Timber extraction by horse ---- Film and promotional work -- Horse logging courses Practical courses, five days long, conducted on a one to one basis on a working site

Our fully insured and experienced crew ensures quality work combining a traditional skill with modern sustainable forestry management- the natural way to work woodland

The advantages of using a professional horse logger to extract timber are;

- Selective thinning is economical as no extra trees are cut down than needed

-The low impact of horses leaves the forest floor in good condition

- No need for line thinning reduces risk of windblown trees

- Ensures your remaining standing trees are undamaged

- Ideal for wet, steep, rough and small plantations

- Leaves no timber behind on the forest floor

- Minimal disturbance to wildlife

- No pollution of waterways


For the past twenty eight years I have worked and trained heavy draught horses in all road, field and forest operations across Ireland - a trade I learned in the traditional manner where it was passed down through my family from father to son. This heavy horse heritage and the range of work we do with various breeds of these magnificent horses can be viewed in the archive below. References are available on request.
Feel free to contact me if you require any further information.

Tom Nixon, Athenry, County Galway, Ireland
mobile; 086 038 4857
email; tomnixonheavyhorses@hotmail.com

Member of
Forest Training & Education Ireland Ltd.
British Horse Loggers

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Shortest day of the year with the least light to get things done outside, and a welcome rest between logging contracts.

No better time to take stock and prepare for the coming season.

In our stable we have two young black Shires we are breaking in to meet the demands of our forestry, wedding and promotional work.

In the new year I will post details of their progress.

The Shire breed developed from different strains of heavy horse (noted for their sometimes excessive size, great breast, large muscular thighs and fairly short legs) bred throughout midland England, from the Fens in the east to Staffordshire in the west. Though there were many colours this breed was first called The Old English Black Horse until the name Shire was settled on in 1883.

'The Old English Black Horse' by William Sheils c.1840

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Family tradition

Working horses is a tradition on both sides of my family going back generations. Many of the men were employed as head horsemen on large estates, like my grandfather Thomas Scully second from the left. My uncle Pat Scully is standing third from the left.

Head horsemen were responsible for all the farmwork to be done with the horses, and the training of the young work horses coming on. Dealing with the estate owner or farm manager the head horseman also decided the daily work schedule for the other horsemen.

My maternal great grandfather about to cut a field of corn with a reaper and binder in Offaly, where our people are from. The horses appear to be a pair of Irish Draughts which are considered to be a light - to - medium draught horse.

To learn more about our native draught horse breed go to
'Irish Draught Horse Resource Guide' at http://www.irishdraughthorsebook.com/

Monday, November 17, 2008

Airfield Farm

With Airfield House in the background turning the sod of The Garden Field in 1992.

Ploughing ground is the first task in preparing land for planting.
The plough turns the sod upside down causing the grass to rot down, which provides nourishment and space for whatever crop the farmer intends to grow.

Drills can then be made for the likes of beet above which my father and myself sowed in The Middle Field in 1986, using the old type of Clydesdale horse (smaller than the breed type) to pull a scuffler to loosen any weeds so there is no competition to the crop.

Page from Henry J. Webb's Advanced Agriculture of 1894

I learned my trade the traditional way - from father to son - on Airfield Farm in Dublin, taking over as farm manager from my father Gerry in 1980.

Before Airfield my father had worked as a head horseman in Meath, and is pictured here at the R. D. S. Horse Show in 1990, winning First prize in the 'Dublin City Working Horse Class'.
This horse was an Irish Draught/Clydesdale cross bred mare. Traditionally in Ireland these two draught breeds were crossed to produce a heavy farm work horse.

For information about Airfield Farm click on http://www.airfield.ie/

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Heavy horses

Photo; Esther Corcoran

'Heavy horses' is the general term used to describe working horses built big enough to pull loads behind them.
Those in my company 'Trojan Heavy Horses' come in all shapes and sizes.
The latest in our stable is this Mountain Ardennes mare from Belguim - seen here at Teagasc's Farmfest 2008 - who is a mere 15 hands high compared to taller breeds we use like English Shires and Scottish Clydesdales. There are two Ardennes breeds with the Lowland Ardennes being bigger that the Mountain Ardennes, which is more compact and suited to hill work.
No less strong, her small stature means she has a smaller angle of draught than taller breeds, so needs less effort to shift the same load as the bigger heavy horse breeds such as the Shires below.

Undertaking a job for the Irish National Forestry Foundation in 2007 on Manch Estate in Dunmanway in West Cork, the ground was so steep it was necessary to hitch two Shires together to shift full length poles of Douglas Fir.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Film work

Trojan Heavy Horses have appeared in films as far back as the 1992 epic 'Far and Away' where our crew dressed as coal men handled Scottish Clydesdales in the sidestreets of Temple Bar in Dublin, which had been transformed to look like nineteenth century Boston, the American city into which the characters played by Tom Cruise and Nicloe Kidman landed into.

More recently one of the Shires (top left pulling the wagon) from 'King Arthur' in 2004 was sent to our stable to be trained in all types of field work. This service we offer to owners of heavy horses who want to have a draught animal that will be as useful and confident working in woodland and farming environments as on the road.

In 2006 two of our heavy horses were in Ken Loach's 'The Wind That Shakes the Barley'.
In the scene outside the courtroom pictured above, we had a horse pulling a brewery dray.

This dray horse was bred from an Irish Draught/Clydesdale mare crossed with a Shire stallion.

In another scene, dressed as a priest, I can be seen driving a Clydesdale down a mountain road carrying a group of escaped rebels in a cart.

(Crew and Facilities - http://www.irishfilmboard.ie/ )

Scottish logger

Being the only commercial horse logger in Ireland means I must travel abroad to work with other loggers to keep abreast of modern developments and techniques in the industry.
Last autumn I visited Jim Johnstone from Auldgirth in Dumfries in Scotland who was working his Brabant, the largest of the Belgium heavy horse breeds, alongside a mechanical harvester.

A collar of leather goes around the working horse's neck to protect it from bruising from the wooden/metal hames. The hames are connected by hooks to the shafts or trace /chains of the load or vehicle. Irish collars are open like Canadian ones which mean they can be adapted to suit different sizes of horses. English collars are closed and fit only one size of horse.
Jim uses a combination of English and Canadian harness and had a narrow back pad and britchin ( leather strapping across the horse's rump) so he could run his lines or traces higher than usual - and so avoid getting them caught in the horse's legs.
This meant the horse could take tighter turns and was much more manoeuvrable than one that had it's traces or chains low to the ground.

Irish oak woods

Heavy horses cause the least disturbance to the forest floor where seedlings are regenerating, and are often the only way to extract timber from - and through - areas like Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve in West Cork, an environment so sensitive that even a small spill of oil from a tractor engine fording a river would damage the entire ecosystem. For this job I used a Shire to pull the out lengths of Western Hemlock (a non native tree species) which had been planted amidst native Oak to act as a nurse crop. Hemlock is a valuable timber as it is as durable as Oak.
The horse was able to get these out without damaging the remaining standing Oaks.

Bluebells under Irish Oaks in Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve
Photo; Catherine Holland


Member of

Forest Training & Education Ireland Limited
Clydesdale Horse Society of Ireland
British Horse Loggers Association
Shires pulling traditional delivery dray