat’s Food compound is about half Neat’s Foot oil and other additives mixed in.
BUD DIMICK: I’ve always just used Neat’s foot oil. It doesn’t have any color in it.
CLAY MAIER: But you want to make sure you don’t do too much.
BUD EVERS: Oh, yes, you can get your leather mushy. Do it once, maybe twice a year.
LYNN MILLER: Some of you are looking at harness to buy, it may look fine but there are parts of that harness that you ought to be paying attention to, serious attention. The straps that you buckle on, sometimes they’ve been together for so long that they look good but you take them apart and you look at them closer, they have cracked. People have watched me do this before. I’ve done it with a lot of stuff that’s gone through our auctions, they get nervous about it, but there’s a lot at stake getting involved with horses especially with used harness. If you take a strap and you twist it, I don’t care if it’s new or old, you twist it real hard and pull on it. There’s many a time I’ve seen an old strap that looked perfectly sound but wouldn’t hold up to that simple test.
BUD EVERS: Any place you’ve got leather rubbing against the metal, you get a lot of wear. Those are spots you’ve got to watch on bridles, on hame straps, things like that will wear quite a bit. You get dust and dirt in there and it just grinds away at it.
CHARLIE JENSEN: Another thing, if you’re working your horses a lot and they sweat, the sweat will work into the leather.
DOUG HAMMILL: I like good hame straps. I’ve got old harness and new heavy-duty hame straps. It’s something I buy new and I buy good quality ones.
LYNN MILLER: Sometimes in an auction situation, I’ve seen this back east quite frequently, where a lot of old harness and old gear is being recycled. These guys will get old harness out of a barn that hasn’t been used in years and years and years. They are in a hurry to get it to the auction. You can literally smell it, all they have done is dipped that harness in used motor oil. It will feel soft and pliable. It’ll smell like old motor oil. It’ll weaken the leather so that it will come apart.
BULLDOG: Bear grease keeps the pack rats off. (laughter)
AUDIENCE: That’s a little hard to find.
DOUG HAMMILL: It attracts the bears though.
LYNN MILLER: Before when we were talking about the four-up and the four-abreast and all that, we got to talking about what makes a good leader. As far as I’m concerned, those characteristics which make a good leader also makes the kind of horses I’d like to have, period. After thirty years, I really appreciate a pair of horse that will walk out at a brisk walk. They will just move all day long at a nice, fluid wide open walk and they are natural born leaders. As opposed to a horse like Molly that I’ve got that you’ve got to keep talking to her to get her to move. So when you start talking about lead horses, they’re the kind of horses I’d like to have all the way around in my hitch. This question is, if you were looking over a group of horses to select the best driving candidates, what would you be looking for? Somebody brings in ten horses and you guys are going to look at them, is there something that you would see there without seeing them actually work that would tell you they might be good ones?
CLAY MAIER: The purpose you’re going to use them for is the first thing you’ve got to think about.
DOUG HAMMILL: The eye. I look at the eyes first. The eye to me is the extension of the brain. The eye comes right off the brain and a big, soft, intelligent eye usually gives you a horse that has some sense.
LYNN MILLER: If you had 20 head of horses standing loose here in a pen and it was obvious that two of them were the top of the pecking order because they are pushing everybody out of the way, how would you judge them as driving candidates?
DOC MUSTARD: They’d be your leaders.
BULLDOG: No, you want them on the wheel, they’d keep the leaders going. (laughter)
DOC MUSTARD: Oh!
LYNN MILLER: Bud Dimick, would you pick them any particular way? If you just saw a bunch of horses, would you be able to pick and choose or would you have to see them in harness?
BUD DIMICK: I’d have to work them first. I’d have to drive them.
DOUG HAMMILL: One time I had a horse in there at the clinic and I asked Addy Funk to come out and take a look at it and I said, Addy, what do you think of this horse? And he looked it all over and I’m not sure but I think I had to ask him a second time what he thought about it. And all he said was, you can’t tell by looking at a frog how far he can jump.
I’m curious if anyone on the panel has ever tried to associate the thickness of the skin on a horse with how active or forward or high strung they are, or relaxed and calm. In veterinarian practice I had lots of opportunities to compare skin thickness with the temperament and attitude and characteristics of the horse. And I swear that you can predict that. I don’t know how many thousands of horses I’ve checked that on and then of course I had to work on them as a vet or in other ways too, but if you want a leader, I’d say get a horse with thin skin. If you want a real easy-going, slow, no hassle horse, get a real thick skinned horse.
LYNN MILLER: I’ve got a question here, “What’s safer, working a stallion with a mare or working a stallion with a gelding?” Maybe we should head that up by saying, would you choose to work a stallion.
DOUG HAMMILL: Sure.
DOC MUSTARD: Absolutely. You know, I’ve thought for years, people will have a stallion and they keep him in a pen and the only time they bring him out is to breed a mare. Pretty soon he thinks the only time he comes out he’s going to get to breed a mare and they’re crazy. But you put a harness on that horse and you hitch him up and I’ve worked him with his daughters, with his mother, with his sisters.
LYNN MILLER: But always with females?
DOC MUSTARD: Yes, always with females because he’ll eat a gelding or try to.
BULLDOG: Not all of them.
DOC MUSTARD: Not all of them will but Shadow will. He’d go out of his way to bite a gelding. But not a mare. In fact, I was planting potatoes with him and a daughter one day and I got out there, I didn’t know she was in heat. He never missed a step, he’d keep right on going and she’d get real loving and lean over against him and we’d get a wow in the row and I’d get her straightened up, we’d go a ways and she’d lean on him. That was one heck of a row to try to cultivate.
LYNN MILLER: Bud Dimick, would you work a stallion?
BUD DIMICK: I have, they’re all right. Geldings are better.
AUDIENCE: Would you work two stallions together?
DOC MUSTARD: I wouldn’t, but there’s a vet up on one of the islands up there and he works two Shire studs together. But they were raised together and they had their pecking order decided long before they were in harness.
LYNN MILLER: I don’t know if this still exists, but in Germany they had a six-up of Westfalian horses that look like Belgians, that were a beer hitch. It was famous because it was always a complete hitch of stallions.
DOUG HAMMILL: They ran them with muzzles on though.
LYNN MILLER: Yes, they ran them with muzzles, that’s right.
BULLDOG: My neighbor has three Percheron studs and he worked them. That’s the only horses he had. He plowed with them all the time, worked with them all the time.
DOC MUSTARD: I’ve used mine. I’ve used him for weddings. I’ve used him for parades. I’ve pulled a hearse. And anything I ask him to do he does and he just goes along, but if I had a gelding with him, he’d try to eat him.
ED TRIPLETT: I’ve got a story about my dad. We had some neighbors that had a big Percheron stallion and they used him for breeding purposes only. He wasn’t broke to work or anything. They had two boys, one was 18 and the other was 20 and he scared them to death. The stallion scared them to death. They were afraid that he would kill them if they kept him any longer. So my dad had this real nice gelding and he made them a trade. He traded them the gelding for this Percheron stallion. We lived 8 miles west of town and they lived about half way to Whitefish so dad drove the team over but he waited until the mother of this gelding came in heat. That night he turned her loose in the corral with the stallion and went to bed. The next morning he got up, he harnessed them up and our neighbors begged him not to do this, they said he’ll kill ya. But he got home just fine, got the horses put away and started supper. The neighbors pulled up in the car because they couldn’t go to sleep, they figured my dad couldn’t make it. But he got home and had the most part of breaking him all done.
