The State of Horsedrawn Technologies
The State of Horsedrawn Technologies
SmP Bio-Stree 1.1 Compost Spreader

The State of Horsedrawn Technologies

A ‘Light Metal’ Celebration

by Lynn R. Miller

This has been the first year in a couple of decades that the animal power community in North America and Europe have had to do without their premiere public technology exhibits. (Horse Progress Days and important events in Europe were postponed due to the pandemic.) This has been a setback for many small horse-power businesses and shade tree mechanics who work all year long to polish up new implement designs and depend on the opportunity to unveil and demonstrate at these events.

Unless you’ve been tuned in to this far flung world of horsefarming, you may not know that the last quarter century has seen phenomenal advances in the design and construction of appropriate technologies ‘geared’ for draft horses, mules, ponies and oxen. Many of the dozens of inventors and builders of these tools have small operations. A few sophisticated manufacturers, capable of producing significant numbers of high quality implements, are regularly shipping to customers across North America and Europe.

The State of Horsedrawn Technologies
Pioneer Field Tine Weeder

Forty five years ago, when the idea of Small Farmer’s Journal was only that – an idea, outside of Amish communities the notion of animal-powered agriculture was regularly scoffed at. One of the points critics frequently made back then? Even if it were possible, there was no infrastructure to support such an idea; there were no companies building the equipment horse farmers would require. As regular readers of this publication know, that was addressed and solved some years back and today we have more than 40 HD equipment makers worldwide supplying demand. They are working to upgrade and improve designs, all of them understanding that one prime objective is an efficiency and ease of draft which assures that one to four trained and conditioned animals may pull effective implements all day long. Here’s a case of applied appropriate technology dictating its own terms and conditions. Now, paradoxically, we find with some of these companies that the elegance and applicability of this wide assortment of new innovation also lends itself to use with small and older tractors and all-terrain vehicles. Imagine; new horsepower implements pointing to ways for small tractor-based farmers to save time, money, wear and tear, just as their animal power counterparts do. And this with environmental impacts lessened or nullified.

The State of Horsedrawn Technologies
I & J Ground Drive Horsedrawn Mower

Inside small farm circles there has long been a joke stream encircling a notion of “heavy metal disease” in industrial farming. (Meaning of course the penchant amongst industrial scale farming for ever larger, more complex and more expensive tractors and tools.) The joke stream acknowledges the fact that banks and large corporations feed this “addiction” to keep big farmers at the credit and debt troughs, ergo ‘disease.’ Simultaneously, in big farm circles, the scoffing continues with a general disregard for any small scale, family based agriculture, laughing as they point to how stupid it is that these “poor” people knock themselves out trying to grow a few pigs or zucchinis. ‘Only city-raised hippies would go there.’ These are old prejudices crusting over with rust. Neither side of the cultural ‘arguments’ are correct. Good and intelligent people work both sides.

The State of Horsedrawn Technologies
White Horse Spring-Assist Sulky Plow

On the small farm side of the equation, down a layer or two, there are some very bright indicators for the future:

Within true horse-power circles, where natural partnerships with working animals are embraced and cherished, the family unit is paramount. Tools are being designed today so that a husband and wife with two to four work animals can see their work done. Scale is a defining aspect, going forward and backward. It is liberating and it is enlivening. Elegant even. And for us, we see the evidence both from afar and up close. Now to focus on what 25 years has taught us.

The State of Horsedrawn Technologies
The beauty of efficient design was the hallmark of early companies like Moline, Avery, P & O, & JD.

It began with a rekindling of the attraction. New people found themselves drawn to the notion of working unions between teamsters and draft animals. In that beginning, back in the late 60’s early 70’s, those who struggled to learn the craft and unearth the practical realities and mechanics of working animals quickly discovered that they were dealing with an archaic and vanishing domain. It was hard to find information let alone equipment. Outside of the treasure trove that is and has been the Amish farming communities, very few ‘holdouts’ kept the craft alive. (In those lean years no new farm implements were being manufactured. It wouldn’t be until the mid-seventies that forecarts would be built in quantity for sale.) Amish farm mechanic shops selling “new/old” parts and offering excellent rebuild services kept local midwestern horsefarmers able to do their field world with mowers, plows, binders, manure spreaders and such.

