Since 2011, we have two horses residing at the Hollies, Molly and Podge, who are both Irish Cobs. 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 are our helpers on the land. The type of work they can do is pulling logs, bringing in firewood, pulling carts and working the soil. Of course they also enjoy a long hack out or pulling a little trap. Podge is currently trained to become an ‘Equine Assisted Learning’ horse.
It makes sense for us to try and include horses and their strength into our community. We are hoping to grow some 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. We also hope that one day we can deliver our vegetables to the local community using a cart.
The last 4 years have been a journey of developing trust, confidence and learning new skills and familiarizing 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. Meanwhile, we have turned 1/4 acre of grassland into a ‘field scale’ vegetable patch. We have grown potatoes, onions and pumpkins, with good outcomes; but weed control is still a challenge. For 4 months over winter time this patch becomes the home of 3 pigs which we rear for meat consumption. They help to plough the field for us, by the time they are gone, the soil is ready for harrowing/tilling.
Selvi has picked up most of her skills from Sandra Schmidt from www.horsepowerinireland.com . With the help of her two amazing horses Henry and Winnie, Sandra has patiently guided and supported Selvi and her team on their horsepower journey.