LYNN MILLER: Charlie, I know you’ll recall this. Our old buddy Ray Drongesen, he heard tell about a Percheron stallion and the man who owns him couldn’t handle him. He was afraid of this stallion. This big, black Percheron stallion just had him completely bamboozled. Ray went over and bought this horse and the first time he went out there the guy warned him, and Ray just walked right up to the horse, right smack up to the horse. Talked to him, looked at him, did everything, went over and made the deal and bought the horse. That stallion, Don, Ray worked him with a mare and a gelding. Every which way. He’d move him around from side to side to side to side. And Ray taught me a trick that I’ve never forgotten. The way he won that horse over was he walked in that pen, just walked right up to that stallion, right up to his face. Instantly and without hesitation. The stallion wouldn’t back up. He just stood there as if in a daze. The reason was because where Ray stood in front of him, the horse was seeing double. And Ray looked bigger than he was. Ray just walked up and looked him right in the eye and the horse was just standing there. After that Don would do anything for him, he’d follow him around like a puppy dog. But it was for Ray, I’m sure it would have taken nothing at all to have the stallion revert to previous behavior especially for the previous owner.
Ray made a point often to me about his stallion, Don. He said he wouldn’t even want to have him around, it would be just too much to deal with him if he wasn’t working him. And if he ever had a chance, if he had to pick and choose which animal to take out, he’d take that stallion just to keep him working all the time. Took him in public, took him everywhere. And he mixed him up so that occasionally he’d be working aside the mare, occasionally he’d be working aside the gelding. Split them up and work the gelding and the stallion.
CHARLIE JENSEN: He’d work the stallion, the gelding, then the mare when he plowed. He always put the stallion right in the furrow.
LYNN MILLER: Yes, and never had any problem but part of that was Ray’s expectation. Talking about stallions, we got a question on things to consider when selecting a stallion for breeding purposes, conformation questions. Anybody want to throw anything in there? Clay, have you ever had occasion to try to think about keeping a horse for stallion.
CLAY MAIER: No, I couldn’t say much about choosing a stallion for breeding purposes. That’s a pretty controversial topic. Everyone has their own idea of what they look for in a stallion. I was going to say about driving stallions that when I first went to work for Frank Liendecker, who raised Freisian horses, he had five mares and one stallion and he kept them all in the same pasture. When the mares were in heat, the stallion bred them. When they weren’t, he drove them. They were all tied to the same fence and he’d drive them with a mare and stallion together and actually the mare kind of humbled the stallion a little, put him in line, kept him in line where the gelding seemed to pick on him. As far as deciding what I’d look for in a stallion for breeding purposes, it all depends on what you’re looking for, what you’re going to do with them.
LYNN MILLER: Doc Mustard, what would you look for in a stallion if you were keeping one for breeding purposes?
DOC MUSTARD: I kind of agree with Doug, first thing I’d look at is their eye because eyes are the window of the soul. I don’t care how good a conformation they have, if they don’t have the disposition to go with it, forget it. You got to live with them. If you’re thinking of getting a stud, you’ve got to live with him. He’s got to live with you. If he’s got a miserable, nasty disposition you don’t want him on the place because chances are his colts will be just as nasty as he is. The main thing though if you’re going to have a stallion, get one with conformation, with no defects. Go over him and over him and over him and check him out because there again, they have hereditary defects. If you’ve got a bow legged horse, he’s liable to have bow legged colts. If he’s got cow hocks, he’s liable to have cow hocked colts.
LYNN MILLER: But by the same token that’s not always necessarily true. One of the most famous and certainly one of the most valuable stallions that ever lived in the Belgian breed was Farceur and he was a big, ugly cripple.
DOUG HAMMILL: But it wasn’t genetic.
DOC MUSTARD: Well, he was a cripple, but crippling is not genetic. Just because he’s got a broken leg doesn’t mean his colts are going to have broken legs.
Talking about studs I’ve got to tell you a story. These two guys died and went to heaven. They came up to the pearly gates and Saint Peter looked at them and said, what are you guys doing here? You’re not due in here for two weeks yet. The guys said, well we died, we’re here. You got to take us in. Saint Peter said, well we’re not ready for you yet, we don’t have accommodations. But I’ll tell you what, you can go back for two weeks as anything you want to be. One fellow says, I always wanted to be a quarterback for the Detroit Lions. He’s gone. The other guy looked at Saint Peter and says, I always wanted to be a stud. He’s gone. So the two weeks went by and the Lord asked Saint Peter where these two fellows were. Saint Peter says, well the one is a quarterback for the Detroit Lions, he won’t be any problem. But the other guy is going to be a bit of a problem. He’s somewhere in Montana on a snow tire.
AUDIENCE: I was wondering if these guys could enlighten me as to what they call a nice, wide flat face on the shoulder. Most of the horses are narrower now.
LYNN MILLER: He’s asking a question relative to conformation about a nice flat shoulder on a horse and whether or not the animals have been bred away from that, on the workhorse. Charlie, have you noticed a change in the way these horses are bred?
CHARLIE JENSEN: Yes, I’ve got one mare that’s really broad shouldered and nice and then I have a mare and a gelding that are not. And then that last mare I got she’s got a nice rear end but a heck of a front end. She’s narrow legged in the front end. I don’t know why they come that way but they do.
LYNN MILLER: Some say it’s a casualty of breeding for the maximum height in these horses for show purposes.
DOUG HAMMILL: I think there’s something to that.
BULLDOG: I think that’s right. I think they got to breeding them to show and not to work.
DOC MUSTARD: They’re not workhorses.
DOUG HAMMILL: Back in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, I noticed that when I would look through magazines and see pictures of horses, I’d see pictures of horses that were winning in the show ring or bringing big prices in the sales, there would be pictures of those horses. I didn’t know why but I didn’t like the looks of those horses nearly as well as I liked the old draft horse pictures from the turn of the century and so forth. So I made a study of that and I tried to figure out, you know, having some training in conformation as a veterinarian, I tried to figure out what is it, what’s the difference? Why is it? And what it boiled down to was shoulders to a large degree and the conformation of the rear end. One little trick that I got to doing was to check out the balance; these horses seemed light in the rear end to me. That was one of the first things I determined was that the modern horses at that time seemed like they were light in the rear end. I got in the habit of checking balance in the horse between the rear end and the front end by covering up half the horse by taking either my hand or a tablet or book and I’d cover up the back end of the horse and I’d look at the front end and I’d imagine what kind of a rear end that horse should have in my mind’s eye. Then I’d switch to see if that front end matched the rear end, the balance. And time after time (with) the modern horses, I would end up with a situation where I looked at the front end and I moved it to the back and the back end was too light. One of the reasons that I later determined for that was the angles in the back end, the hip angle, the angle that the femur makes coming off the hip, and on down the leg have been straightened up to give height. You got a taller horse by straightening angles, not by breeding good conformation taller. Muscle strength, power and muscles, is directly proportional to the cross section there in the muscles. The length doesn’t relate to power. The muscles on this horse go from the hips down to the gaskin area so this is the depth, this is the muscle thickness that is possible on a skeleton like that. You get a little bit of a bulge out here, but that straightens out. This is the muscle depth that’s possible in a leg with good angles. A lot more potential power in those legs. You go down, you go to the big sales or you go down to the show barns nowadays and you see an awful lot of post legged, hind legged horses.
AUDIENCE: What bad or problems come out of horses that are cow hocked?
DOC MUSTARD: Well, I saw one that was so bad, they crossed. A lot of Clydesdale breeders want a cow hocked horse because they say when they get to pushing, they straighten up. But the power is a straight line to me, maybe I’m wrong. But it looks like when they’re pushing, it’s going to go like that and sooner or later you’re going to have joint problems.
AUDIENCE: There’s going to be a weak spot there.
DOC MUSTARD: You bet. I want them straight. You can come look at my horses and they’re like this. They can pull like old Bob who was raising the wagon bed with hay on it and the guy falling off and screaming, stop, stop, stop. But I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong. But I don’t want a cow hocked horse just for the simple reason, straight line – that’s where your power’s going to be.
