Draft horses were originally bred primarily to work on farms to pull plows and other heavy loads. Between World War I and World War II, tractors became the preferred tool for plowing and the number of draft horses declined sharply. Now, registrations of draft horses are actually increasing. So what are they being used for these days?
#1 – Farming
Draft horses are making a comeback on small farms and remain a staple in the Amish community. Cheaper than a tractor, horses are “fueled” by grass, hay, and grain instead of oil, and produce useful fertilizer instead of diesel exhaust. A well-trained team has more finesse than a large tractor and can pull a cultivator through a field of seedlings to remove weeds without disturbing the crop. Also, a tractor will never love you, no matter how much you may love it.
#2 – Logging
With selective tree harvesting becoming a more popular logging method than less-sustainable clear-cutting, draft horses maneuver through forests more easily than machinery to remove individual logs. They also cause less damage to forest floors with no pollution and less noise than a tractor.
#3 – Showing
Shows are becoming an increasingly popular venue for draft horses. In halter shows, horses are led rather than ridden and are judged on conformation and suitability as breeding stock. In conformation shows, judges evaluate the degree of correctness of a horse’s bone structure, musculature, and body proportions in relation to its breed. In hitch competitions, teams of horses pull a cart or wagon in a pattern around a judge who compares each team to others in the same class.
In this event, horses (usually alone or in pairs) are in a harness and competing to pull the heaviest weighted sled or stone boat a short distance. There are different weight classes and strict rules to avoid animal cruelty.
There has been a surge in popularity of horse-drawn trolleys and carriages in many tourist areas, but they are especially popular in areas that re-enact certain periods of history.
Draft horses are beautiful and majestic animals that deserve every opportunity to flourish. What are your favorite uses for draft horses? Do you know some that aren’t listed in this article?