The State of Horsedrawn Technologies
Two farmers separated by thousands of miles came up with their own individual idea to build a center fire ground drive mower to use between cane fruit and grape vine rows. Ben Jahnes, Ohio, converted an old original horse mower by folding over and adapting the cutter bar to a center-cut for his vineyard.
The State of Horsedrawn Technologies
Marvin Brisk, Oregon, developed his center-fire mower from scratch.

But the outside attraction to horsefarming began to expand the needs, and the demand. I was one of those new people who started in 1970 with a team of horses and a passion to learn the craft and apply it. Both my successes and failures eventually gave birth to this publication, the Small Farmer’s Journal. We and other publications helped to coalesce a far flung ‘community’ which in turn impressed on certain circles their needs and the market potential for animal power infrastructure. Next came books, specialized events, and organizations. Here was a growing bunch of people who needed walking plow shares, mower pitman sticks, binder drapers, implement wheel bearings, cultivator points, cornplanter plates, manure spreader drive chains, harness and collars, hitch gear and much more. And that growing bunch of people kept pushing and prodding until new companies were formed to supply aftermarket parts and pieces for those original implements. Pretty soon an exciting and appropriate line of brand new implements were designed and built by cottage businesses intimate with horsefarming.

The State of Horsedrawn Technologies

So the first lesson learned? It has to fill a NEED. For such a dramatic, curious and vital phenomenon like 21st century horsepower to exist it had to come as an answer to the needs of many people. You can innovate and build the most amazing new riding cultivator in the world but it will fail to sell, and subsequently vanish, if it does not answer a specific need.

It took time to get here. Those very first innovations were often bulky, heavy, awkward, and sometimes wrong. For example, in the early days there were many three point hitchable forecarts which targeted themselves at allowing, in theory, that you could hook animals, by way of the cart, to any and all three point implements originally designed for use with tractors. We forgot in that moment that animal power and tractor power are inherently different. We discovered that the closer the power source is to the actual work the better and easier the performance.

The State of Horsedrawn Technologies
SmP Séi-Roll Seeder

So the second lesson? It has to FIT. The best and most popular implement designs are always aimed at a full appreciation and understanding of the advantages and limitations of draft animal power. Ease of draft, suitable maneuverability and efficiency of movement. If the inventor comes up with an implement that employs the animal-centric natural angle of draft, easily adjustable free moving parts, adaptability and the best chance for exacting precision he or she has answered the second point: it has to be appropriate.

And the third lesson is: the builder/inventor must SEE the whole system. Before the fact, understanding what it means to have a living, sentient animal or animals comfortably pulling a tool which is doing an exact job, requires vision. You need to be able to instinctively see the work forwards and backwards. “See” the animal(s) forward, yarding that implement across and through what manner of surface, what sort of environment? Is it across rough plowed ground? Is it through dense narrow grape vine rows? Is it through the woods, is it down fragile rows of emerging plants? You need to be able to “see” the tools back behind, following at just the right distance; lifting, shifting, cutting or turning, burying or compacting, gathering or scratching. Precision more often translates to physical design of the working implement, how and where the job is engaged and enacted. For example, with tillage rollers what sort of roller surface is making contact with rough soil structures and what may be expected from one or two passes over. Or for another example, as the animal passes between rows of grape vines, what design is engineered to allow a grape hoe to reach safety in under the foliage. Force efficiency comes into play when design and construction have as their goal an equation of maximum effect for the least amount of drawing power. Here we see wheel and bearing design, angle of employed draft, curvatures (such as with moldboards) and cutting (such as mowers, coulters, jointers, points, disc blades, etc.) all coming into play. If the imaginative inventor/ mechanic has these things clearly in mind, in view, the work can proceed.

The State of Horsedrawn Technologies
Fortuna Hay Rake

The last thirty-five years have offered us intelligent inventor/mechanics devising appropriate ways to apply new synthetic materials, principles, and engineering to animal-power tools. From hydraulic accumulators to spring-assisted lift systems, from different approaches of clutch engagement to improved ground-drive propulsion for power-take off, all of these and more have sent horse farming innovation on several brand new journeys. But should access to these new materials run short, the advantages of lessons learned will remain.

