We endeavour to use the horses as much as possible for farm work at Erewhon. This is more to keep condition on them than trying to replace the tractor. They don’t need diesel, but they do need to be talked to and fed with high energy oats which they help harvest.
We generally work ground with an 8 horse team hitched 4 abreast. Experienced horses make up the front four and give lessons to the “youngsters” in the second row. They plough, cultivate, disc, harrow and drill. Equipment hasn’t changed shape much since the old days so therefore Clydesdales can do just as good a job as the latest tractors. While a tractor and modern machinery could often do a job quicker, we just make the time. However, there are two qualities that give horses an edge; the more you use horses the better they get, unlike machinery where the more you use them the more they cost you! Plus no-one has seen a tractor wheel-step sideways and the Clydesdales make it look easy when they reach the end of a ploughing run.
When time and weather permits we use the mower with two horse teams to cut hay. The binders are used with 4 horse teams to cut and bind oats. The oat sheaves are then stooked to dry before going through the chaff cutter to make feed for the horses.
The Clydesdales pull our wagon with dogs, musterers & supplies up the valley floors from where we muster the hills on foot. The horses are also used as hacks for riding out from camp to the base of the mountains each morning. When it comes to getting home from the autumn muster, a Clydesdale wagon team is usually more than a match for angry rivers that can rise in a flash. With three major flood-prone rivers crisscrossing Erewhon — Clyde, Havelock and Lawrence — horses are the only sure-fire way of guaranteeing access to mustering blocks. They have a sixth sense; if you nose them up to a swollen river and give them time, they will pick and choose where to enter the water. Clydesdales are big and strong and will sort out the firmer footing, and steer around the big boulders and deep holes.
Pictures tell a thousand words so check out our working horses album: