Since 2011 we have Molly and Podge, who are our two Irish Cobs horses. They maintain our grazing fields, turning the grass into energy and providing us with plenty of organic manure, which once composted, we use in our gardens. Molly and Podge contribute to managing the work load at The Hollies. They can pull logs, bring in firewood, pull carts and work the soil. Of course they also enjoy a long hack out or pulling a little trap. Podge is also a fully trained to Equine Assisted Learning horse.
It makes sense for us to try and include horses and their strength into our community. We have experimented with growing some vegetable crops on a bigger scale and rather than using a fuel powered rotavator we can ask Molly and Podge to help to prepare the soil: the impact of their hooves on the soil is less severe than the wheels of a tractor, thus creating less soil compaction and maintaining a healthy soil life. The last years have been a journey of developing trust, confidence and learning new skills and familiarising ourselves with some basic horse drawn equipment, such as different types of harnesses, potato ridgers and harrows. Selvi and Podge have also been trainingto pull small logs and to bring in firewood using a sledge. We are currently practising driving the two horses as a team. For some years, we had a 1/4 acre of grassland turned into a ‘field scale’ vegetable patch. We grew potatoes, onions and pumpkins, with good outcomes; with weed control being the biggest challenge. For 4 months over winter time this patch became the home of 3 pigs which we reared for meat consumption. They helped to plough the field for us, by the time they were gone, the soil was ready for harrowing/tilling. Due to time restrictions, we are currently not horse ploughing, but planning to establish a new potato field next year. Instead of rearing pigs, we have switched over to raising some lambs for our own consumption.
Molly and Podge are still busy. They are in training with Natural Horsemanship methods and are involved in our Equinelibrium, Equine Assisted Learning Programe (Click for link).