The rules for continued horse power efficiency and advance will remain: See, understand and fill the needs of the work. Know the limitations of the power source and the available hands. Factor in the limited and unique working spaces such as row width, headland width, soil characteristics, crop needs, etc.

The State of Horsedrawn Technologies

Once people can come out to work and play together, the natural symbiotic transfer of ideas from field trials and events will commence again. And because the world is changing dramatically there will most certainly be increased need and demand for sustainable and eco-friendly animal power. The future is straight ahead one step at a time.

It is important to note that these advancements are part of an evolutionary curve. Today, with animal power technologies, we have exciting variety in design and build. But, if history is to be trusted, at some point we will begin to see consolidation of these small companies into a couple of large ones. And then those large ones will be gobbled up by huge corporations with zero interest in the working realities of the farmers on the ground. We have the industrialized bankrupt agribusiness we have, not because it makes sense, or is truly efficient, or enjoys sustainability. We have it because corporations in response to abstract readings of market forces have deemed it essential. I for one, do not see this as ‘inevitable.’ The changes in societies and regional realities would suggest that this world of ours is getting big once again. That’s a very good sign. What works for Ecuador or Botswana or the Phillipines may not work for Alabama or Vermont. While many of these design ideas do translate worldwide, we are likely to see demands particularize themselves to regions and locales. We can only hope that this means good small companies with superior design and service won’t be leveraged out by bullying raider corporations.

The State of Horsedrawn Technologies
Figure 1
The State of Horsedrawn Technologies
Figure 2
The State of Horsedrawn Technologies
Figure 3
The State of Horsedrawn Technologies
Figure 4

This discussion is all about appropriate technological advances, and we have some very exciting examples of that with seeders, compost spreaders, cultivators, hay rakes, cultimulchers, log carts, and tine field weeders. These last twenty five years has brought fully adjustable, yoked-handle beam assemblies (Fig. 1), ground drive wheel hubs (Fig. 2), torsioned tool-bar, shovel clamping systems (Fig. 3) and weight-free fully articulated shaft systems (Fig. 4). But what more often draws the appreciative eye and ready hand are those low key changes that fit our work-a-day challenges so perfectly. One example is the new Logging Cart from the Wengerd family, taken from the 2020 Pioneer Implement catalog.

The State of Horsedrawn Technologies

My years skidding logs tell me this is simple effectiveness incarnate. High clearance for log to run ‘neath, nifty heavy-duty wheel protectors that keep logs from braking or upsetting cart on turns, chain hooks welded to rear of cart frame, a hinged and slotted chain drawbar which may be released by foot pedal to drop log while you are still safely on the cart with lines in hand, a slotted tube pocket for your peavy, a fiberglass scabbard that receives your chainsaw bar for transport. Only thing missing is a cupholder. Man, this is sweet!

Just as with the market garden enthusiasms of today, I predict a rush to return to the woods to work with draft animals. Innovations such as this logging cart are what cement the deal. Here it is: the builder SAW the horselogging realm, FIT design to that vision perfectly and has filled the NEED. The future is ours! LRM

Paul Schmit of Schaff Mat Päerd pointed us towards to see their extensive list of companies providing equipment and tack to the international horse farming community. From there we gleaned this group of manufacturers and distributors.


Athens Enterprise
600 Eagle Way
Spencer, TN 38585
+1 931 946 1650

Conestoga Manure Spreaders
1867 Kirkwood Pike
Kirkwood, PA 17536
+1 855 822 1976

E-Z Spreader Mfg
1973 CO. RD. 70
Sugarcreek, OH 44681
+1 330 852 2666

E-Z Trail Mfg
9721 Salt Creek Road
Fredericksburg, OH 44627
+1 330 695 2315

Hilltop Machine Shop LLC/Kingman
10515 US 20 West
Shipshewana, IN 46565
+1 260 768 9196

I & J Manufacturing
10 S. New Holland Rd Suite 2
Gordonville, PA 17529
+1 717 442 9451