DOUG HAMMILL: You build a straight house, you don’t want it crooked.
ED TRIPLETT: Aren’t they breeding them like that for show horses more than anything else?
DOC MUSTARD: Well, they’re not culling them. Let’s put it that way. There’s a lot of studs in the business that would make better geldings because I don’t like them. I’ve looked all over for a replacement for my stud and I’ll tell you what, there’s a lot of cull studs out there that are standing at stud, that I wouldn’t have, because they want height. It’s like Doug says, they’re just not built right for working and I’ve got mine to work.
BULLDOG: Now for showing, they put them Scotch shoes on there.
DOC MUSTARD: Yes, and that throws them off too.
DOUG HAMMILL: There’s also a difference between cow hocked and close behind. This is a cow hocked horse. You come down to the hocks and the fetlocks, pasterns and feet are further apart than they are at the hocks. You can have a horse that sets out wide apart but has a straight line between a pin bone, all the way down the leg bones on both sides. That horse is plumb, that’s okay. You can have a horse that’s set close behind here, that’s the same distance between the hocks as they are fetlocks but they’re standing real close together. This is parallel in here. I think that’s alright. Parallel here, always wider like a big broad quarterhorse or draft horse because they have a lot of muscle. If they bear out like this then there’s a weakness there. But I also tried to study this question because I heard about on a saddle horse with the weight above them, when they are propelling themselves, they don’t apply the pressures to the column of bone down the back legs that a draft horse on a heavy pull does. And people said well, cow hocks you don’t even want to consider but close behind, a lot of draft horse people particularly in times past like their draft horses close behind but not cow hocked. The theory there was that even though they stand like this at rest, under a heavy load the column of bone is straight. I tried to evaluate this by putting a team on my road grader and then using the blade in the dirt to put a lot of load on to get them to really pull hard. I put somebody on the front seat and I drove from behind so that they could take pictures of the horse’s hind legs. When they were standing there without load, they were close behind but not cow hocked; the particular horses I used. When we were under load and they spread their legs apart to pull hard, they were still parallel and under a heavy load they were not close behind, they were completely straight all the way down, they had a good straight column of bone.
I’d like to go to the front end with this same thing. The same thing happens in the front end, it’s pretty hard to get a tall horse by straightening out the bone, the angle between the bones in the rear leg without doing the same thing with the front legs. We’ve got our shoulder blades sitting in here and the shoulders give us our line of draft. All of these angles up and down the horse’s leg give us our shock absorbing ability. You get on this table and jump off straight legged then get up and jump off in a crouched position and see what the difference is landing.
We’ve got shoulder angle here, all those good old-time horses that I saw in the Small Farmer’s Journal in the old-time pictures, they had shoulders that were laid back just beautiful, laid back shoulders. And then the more modern horses, they had straightened them out. I like a 90 degree angle between the shoulder angle and the humerus or the upper arm bone, 90 degrees. Then I like it to come straight down plumb, both from the front and from the side on the horse. Here again, you’ve a got a much more powerful shoulder and you’ve got this area in here for muscle thickness. You straighten those angles out, get a front leg like that and you’ve got very little depth here. You’ve got a stiff spring under that horse. You’re going to get more concussion. You’re going to get more lameness and break down problems.
LYNN MILLER: There’s a scientist in Canada who has been studying for 30 years, using photographs of horses jumping and pulling and running and walking, the relationship with these angles and the bones and the balance and all that to motion. One of the things that he picked up on with draft horses is that there is a direct relationship between the shoulder angle, if that angle matches the pastern angle. The relative efficiency of that horse to displace a load is directly proportionate to these two angles matching. If the shoulder angle is steeper, then it’s harder for that horse to pull. If the shoulder angle is laid back further, it’s harder for that horse to pull. It also affects their action, the relative way they carry themselves.
DOUG HAMMILL: Lynn, have you seen a book called The Exterior of the Horse? It is an old, old book but it is an ultra scientific analysis of all these types of things to the point where I’ve had to read a sentence three and four times sometimes to really figure out what he was saying. And I might add to what Lynn said there, that it’s not difficult by trimming a horse’s foot to get those angles to match, but you can do a lot of damage by trying to get the pastern and shoulder angles to match if the conformation isn’t there by cutting off the heels and doing things that you shouldn’t be doing. What they considered a straight shoulder in those days, may be much different than what we consider a straight shoulder today. Because a lot of those good old draft horses had shoulders laid back.
One other consideration that I’d like to touch on quickly on shoulders is what I call the collar bed or this part of the shoulder here that I would be putting my hands on. Some horses, you look at them from the front, and their shoulders slope like this. And others have a very flat, broad collar bed on both sides of their shoulders. If you just stop and think about square inches for the force to be transferred to. You’ve got fewer square inches there, not that these tables have changed size but the force is being directed on this plane here. You’ve got fewer square inches to distribute the force over on a horse with a shallow collar bone than you do with one with a broad collar bone. That can make a tremendous difference on not only how long their shoulders are going to last if they’re working hard, but on their ability to actually pull loads their weight.
LYNN MILLER: We have some other questions here. I’m going to change direction a little bit because I want to make sure and get a chance to touch on some of these very specific questions that folks have sent us.
This question says, “I have a team of mules. They drive really good and work in the field but don’t like to stand to rest. They like to keep moving. I’ve checked the harness to make sure it fits properly and nothing is too tight. They like to work.” I think the question he’s got is, is there anything he can do to get them to stand?
BULLDOG: They’re not ready to rest. (laughter)
CHARLIE JENSEN: Work them a little harder.
BULLDOG: Put more hours on them.
DOUG HAMMILL: I’d want to know why they are not standing. Is it impatience? Do they ever stand quiet? Nervousness?
AUDIENCE: Yes, they do stand when you tie them. Out in the field they get antsy.
DOUG HAMMILL: I think it’s something that they can be, unless they’re animals that are nervous about their job, it doesn’t sound the case with yours, they’ve probably been allowed to go whenever they’ve wanted to. Instead of the stop being enforced and maintained until the driver was ready. That’s a possibility anyway.
LYNN MILLER: I bought a pair of horses through the auction because it just seemed like a shame not to. They were just antsy, extremely well broke, broke to drive, but they didn’t want to stand. I took them out on a stoneboat one day, just picking up rocks with some people. So I’d go ten feet and stop. We’d load something in the back and then I’d go ten feet and stop, go five feet and stop. And I did that, not as a training exercise, but I just did that for like three or four hours and it made a huge difference because they got into a rhythm that they were going to go a little ways and stop. They didn’t know how long we’d be stopped there. And it changed their whole attitude about what they were doing. Doug Hammill did a long, excellent column in SFJ on getting horses to walk. We were talking a little bit about this on the phone, I think. I had a team that wouldn’t walk, whenever they thought they were coming back to the barn, they’d get antsy. If I had to stop for something, they were fine when they were working, but going back to the barn, if I had to stop, they didn’t want to stand there. What I would do is find another routine, that was a repetitious routine that I had to get done. If I took them to the barn I’d unhook them from what it was and they thought they were done for noon break or whatever but no. I’d hook them again to something else, like maybe a manure spreader, take out a load, come back fill it up, take out a load, come back fill it up, unhook from that, go to a sled, keep breaking up the routine because a lot of these things that we think are problems are basically them anticipating a repetition. They get used to doing something or having something happen and they’re ready for it.
DOUG HAMMILL: Yes, and miles of work will help. It may not solve the problem, but it will help.
