By Lisa Joy
The lost ways of farming the land with horses are being restored.
Brett Fulford and Cam Anderson expect 46 draft horses from across Alberta to help plow and seed land near Clive for 24-2 Draft Horses’ fourth annual seeding event utilizing authentic horsepower on May 13-14.
“We will be plowing down last year’s barley stubble and then disking, harrowing and seeding with a 1940ish Van Brunt, four-horse seed drill,” said Fulford.
This year 24-2 Draft Horses have teamed up with Old Prairie Sentinel Distillery in Lacombe. They will seed about 15 acres of Newdale, two-row malting barley on Lynn Cain and Mike Forsyth’s land, who practice organic farming in Lacombe County. The entire project should take two days, weather permitting.
“With the amount of horses we will have we should have it all finished up by Sunday afternoon.”
The work, however, is physically demanding on the men and women who are bringing back this traditional way of farming.
But the rewards are clear.
“It’s very relaxing and enjoying doing something different with your horses.”
And working together in large groups has its benefits.
“I enjoy the visiting, no stress, just relaxing with the horses.
“Some old guys remember doing it in their youth for a living,” he said, adding that the old-timers pass on valuable knowledge and skills.
Fulford has a day job in the oilfield and farming is a hobby.
“It’s pretty much on weekends and after supper that we get to play. Sometimes you’re out there until after, or past dark because you know you have to go to work in the morning or that rain is coming.”
Fulford and Anderson’s team of eight draft horses are Percherons. Getting horses moving in the spring is similar to compelling humans to budge after a long winter of inactivity.
“You have to get them stronger and get them in shape,” said Fulford. “If you get them in pretty good shape you can get six to eight hours a day. When they first start out they go three to four hours. You don’t want to exhaust them, their lungs, you want to muscle tire them. You give them a lot of breaks to get their wind; plough 10 minutes and stop for five minutes. Once they are in shape they can go half an hour and stop for 10 minutes.”
To get the horses in motion, Fulford commands them with ‘team’ or a clicking sound using the cheek or tongue. To make them stop ‘whoa’ works, and if they’re tired, just hesitating will prompt the enormous work horses to stop.
“It does take a lot of patience. The calmer you are the calmer the horses are. They are a replica of how you are.”
No hydraulic rock pickers remove rocks from the field. Instead, they are handpicked by strenuous manual labour.
The crop will be harvested this fall using two restored vintage John Deere binders.
The public is welcome to watch brute horsepower in action and experience this old fashioned farming event on May 13-14. Just head to Lynn Cain and Mike Forsyth’s farm, which is located west of the Joffre plant on Freedom Road and Township Road 38-4. Follow Township Road 38-4 west for two miles and it will turn into Range Road 26-2. Go north for half a mile. The event of course depends on Mother Nature and it could be rained out.
“The power of one horse is amazing but when you get six and eight hooked up and working together, you have some real horsepower.”
By Lisa Joy