Lancaster Spreader Mfg
460 Cooper Drive
Kirkwood PA 17536
+1 717 529 6719

Millcreek Manufacturing
525 Reservoir Road
Honey Brook, PA 19344
+1 800 311 1323

Miller’s Repair Shop
2945 S. 050 W.
LaGrange, IN 46761
+1 260 499 3318

Mountainside Mills
+1 570 786 7073

Mullets Machinery and Parts – Betterway Equipment
6870 S. State Road 5
Topeka, IN 46571
+1 260 593 2960

Nolt’s Midwest Produce Supplies
3160 140th Street
Charles City, IA 50616
+1 641 228 4496

Penns Creek Welding LLC
1340 Broadway Road
Winfield, PA 17889
+1 570 837 1197

200 Jalyn Drive
New Holland, PA 17557
+1 717 354 4343

Pioneer Equipment Inc
16875 Jericho Road
Dalton, OH 44618
+1 888 857 6340

Siri-Holmberg Machine Shop
PO Box 369
Philo, CA 95466
+1 707 895 2582

White Horse Machine
5566 Old Philadelphia Pike
Gap, PA 17527
+1 717 768 8313


Fitarelli Maquinas Agricolas
St. Etelvino Pes
30 – Bairro Industrial
99700-000 – Aratiba – RS – Brazil
+55 (54) 33761198


Avril Industrie
ZA de kerdroual
56270 Ploemeur
+33 (0) 2 978 63607

Bernard Michon Hippomobile
En Tarroux
71260 Azé
+33 (0) 3 853 33950

+33 (0) 622294103

15 RD 386 Verenay
69420 Ampuis
+33 (0) 4 745 61702

Jourdant PJ
ZA des Grands Champs
36210 Dun Le Poelier
+33 (0) 254406326

Prommata International
+33 (0) 683899003

ZA Artigues
+33 (0) 674019392


Hof Heckseifen
Familie Ohrndorf
57078 Siegen-Langenholdinghausen
+49 (0) 2718 3682

Maschinen- und Fahrzeug Technik
Schraienstr. 22
73660 Urbach
+49 (0) 718162692

Metallbau Freund
Nastätterstr. 4
56355 Bettendorf
+49 (0) 15778061206

PZTM Pferdezugtechnik Möller
Christoph Schmitz
Hauptstrafle 5
56355 Lautert
+49 (0) 15754601422

Sattlerei Hartmut Fiedler
Lungwitzer Str. 16
09356 St. Egidien/Sachsen
+49 (0) 3720484106

Hansjörg Fischer
D-78337 Öhningen
+49 (0) 7735 1318


Rajasthan Mechanical Works Ltd
No. A- 188- B
Road No. 6- D
V. K. I. Area
Jaipur, Rajasthan – 302013, India
+91 992 9603341 (Brahmpuri)
+91 141 2331549 (Jaipur)


Mainardi A. Srl
Via Dante
70 – Abbiategrasso (MI) – Italy
+39 (0) 29466556

Noi e il Cavallo / EQUIidea
Albano Moscardo
Via del Lazzaretto 98
37133 Verona – Italy
+39 (0) 45527899

Repossi Macchine Agricole
Via V. Emanuele II
40, Casorate Primo (PV) – Italy
+39 (0) 29056625


Schaff mat Päerd
(RCS F9883)
27, Rue de Brouch
L-7481 Tuntange


G – W Boguslawki
Boguslawki 8
63-800 Gostyn
+48 606615021


Gentag Imports & Exports
52 Vermaas Street
Hartbeesfontein, 2600
North West Province
+27 (0) 184311287


Snällasvägen 3
794 93 Orsa
+49 (0) 703974967

Österby Smedja
Finspängsvägen 5
SE-612 71 Rejmyre

SJM Skogsvagnar for Hastkorning
Skog o Mekaniska SJM Barkeryd
Prästgärd 1
571 94 Nässjö
+49 (0) 733502057


Orion Forestry
Takeley Business Centre
Dunmow Road
Takeley, Essex
CM22 6SJ
+44 (0) 1279 813591


Mealie Brand
Bulawayo Office
39 Steelworks Road
Steeldale, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
+263 (29) 2 888616