BULLDOG: I had a set of greys come in and they would not stand. In fact, when the lady bought them, the people wouldn’t even stop them so she could look at them but she bought them anyway. I took them home and I put them on a mowing machine, and had that lady mowing with me. Well, when we stopped to blow the horses after two or three rounds, I wouldn’t stop, I’d keep going. About the fourth or fifth time I did that, they decided they’d better have some rest. I could stop and the other horses would go on and it wouldn’t bother them at all. I got so I wouldn’t let them stop when they wanted to stop. They stopped when I wanted to stop. Again, I’m trying to get into their head, working with the brain, and one was quicker than the other. The slow one of course, he was the lazy one but he’d always mess around. You’d like to work the other one to death before I got him so he’d stand. I wouldn’t let them stop unless I wanted to stop. And if they wanted to play around, we kept right on going. When they wanted to stop, I’d peck ‘em on the butt and keep ‘em going. Pretty soon, they decided they’d better save that energy because they needed it before the day was out.
DOUG HAMMILL: Never let them start, unless you start them.
BULLDOG: Right. I always teach mine, when they stand there, when I’m teaching them to drive what I call pick their heads up, just tighten the reins enough to know and speak. You can speak to them before and they won’t start except the ones that are logging because I holler at them. The ones out in the field and people driving, they won’t start until I pick their heads up and speak to them. I don’t let people flick the reins at them to start them. I got horses so that I can flip reins in any directions and they don’t bother them you know, if they’re hung up on the harness or something, it doesn’t bother them, they won’t even move. You pick their heads up so you can feel them on the bit, speak to them, go.
DOUG HAMMILL: I call it the wake up call, adjust the lines and I want to see both heads move a little bit. If one of them is asleep and the other one moves his head in response to the wake up call, they’re not ready. When I see both heads move a little bit, then go. The other thing I use in situations like that sometimes is visual obstacles. I will choose my stops. I will pull them up to to a hitch rail, a bunch of trees, a bottomless cliff, something that you know they aren’t going to go ahead and go through. And then when I get ready to start, either back away if I have to or just swing and go. And then they’ll be less apt to go. You show a horse a big, wide open space and he wants to go. You show him a visual enclosure or obstacle and they are more willing to stay put.
ED TRIPLETT: This old guy was coming to town, he drove in and one horse was way ahead of the other. This old boy was setting out there and he said, hey mister, that one horse sure is a lot faster than the other. I don’t know how you got here. He said we left home two hours ago and we got here together at the same time.
BULLDOG: When we’re working horses, we harness up down in the yard there at my partner’s place and I’ve got an old beater pickup. I lead the horses up the hill about half a mile towards the field. They got so that whenever we got to the pickup when we were out in the field, they were ready to come home and get their grain. Well, it got so every time we were headed toward the pickup they’d start jigging and all this stuff. I was raking one day out there and had a couple young ones on. They just jigged, jigged, jigged. They would not settle down and walk. So I just went to the pickup, unhooked them from the rake, tied them on to the pickup. I went up around the field about four miles before I come back. I hooked them back on to the rake, boy they just set down and got that field all raked after dark. But they quit jigging when they saw that pickup. It didn’t mean we were going home to eat.
DOUG HAMMILL: Wasn’t near as attractive.
BULLDOG: That pickup didn’t always mean goodies. That’s one of the things when you’re working with grain and things, they get so they want that grain pretty bad. Sometime you got to do something about that too because they’ll want to head for the grain box.
LYNN MILLER: We had another question, “How old should horses be before you start working them, I mean not just driving them, working them. How old before you really put them to work?”
BULLDOG: Well, draft horse bone is soft until they’re about four years old.
DOC MUSTARD: Yes.
BULLDOG: So actually I don’t like to work them hard until they get up to about four. I’ll rake hay with them, light work like that is fine, but when I put them on a load, I like them up to about four years old.
DOUG HAMMILL: The bones in the spine are the last ones to finish growing and fuse. The spine on a light horse, saddle horse, average 36 months, the bones are all done growing and the growth plates have fused and strengthened. But on draft horses, it’s longer. Some breeds longer than others.
AUDIENCE: Mules are longer.
DOUG HAMMILL: Mules are longer and Clydes are longer. A lot of times a Clyde isn’t mature until he’s seven or eight. It doesn’t mean his bones haven’t quit growing but they haven’t sprung their ribs and got the width between their front legs and some things of that nature.
BULLDOG: I’ve seen guys pull horses when they are two and three years old and also they’ll start driving them in these hitches and running them up and down the road, I don’t like that either. Beating on that hard surface, that’s got to be hard on the bones.
LYNN MILLER: We have a pair of fillies we got in Indiana, brought them home as weanlings. And I think they were a year and a half when we first put them on a side delivery rake. Just do a little like work with them.
DOC MUSTARD: You have Belgians and they do mature faster than other breeds.
LYNN MILLER: I have a Belgian mare I bought as a six year old and she grew four and a half inches by the time she was seven. She grew another two inches after that.
BULLDOG: They probably hadn’t fed her until you got her. (laughter)
LYNN MILLER: Speaking about working these young horses, and I certainly concur that you be really careful about what kind of work you put them to, the younger you get them going the better as far as I’m concerned. Just for their attitude toward the work. The ones that we’ve started early on, we’ve put makeshift little ragtag used harnesses on two month old foals and just let them walk around with them in the barn, played with them and actually got them driving and playing with them as babies and by the time you get up to where you really have something to do with them. At about a year and half, two years old, you’re thinking, yeah, I’m going to go do something with them. You do need to be careful because they are still growing. Now we got a question here about shoeing horses for work. I work mine barefoot. Unless they have to go out on the pavement or gravel, unless they have a problem and need some correction, I prefer to go barefoot.
BULLDOG: I don’t shoe at all for working or even logging. I’ve had some pretty good pulling horses in my day and I haven’t even shoed them for pulling. They get so they learn to run barefooted, they start slipping and they’ll adjust to that and they’ll keep on pulling instead of falling down. You got those horse shoes on them for pulling and once they go out, they’re done, they’re down. But if they are slipping barefooted they’ll keep right on inching on with their pull. Same way I’ve had with logging, and I’ve moved a lot of wood with them. I’ve never shod a horse for working. Just keep them trimmed up. If you got to shoe ‘em, shoe ‘em right. Set them on their feet, keep the foot down.
DOC MUSTARD: Shoe them like a saddle horse.
DOUG HAMMILL: Horses that I’ve purchased, Clydes that I’ve purchased that have been shod or allowed to flare out like they like them for the show ring, I’ve never been able to get a good foot back on them.
DOC MUSTARD: It’s hard.
DOUG HAMMILL: All the horses I’ve raised or that hadn’t been allowed to spread have had good feet. And so I think you’re doing a tremendous disservice because it’s like you build up scar tissue between the soft, the sensitive and the insensitive lamina and that scar tissue is always going to be there. Because they just pry the hoof wall away from the tissue.
BULLDOG: Personally I think they ought to outlaw shoeing.
DOC MUSTARD: Absolutely.
LYNN MILLER: I need to offer something in defense of the Scotch shoeing. The shoeing we’re talking about is not a real Scotch bottom shoe as Edward Martin, the master Scotch farrier, pointed out to me. A true Scotch bottom shoe doesn’t, by definition, spread the foot or the heels. It extends the width. In a pure sense, a Scotch bottom shoe is made in a shape to continue the natural angle of the hoof wall and make a broader base.
BULLDOG: Can you tell why they did that? Scotch shoes? In Scotland they made a wider foot to go in the peat bogs.
LYNN MILLER: Charlie, do you shoe your horses?
CHARLIE JENSEN: I do in the fall when I work down at Lone Pine out on the pavement. Otherwise I don’t believe in shoeing them. If you’re just going to work them on dirt or light work…
DOUG HAMMILL: In addition to the flare and the splay in the foot, they’re cutting the heels short on a lot of these horses and that’s one of the greatest crimes there are. There was a big fad back in the 70s or 80s to cut those heels down and get frog pressure because they erroneously thought that the frog hitting the ground, contacting the ground, was the pump that helped work the blood back up the horses legs and that’s not true. That frog isn’t designed to come in much contact with the ground and take a lot of force or wear and tear. And so by not cutting the heels down so short, you are doing a couple things.
AUDIENCE: Aren’t shoes used to give fancy horses, like Freisians, their exaggerated gaits?
CLAY MAIER: No, Freisians have a natural animated trot. We’ve always put the simplest shoe on them that we could. Our shoe is not to change anything on the way that the horse performs his duty as much as it is to protect him against all the kinds of surfaces that we come across. It’s just impossible to go barefoot. It also gives the horse a little more confidence to work strong in some kinds of sandy arenas.
DOUG HAMMILL: When they cut the heels way down and leave the toe way long, the flexor tendon that comes down the back of the leg, around the fetlock bone here and on down and hook to the bottom of the coffin bone, after going around the navicular bone, it applies a lot more force to that tendon. This is like a pulley system here and when that horse steps out of the long toe and the heel comes down you’re putting excessive forces on the tendon and you’re creating excessive friction and force on the navicular bone. We had an epidemic of navicular on horses, which isn’t a disease of course. And this, and too small of feet for the horses, it would take him too much concussion per square inch of surface area, were some of the primary reasons for that navicular. You leave more toe to delay break over, you get more action, and they were cutting the heels down to get frog pressure because they erroneously thought that’s what pumped blood up back up the horses leg.
CLAY MAIER: And that’s in show draft horses.
DOUG HAMMILL: This was all horses.
DOC MUSTARD: Quarter horses.
DOUG HAMMILL: In the late 60s and 70s I couldn’t find a farrier that would leave heels on my horses. And Addy Funk, who packed mules for the Forest Service for about 30 some summers, he’d just scream about not leaving heels. The bones in their heels were just getting chewed up by the rocks and their feet were just getting pounded apart. This is a little extreme for straightness here, that should come out a little more like that. If you leave some heel, you have the potential for a dome shaped sole under there which is a strong structure compared to a flat foot. It has some ability to support the weight above it, protect the frog better and the bulbs of the heels aren’t constantly getting chewed up in rocky country. The true pump for the foot is not the frog pressure on the ground but it’s the fact that when the weight comes on the heels of the horse’s foot, they expand. They spread out. When the weight comes off, they come back together and pump blood out of the foot up those long legs to help get it back to the heart. If you’ve ever pulled shoes and seen these polished heels, it’s from the hooves spreading back and forth. And some of them even have grooves worn in there if you leave them on long enough or reset them. There’s another reason the horseshoe nail should not come back too far on the heels, because they restrict that ability to flex and pump and keep a healthy situation.
CHARLIE JENSEN: What about these rubber boots (Easy Boots) that they use on them now? Somebody said that they don’t get enough blood circulation up in the foot because they’re too tight against the foot.
DOUG HAMMILL: They can be tight on the front half of the foot or even a little more than the front half. But if they don’t allow those heels to flex, then you’re going to get circulation problems and create more of a disadvantage to that foot than shoes do in general.
CHARLIE JENSEN: They don’t get any air through those rubber shoes (Easy Boots) though.
DOUG HAMMILL: They have rubber shoes now that don’t have a bottom on them. They just go under the hoof wall, I think they have a steel core, I mean an iron core with rubber laid up over it.
LYNN MILLER: I was going to mention before I forget that when you’re doing a lot of farm work, especially in a dirt situation, the dirt will suck the moisture right out of the horse’s hooves and one of the things that has saved me a lot of horses over the years is keeping Hoof flex available that I can paint on that hoof wall to keep it greased up. Because once you get that moisture out and some cracks start, it doesn’t take very long and you get quarter cracks and some other problems that can really be a nuisance in keeping the horses working.
I’ve had farriers come to my place, and when I didn’t catch them and they were brand new at it, they’d look at certain horses and say, oh, I got to correct this. And it would be a peculiarity that a horse had had for ten years, say a particular angle, and they’d go in with a rather severe trimming and I’d have a sore footed horse for a long time.
AUDIENCE: A mule is normally steeper in the pastern and shoulder, do we need to correcct that with trimming?
DOUG HAMMILL: It depends on the conformation of the mule in my opinion. It depends on the mule. A lot of mules are straight and need to be straighter as you say on the hoof wall because of the straight shoulder. But if you had a mule with a well laid back shoulder and a pastern to match then you might need to match them up. The affect that we get here, and I failed to mention the affect on the bone that we get here with this low heel, long toe problem, is that we actually get a curve in the long pastern bone, short pastern bone and the front angle of the coffin bone. We want it to be a straight line from those bones down through there including the front angle of the coffin. With the low toe, long heel we actually get a curve in those bones and they don’t stand up well to that kind of pressure. It cramps them here and stretches them here as well as the tendons behind them. As a veterinarian I’ve x-rayed a lot of feet, a lot of lower legs for other things. I could draw correlations between the length of the heel relative to the toe, the angles and the straightness of those bones.
AUDIENCE: To change the subject: I have a horse that was used for logging, now I want to farm with her. Driving my horse, when I pull her head to one side it takes her a long time to make that intended turn.
BULLDOG: That’s what comes when you teach a horse to walk behind the bit. They’re lazy, they don’t respond, they just turn their head. You may want to bite him in the butt to make him move up, to make him turn. Don’t let the schooling get in the way of the education there.
DOUG HAMMILL: A lot of people herd their animals instead of driving them.
BULLDOG: There you go, there’s a good example right there.
DOUG HAMMILL: If you’ve got a horse up on the bit and responsive. you can get behind a team and you can farm for the rest of your life and never make your horses really flex good. But if you’re moving and people get up there and they grab a hold of the lines and as long as those horses are going where they want them to, they don’t do anything with the lines. Talk to them with those lines, all the time. Talk to them. Bring their heads over, bring them back. They’ll get stiff. I’ll go down the road with the wagon and pretty soon I’ll notice that you can see it in their ears, in the set of their head. They’re kind of getting uptight. They’re just walking along relaxed but they’re getting uptight and stiff in their necks and heads. It’s subtle but you can learn to read them. You try to pull them over one way and there’s resistance there. And so I start doing this down the road and pretty soon they’re flexing real nice when I pull on them. But you just let them set there and go down the road and they’re going to get stiff. So talk to them with your hands. In my workshops, I’m constantly, constantly, constantly, asking people, I want to see your hands move, I want to see your hands move. Everyone has heard that, you know, a good teamster sits there and you can’t even see their hands move. Well, that’s fine for master teamsters but they’re talking, they’re sending little tickles up their lines.
AUDIENCE: So you are telling me if the work horses are decently trained to begin with, then when I go to try them out they’re not going to have a problem.
LYNN MILLER: It’s not quite like that. Imagine that you decided that you were going to try to make a ballet dancer out of a professional wrestler.
AUDIENCE: This is what I’m asking, are they mutually exclusive?
LYNN MILLER: Well, I don’t know but I used to log with horses. I know a lot of folks that log with horses have been witness to a lot of routines and one of the things that happens because you’re in a production cycle, Bulldog can agree or disagree with me on this, is you have a landing set up, you have a routine going, you’ve got a skid trail. You get a real good horse, you’re on a production run and what you decided is, OK, I’m going to take this horse down through this route and we’re going to get the logs there and we’re going to go back up and get another turn. If you insist on staying with the horses whether you want to admit it or not, it doesn’t take very long and you’re not driving them anymore. You might have to correct something if you want to stay away from one tree or something but that horse has got a skid trail, he’s following it. He’s going that same route every day, 35 times, 50 times, every day, that same route. You change it, you’re going to have to work with him to change him on a different route. It’s very common for these guys to set somebody up at the landing, tie the lines up, turn the horse loose. He takes the jag to the landing himself. Now, you’re not driving him, he’s in charge. He or she has decided that they know where they are going and you take that horse out of that setting and say OK we’re going to finesse you, well, it’s not that the horse isn’t well-trained. The horse could be extremely well-trained for what it’s doing, but now you’re taking this professional wrestler and saying OK we’re going to do this. We’ve got some subtlety and you’re going to relax and you’re going to enjoy it. You’re going to look good in your new clothes. You’re going to lean over here and turn here … but it doesn’t happen that way. it could be really difficult.
