We had felled our larch trees with the tree surgeons, but then what? The problem is that we wanted to leave the logs in longer lengths (about 8ft), so they could be planked. A few could be shifted by hand if we had enough strong volunteers to help (and we usually don’t) but the majority of logs were too big and heavy to move by hand, volunteers or no.
In a normal year we would either drive the trailer in, or use the tractor to get the logs out. But this hasn’t been a normal year. The ground is very wet and gets chewed up very easily. We definitely didn’t want to chew up the ground, particularly in the felling area, as this is the best patch of bluebells in the whole wood. Not to mention damaging the ground and affecting adjacent tree roots. We needed to get the logs out so a mobile sawmill can get to them and plank them.
We had seen horse-logging at various Forestry shows, and also on the TV, and we decided that this was the way to go. Working horses are far from obsolete. Their feet are kind to the ground. They tread a narrow path, dragging the log behind them on a narrow track. They can get into places that you can’t take a tractor and have a much lower impact on the ground. And they are very, very strong! The 8ft sections were something that a single working horse should be able to shift with ease, even though we struggled to roll them, let alone pick them up, even using log levers.
So it was that we contacted James Griffiths Horse Logging and asked if he would bring his beautiful pair of working grey Shire horses to the woods. It was with great excitement that we arrived at the woods on Friday 15th March to see them in action.
And what an immense privilege it was to see Dillon and Prince. The work was easy enough for one horse, so it was lovely Dillon, a 17.2 hands grey Shire, who did the work, and Prince came along to stay with his friend and watch him work – and to help out if needed.
These horses are so capable, so strong, and yet so very light on their feet. They made the huge logs that we struggled with look easy. And the damage to the ground was absolutely minimal – you would hardly know the horses had been there, except for a few leaves swept up here and there.
They worked fast – the whole job was done in about 3 hours – and that is faster than the tractor would have done it with lifting slings. In all about 30 large logs and a few smaller ones were moved, including some crab apple that was felled two years ago. They looked so right in the woodland setting. And they are versatile horses too – James rides them (see video Here – Midland Heavy Horse Show 2012 – at about 2.30 mins ) and also uses them to drive a drey.
I took loads of photos which are on Our Flickr Page and a video, shown below. It was an amazing day, and we are definitely trying to work out how we can work with these horses again in the future. What was completely clear from our experience is that horses can do the work on sensitive ancient woodland sites such as ours not only better than machinery, but with lower impact and very much more pleasure to all involved. The few spectators who came along were very impressed, as were we.
Horses are not obsolete. They can do work, and do it very well. When the oil runs out, they may have to do it again, and we will all be grateful to those who keep these wonderful breeds going for the future. I know we are.
Please take a moment to watch this video. Dillon warmed up with a few lighter logs before getting stuck in to the larger stuff.