A while ago a course in the organic centre brochure caught my eye 'Working With Horses'. I began to mull over the benefits of having a working horse on the smallholding, which was quite difficult as I had very limited 'horsey' knowledge ie absolutely no idea what a working horse could actually be used for on a farm. It's funny, but sometimes when something crops up for the first time in my life it seems to keep coming up, when I've never thought about it before. No sooner had I started thinking about this previously unvisited subject in my head, I saw an article in Sustainability magazine about ... working horses. I devoured the article within minutes and read it over again and again. The facts and figures were fascinating. I got in touch with Sandra Schmid, the author, and she painted a realistic picture of the kinds of job a cob horse or donkey might be able to help with.
A horse would certainly fit in well with our long term plans for the woodland. There are other jobs a horse could be used for too ... preparing vegetable beds, ploughing and planting areas in which to grow grain and fodder to feed the horse itself and our other livestock, perhaps even to go shopping in our local village. The benefits of using a horse instead of the car for short trips, or a tractor, is that we can (with it's help) grow it's fuel requirements in the field, what's more the 'emissions' can be composted and recycled in the veg garden! On top of that a horse can replicate itself and make more horses for you to use or sell, I've not come across a vehicle that can do that yet.
In the meantime Dan went on the working with horses course and immediately became enamoured with the whole idea too, which was exactly why I sent him on the course rather than myself!
Jim Cronin and his son teaching the 'Working With Horses' course at the Organic Centre, Rossinver
Of course there are expenses to consider; feed, housing, fencing, shoes, tackle, carts and vets bills. We will be doing some maths and thinking about the pros and cons, then we'll probably throw that piece of paper out the window and fall in love with some lovely little Irish cob and that'll be that.