DOUG HAMMILL: It’s more time consuming. Sometimes it’s not possible, depends on the individual. Not possible or at least not practical, we may not live long enough. But usually they can be retrained for different jobs but it takes a long time.
BULLDOG: What I’ve done there is put them on a cart, and you’re driving and their head is straight and they can sidestep.
AUDIENCE: And you just keep going forward until you’ve got ‘em trained.
BULLDOG: And like Doc says, just keep ‘em moving, swinging ‘em and you don’t have to move your hands much to turn ‘em.
AUDIENCE: I’m thinking a lot of them seem to have been trained like that.
DOUG HAMMILL: When you’re aren’t driving a horse all the time, when you do want him to do something you’ve got to really do an exaggerated motion sometimes. But if he’s used to being subtly or artfully driven all the time, it’s a different story. A little signal makes a big difference if there’s not much pressure. If there’s no pressure then a little pressure often doesn’t do a lot.
AUDIENCE: Well, are you geeing and hawing when you’re messing with them?
DOUG HAMMILL: No, I use gee and haw to swing, not to turn. Just to swing, to fan, not to turn. I drive them with the lines to make my turns. That’s just the way I do it, there’s a lot of good teamsters that use gee and haw for turns, especially logging. I reserve gee and haw with mine for fanning and don’t use it when we’ve got forward motion.
LYNN MILLER: Maybe to add another dimension to Kate’s question, Charlie, in your experience, you’ve done a lot of wagon rides, you’ve done a lot of shows and parades and so forth, and we both know you’ve plowed and cultivated and harrowed and done all that kind of field work. Do you remember back when I got that big pair of geldings out of Iowa and brought them home? They’d been lead team in an eight horse hitch. We took them out to the fields, you and I and Ray. And we couldn’t get them to pull because they’d never had anything against their shoulders. Extremely well-broke lead horses, but they’d never had to work, really work hard. And they wallowed around like they didn’t know what they were doing. Have you found that your horses, the parade horses, do you have to do something different to get them to work? Would you rather work them first and then take them out on parades?
CHARLIE JENSEN: Oh yes, very much so. Very much so. You don’t take a parade horse out and just take him out there and hook him up. If they work then they get used to the lines, they get used to pulling and you’ve got no problem.
LYNN MILLER: I remember a conversation Clay and I had one time when he was out at the ranch during summer. We talked about there being quite a bit of difference between these horses that have to literally lean into the collar and pull, displace a heavy load all day long, and how they behave compared with when you’re trotting or driving a light vehicle in a combined event situation.
CLAY MAIER: There’s quite a difference between a draft horse that’s moving, working for a living and moving a heavy object from one place to another. There’s different qualities that you look for. A horse that moves people or a carriage or something like that, a lot of it’s done with the quality of gait. That’s something that’s important to them, more so than the quality of actually doing the deed. The load’s not as heavy but they also have to have an integrity of being able to start it out by working on a stoneboat or some kind of heavy load to where they have some honesty and some integrity. When not having to pull such a heavy load, it’s the quality of gait that you look for.
LYNN MILLER: So, from Kate’s question, you take a horse that’s used to real hard work and then you want to finesse it into a pleasure horse, are you going backwards?
CLAY MAIER: Well, I think that’s very relative to the person who had been driving it I suppose. If someone is doing some of the things like where they’re going to put a little bend on them once in a while, to where they actually have a little left rein and a little right rein and some suppleness to the spine, if someone is aware of that, which I’m sure a lot of people are, and there are people who probably just don’t seem to think…well, for instance what you were saying a minute ago Lynn, about this horse that’s coming down the log skid, that horse is really well broke, he’s highly trained. He’s got a whole different look at life than having contact with the bit and some of these things. He’s doing an excellent job so that was a real good example of a professional wrestler becoming a professional ballet dancer. That’s a real relative point. If there’s someone who’s out doing some farming for instance, I noticed, the little that I’ve been out at Lynn’s, I noticed that when I was on the mower with him, one thing that I really looked forward to was corners coming up. I got to where I was ready to cut that corner and I wanted this inside horse to kind of come up in a very fluid motion of kind of coming up and almost a half step back and forward. There’s a certain kind of finesse. Having done it so little I can’t describe it. But there’s a certain kind of finesse of coming and making that corner nice and sharp. I would think that someone that had a good contact and good communication with their reins, probably that person’s horse would make a pretty good single-driving horse.
CHARLIE JENSEN: Well, you get a team that’s been on the mower quite a bit that you have used and you can go right up to a corner and just as soon as the sickle hits the end of that hay they start turning and they can turn right around and take a full swath with the mower. But if you don’t swing that team just right you’re only going to take half a swath.
BUD EVERS: And just like the logging horse, they’ll get used to it and they’ll almost do it by themselves.
CHARLIE JENSEN: That team that I had that I sold Lone Pine down there on the rides in Albany and Corvallis and Salem or wherever we were, we never even had to drive them after the first two rounds. They knew where they were going. The only thing you had to watch were the corners. Sometimes they’d take those corners a little bit quick. But a horse gets used to something like that, there’s no problem.
LYNN MILLER: While we’re talking about that, I got a question here, “what farming tasks can be done with a single animal, what farming tasks shouldn’t be done with a single animal?”
I think, with some creativity with the procedure and the equipment, you can do any and all of it (with a single) but it’s a whole lot easier to do it with two because everything is already set up for two. A point we made earlier, you’re going to find that working two is going to be easier. Horses are social animals. They really like to be working with another animal. If they’re out there by themselves, they’re literally out there by themselves.
DOUG HAMMILL: The only limitation there, is the amount of draft you need, not the job or the equipment. If the equipment can be adapted to the animal so that the draft is appropriate for one animal, I don’t see why you couldn’t do about anything.
BULLDOG: I don’t know why not. I never have done anything but log with one. Everything else has been a hitch. I’ve got a friend that came out and made hay with me this summer. She’s cultivating grapes and onions with her horse over there. The only problem she has is that the horse is eating the grapes. It’s a problem and she asked me what to do about it.
DOUG HAMMILL: Well, there’s single horse mowers, single horse rakes.
BULLDOG: Yeah, she talked me out of mine, my single horse mower.
CHARLIE JENSEN: When I was a kid, dad had an old team, he called them Shorty and Lady, an old roan team and when we put hay up in the hayloft, we would set a bucket or something out there to where that mare was supposed to go to and we’d never touch her. She’d get that load, get those prongs down in the hay, and you’d tell her to go and she’d go right out to the bucket and when she felt that trip, she’d back up. We never even touched her. That’s how a horse can really get to learn something and do it.
LYNN MILLER: I’ve got a set of questions here that are pretty specific and we’ll see if we have anybody with this specific implement experience. I got your questions here Dick. We’re talking about a two-way riding plow with two or three horses. “What depth and width of the furrow do you recommend when using two horses, when using three horses?” Then he’s asking if we’ll go over the adjustments of the plow that would affect the depth and width such as where to set the plow beams, the position of the tongue shifting lever and the vertical clevis. Dick, have you got the Oliver 23B with the slide on the pipe in the front?
LYNN MILLER: Anybody have experience with an Oliver 23B two-way plow?
