One final event for the NZ Society June 2011 centenary week was held at Erewhon Station with a 20 Horse Team hitched up to a wool wagon and driven through the Rangitata River. The 20 was Colin Drummond’s idea after a being inspired by a photo in the Omarama pub depicting a similar scene. That photo (right) was from about 100 years ago, so the centenary was the ideal time to recreate it.
The horses were harnessed in a four-six-six-four combination and pulled a one tonne wool wagon with 22 bales of wool. The complete load was approximately four tonne and even on the awkward riverbed the team pulled it easily. The old-timers estimated one tonne per horse so this load was well short of the 20 tonne our team should have been capable of.
Fifteen Erewhon Horses (13 Clydesdales & 2 Half Clyde’s) and Five of Steve Muggeridge’s Taungatara Clydesdales were used to make up the 20.
Eight of the Erewhon Horses had been in regular work but the additional seven horses comprised of broodmares who had not been worked for a number of years. They all slotted back in well and remembered their earlier training in the team.With a team this size it was essential to have good honest leaders because they are so far from the driver. Had they jibbed and not been driving forward we would have struggled.
Luckily the horses worked really well together and treated it like a relatively normal day at work. The biggest challenge was the riverbed track which was only wide enough for four horses so the “wing” horses of the six were jostling for a spot on the track. Also the river had flooded recently and washouts meant the track disappeared into flood banks in a number of places. This meant we had to improvise in places but sharp U-turns are not desirable with a monster team! Despite the extra challenges the riverbed location presented, it was still a good choice with mountains providing a great backdrop.
A six horse bar on the wagon was used to attach the third row of six horses. A pulley system similar to our eight horse ploughing set up was used for the two front rows. The four sets of reins were handled by two drivers; Main driver (Colin or Steve) with the front two rows and a secondary driver (Erin Cassie) with the back two rows. Our plan was for one driver to take all four sets of reins but disappearing daylight and the hazardous riverbed prevented that.
The time pressures of doing this during centenary week while Steve was in the South Island meant we couldn’t set up the perfect environment for a single teamster to drive the 20 easily. However, with the knowledge we have gained and with the 20 framework now built we will definitely do it again with small improvements to make it easier including; bulldozing a wider track with no dead ends, sunshine for the photographers and a heavier load to give the horses more to do!
But most importantly we achieved our re-enactment and we were thrilled with how the horses went. Fine tuning will make it a fun challenge for the future.
Roll Call from Drivers Left to Right.
Front 4 Leaders: Donnybrook Major, Donnybrook Connor, Donnybrook Luke, Donnybrook Dark Second Row of 6: Erewhon Hazel, Taungatara Joanna, Taungatara Blaze, Taungatara Charlotte, Taungatara Rochelle, Taungatara BenThird Row of 6: Erewhon Steppa, Erewhon Koala, Erewhon Quest, Erewhon Amy, Erewhon Jack, Erewhon Warrior Back 4 Shafter’s: Glen-Lie Kate, Erewhon Maggie, Casper and Erewhon Ruby.