BULLDOG: How wide are the bottoms?
AUDIENCE: 16 inch.
BULLDOG: That would take a 16 inch furrow then with three head on there.
AUDIENCE: There is some adjustment on there to get it down to a 14 inch.
LYNN MILLER: Right, but the plow would not work efficiently, it’s designed to work to a maximum cut. If you’re cutting less of a width for the share that you have on there, it’s not just that you’re wasting a certain amount of space but it’s designed for that width of a cut, it’s not going to work as efficiently. So you need to be planning for a 16 inch cut if that’s what size share you have on there. Are you measuring the share on the bottom side, from the point of the share to the landside?
LYNN MILLER: So it would be very unlikely that you would want to ever use two horses with that. It’d have to be some pretty loose farmland, sandy, you wouldn’t do much work with just two on a 16 inch share. That’s too much for them. The 16 inch in good, easy ground you can get away with three. If it’s a heavy, wet clay it’s going to be a hard pull even for three. That’s my experience. Charlie, what size bottom have you been using?
CHARLIE JENSEN: Right now I have a 14 inch for three head. I like to go about 8 inches if I can, 7 or 8 inches. That’s as deep as most of those old plows will go.
LYNN MILLER: Your last question says, “when working three-abreast on the plow and one horse is a stronger puller than the other two, should I put that one in the middle?”
CHARLIE JENSEN: No, put him in the furrow. If one was smaller than the rest, I’d put him on the outside, put your other two next to the furrow.
LYNN MILLER: Of all the plows, the two-way plow can be fun, there’s a lot of good applications for it Dick. But if you’re plowing for the first time and you want to get used to the whole process, there’s an awful lot of adjustments and a lot of fine tuning, a little finesse to the two-way plow. My suggestion would be plow just one direction with that plow until you got things and the horses and everything the way you wanted them working, or maybe borrow a different plow till you got everything finessed. All of my experience with Oliver 23B goes way back to when Ray had one and I borrowed it occasionally there. I don’t have a lot of recent experience with it. But I do remember that I was finessing the side position of the tongue. There’s an adjustment lever there that you have that will move it side to side. I would try to get my wheel and my landside parallel to one another and I was using 14 inch bottoms with two horses and it was a hard pull. But that’s in pretty heavy clay soil we had there in Junction City.
AUDIENCE: What do you do with a dominant puller? What adjustment do you do to get them more even? In order to get your team more compatible, what do you do with the dominant one?
LYNN MILLER: Do you want to answer that one Charlie?
CHARLIE JENSEN: Put him in the furrow. Or on a harrow or something like that, I’d put it in the middle. And then if she’s too fast you can tie her back to the other one’s hame. That’ll slow her down.
LYNN MILLER: I use something quite frequently. If I had a horse that I was using, even on a plow, and he was pulling faster and harder than the other horse, and with a plow you have less room to finesse your evener to equalize because you want to leave it where it is, what I’ll use is a Buckback Rope. I’ll leave the halter on this horse, come underneath the horse and snap it to that halter and take this rope on over here and hook it into the chain on this horse. When you set this all up, what happens is, you have to get this adjusted just exactly where you want it, if you get the length just right, this horse has got to pull the whole load on his nose, with his nose, if he’s going ahead of this horse. And it doesn’t take very long before he’ll just back off and they’re pulling equal.
BULLDOG: Are the horses the same size? The puller is bigger?
AUDIENCE: I’ve hooked all kinds but my gelding has always been the dominant one, more aggressive…
CHARLIE JENSEN: Can’t you adjust your lines to hold him back?
AUDIENCE: I’ve made all kinds of adjustments on lines.
BULLDOG: You can buck him back like that or also offset your doubletree.
LYNN MILLER: This works really slick. You don’t want to hook it into the bit. You want to make sure to hook it to the halter and it’ll force them, if they’re two steps, half a step even, ahead of the other horse, they got their head tucked and they’re pulling that load, back here to this horse’s trace, they’re pulling the whole load. That way you’re not abusing the other horse by holding him back as well.
DOUG HAMMILL: And it’s absolutely consistent. No matter how close of attention we’re paying, the minute we should be checking a horse and we’re looking down at the furrow, and we don’t check them that time, that gives them an opening and they’re going to try it again because the system failed once, they’re going to look for another loophole to challenge it again. If you’re not absolutely 100 percent consistent in checking them, that’s the beauty of setting up different systems where they create a problem for themselves when they do the wrong thing, they create comfort or freedom for themselves when they do the right thing. We’re not consistent enough. We’re talking to the person on the seat beside us or we’re looking somewhere else or focusing on somewhere else, the bird in the tree or whatever, but something like that is a hundred percent consistent. Consistency with horses is, I think, a key. A lot of us don’t pay enough attention to be as consistent as that is.
CLAY MAIER: The way of going is one of the things you look for when you’re making a matched pair of horses. Way of going is real important. You just don’t have a matched pair of horses if one’s a go-getter and pulling the whole load and the other one’s not. You’re making do.
DOUG HAMMILL: And there’s a judgment as to whether one horse is charging ahead too much or the other one’s loafing. Sometimes both.
AUDIENCE: How do you adjust the length of the ends of that Buck back rope?
LYNN MILLER: What I do is I have a rope that I’ve braided a loop in the end of and at this end I’ve braided in a little chain with a snap on. And here I have another rope that passes through here and around like this. This has a snap on either end. This allows me to adjust it. I want that to be the same relative position as a pair of lines. One side is a little longer. That comes in over here, over the withers and down here where it can be snapped into this trace chain. Now it depends on what size horses you’re using, what length you would want. You might have to take out a measuring stick and measure some stuff but the one’s that we’re using are eight foot long with the front fork and six foot long at the tail. I made them a long time ago and I use them all the time. They work very well. And this is something that we use when we’re starting a green horse also because it allows that you can have equal pressure on your lines when you’re initially driving them. If they decide that they’re going to surge ahead they’ve got to pull the whole load on their nose. Very quickly they back off of that, rather than abusing this horse that you’re tied to, that buckback rope just works really slick.
BULLDOG: Why do you hook to the halter?
LYNN MILLER: Because what I don’t want to do is send the horse a signal that they’re being abused here at the mouth. I can’t feel them. I’ve got the buckbrack rope and I’ve got no control over it. If I hook it into the halter instead of the bit, pulling the nose down, I’m not going to mess up that horse’s mouth. I’ve got some finesse there still, I can still play with the lines. When they’re pulling on it, the one that’s in forward, he’s doing everything on the nose and not on the mouth. It just works really good that way for me.
BULLDOG: I hook it the other way. I hook it to the bit and then he’ll back off of the bit and walk even with the other horse.
LYNN MILLER: I’m going to change the subject a minute because Mo had asked some questions and we started to talk about them, and he wanted us to maybe cover them on these pictures because he has a couple of young Belgian stallions and he’s asking us if you guys would pick apart these pictures, if you were thinking about saving either one or both of them for stallions. Is that right Mo?
AUDIENCE: Yes, one of them is 8 years old the other will be 2 this spring.
DOUG HAMMILL: Well, it’s always a problem trying to evaluate a horse from photographs and the problem that we’ve got here, for example in this photo, I don’t know if you can all see it there but we got one hind leg ahead and one hind leg back. So that makes him look like he’s got great angles in the leg on this side with all the weight on it, and it makes him look really straight in the other leg. So it’s pretty hard to evaluate, he’s also got all of his weight on the front leg. We found that when I was traveling around the country a lot doing horse consulting work and evaluating conformation and things of that nature, we found that if we shot a roll of film, we might get one picture that was worth something on each horse. Even then it wasn’t too good. It’s pretty difficult for me to really tell much from this. Another thing is it’s difficult unless you see them in the flesh to compare an 8 year old and a 2 year old and sometimes even then it’s a challenge. The angle too, we’ve got just a little bit of an angle on this one, not so much on this one and the angle can really throw you off. This horse, to me, it looks to me that there’s a bit of a hole right here in this horse. You notice how he comes back and there’s a lot of space here? That’s what we typically see when we have that straight hind leg and the bone from the hip, the femur, that comes ahead, comes down at a steep angle rather than forward which would fill that little bit of a gap, see that gap there. He doesn’t tie in real well there. It could be the angle, I’d really have to see the horse.
LYNN MILLER: This question reads, “what other skills does a successful horse farmer need besides those of horsemanship and animal husbandry, farming, etc. For example, what skills and equipment are needed to take care of the horse-drawn farm implements? If one doesn’t have these skills, how does one acquire them? Doug, would you read the rest of this question?
DOUG HAMMILL: Okay, what other skills does a successful horse farmer need besides those of horsemanship, animal husbandry and farming, etc? For example, what skills and equipment are needed to take care of the horse-drawn farm implements? If one doesn’t have these skills, how does one acquire them? I ask this as a woman going into the horse side of farming alone. I’m good with animals, good with horses, strong and fairly intelligent, have grown a market garden for awhile using my own labor but I haven’t the slightest clue how to take care of a plow or a mower.
DOC MUSTARD: Well, I found with my plows when I’m through with them, I shine them up then I spray them with primer so they’ve got a good solid coat of primer on the moldboard and share so the next year when I get ready to use it, I just take paint remover and slosh it on and go out and start plowing and they’ll scour on the first furrow. For years I was told to grease them. For some reason, water can get under grease and rust some of the plowshare or moldboard and you’re fighting it because it won’t scour until you’ve used it and used it and used it. But the paint does the trick for me.
DOUG HAMMILL: I’ve used that too and it does work. I didn’t use the paint remover though, I just went plowing.
DOC MUSTARD: You must have rocky ground.
DOUG HAMMILL: I have a lot of rocks.
DOC MUSTARD: Well, I don’t. I’ve got sticky clay. The other thing about a mower, the main thing is lots of oil and lots of grease and keep it inside so it doesn’t get rusty from the rain. Give it some protection, don’t leave them sitting out even over here where it’s dry, still there’s moisture and it’ll still rust. So if you’re going to spend some money to get some equipment, take care of it, put it under cover when you’re not using it.
DOUG HAMMILL: One of my suggestions would be to start with better equipment than a lot of us perhaps do, maybe even new equipment that is going to give you good service for a long time without the need of major repairs, get a manual, get the Hay Book and the Plow Book, no better sources in my opinion and the Tillage book is coming out. Or find somebody that will maintain the equipment for you, repair the equipment for you and pay them to do it and do what you do best to make the money to pay them.
DOC MUSTARD: I was assuming you wouldn’t have to have them repaired other than sharpening the blade on the mower.
BUD EVERS: Yes, if you get a good one to start with, you’re alright.
BULLDOG: You ever use a swath guard on a mower?
BUD EVERS: Yes.
BULLDOG: That sure pulls a lot easier.
BUD EVERS: Yes.
AUDIENCE: Question regarding crossbreeding …
DOUG HAMMILL: Well when I was in animal science classes in pre-vet many, many, many years ago, they pointed out to us that there are more differences within a breed than there are between the average individuals between the breeds, so it’s probably not the genetics, and I don’t think that’s necessary if we’ve got a broad enough pool within a breed, some breeds don’t have much of a genetic pool, others do. So I’m not so sure we can’t accomplish that same thing by being selective within a breed for most of our draft breeds except the ones where there’s very small numbers and small genetic pool.
AUDIENCE: Is there a guideline as to how many generations to go back…
DOUG HAMMILL: Well that’s, in my opinion and my experience and learning, that’s a pretty complex question because line breeding of course sometimes produces outstanding individuals, sometimes produces tragedies. If it works it’s called line breeding. If it doesn’t, it’s called inbreeding. So sometimes if you have enough good qualities in two individuals that are somewhat closer than we might normally consider breeding, it will magnify those. It also magnifies the faults at the same time. So that’s the whole mystery and secret and art of course of selective breeding.
BULLDOG. Canada got to line breeding Percheron horses pretty bad and they lost the eyesight on them. They got some horses down there that couldn’t see. They can see a silhouette. If you drive them through town, they’re alright but you drive them in the field and somebody walks out to see you, or something come across the field, they couldn’t tell what it was, you’d have a runaway. But you put them in a hitch, and the other horse was afflicted with it too, and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong till I got to talking with one of the Canadians up there and he said well they bred the eyesight out of those horses line breeding them. They had a top stud and top mare and they kept breeding them.
LYNN MILLER: Before we run out of time I want to talk about something. I know Charlie wants to put something in on this. For those of you who don’t know, you should know that one of the weaknesses of the equine is its digestive system and to a greater or lesser degree the extent to which they are susceptible to the ravages of internal parasites. There are a lot of problems that we can see with horses that will come from not having a good program to take care of that. I certainly know that first hand. You do need to be very careful and we don’t have enough time to talk about all of the things that we should be concerned about with how you feed an animal that is working but you do have to be very careful about it and you owe it to yourself and your animals to educate yourself about what you feed them and how you feed them and when you feed them. But what can we say right now? Charlie, would you like to talk about worm…
CHARLIE JENSEN: I’m just going to tell what happened to me that one time. About four years ago I guess it was, a guy wanted me to go with him over across the valley to pick up a horse and I said, sure I’ll go with you. So we got over there and this guy had this gelding horse that this guy was going to buy from him and then he had a little Belgian filly and I don’t think that foal weighed 400 pounds and she was five months old. He had already lost the one mare that the foal was out of and another mare from worms. They had died. So I asked him if he wanted to sell that little filly? Oh no, that’s my pet, he says, I’m going to keep it. So it went on for a few days and I got a phone call from him and he said, say, do you want to buy that filly? And I says well, I don’t know, she doesn’t look very good to me. How much you want for her? Well, he says I want $500 for her. Well, he brought her over, he worked at the mill there so he’s just a little ways from our place so he brought her over, and I went to town and I got enough worm medicine for a 1200 pound horse, the whole thing. And I gave that foal that whole bunch of worm medicine. And the next morning there was a pile of worms, I’d never seen anything like it in my life, that big around, they were solid worms, weren’t they mama? They were solid worms. And that mare, everybody says you’re going to kill her by giving her that much, but I did and she lived through it. That mare took off and she just grew and in about three months, I gave her another shot and got her really cleaned out and when she was just 2 ½ years old I think she weighed 1800 pounds. She has just grown like a weed. I had a guy come by one day and he says hey I want a mare for a breeding mare. And I’ve seen yours out here, do you want to sell them? Well, I hadn’t thought much about it because I just have the two here. What do you want for her? Well, I said, I want $2500 for her. He just went to his pickup and got his checkbook and I was out of a horse. But that’s what happened to that mare with no worm medicine in her at all. That guy should have been turned in to the Humane Society.
LYNN MILLER: We’re about out of time and I know there might be a couple of questions here that some of you folks have been very patient waiting to ask.
LYNN MILLER: What you ought to do with your bits and bridles when it’s 10 degrees and you’re counting on that team to feed with, you certainly don’t want to yank them off the barn wall and stick them into a horse’s mouth.
You’ve been a fantastic group of folks. We all hope that we’ve given you some useful information, maybe at least some stuff you can disagree with . We want to thank you very, very much for coming.
AUDIENCE: I think by the response and the questions and the excellent panel, that the fact that we’ve covered some very important topics for a small segment, I want to thank you for putting this together and I think this should be just the beginning of some additional sessions, symposiums for the future.
LYNN MILLER: Yes, I think it will be.