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

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Powerful horses

Trojan Heavy Horses returned in September to Airfield in Dublin where they had not worked since 1993 to plough, harrow and set rape seed which is being grown as Spring grazing for the farm's lambs.

First the grass was ploughed over and then a harrow was used to break up the clods of earth into a fine 'tilth' which gives seeds the best chance of growing.

Many people today no longer understand the process by which ground is prepared so food crops can be grown - and very few have seen it done with heavy working horses- so we attracted a lot of attention from Airfield's visitors.

So popular were these gentle giants on the day that Airfield has decided to have our working horses come back to this urban farm on a regular basis, which we will do returning with different types of heavy horses and equipment over the coming seasons to demonstrate traditional Irish farm practices.

The pair we used in September to plough, harrow and seed were Scottish Clydesdales, a 12 year old and a 9 year old, both geldings and 18.1 hands high.

Towering above the heads of the crowd - enthralled by the size and calmness of these magnificent horses - who were delighted in getting close enough to pet their massive heads.

Just to be in the company of horses has a positive and measurable effect on peoples' well being recognised throughout the world in non - riding equine programmes.

As the sheer size of heavy horses does seem to magnify this effect it can be a useful tool for educational purposes whether in demonstrating traditional agricultural practices or modern forestry techniques.

How we relate to our environment has never been more relevant than today, so practical demonstrations of our farm and work horse tradition is one way for urban children to understand how their rich rural heritage is linked to modern sustainable farming.

As not every child will be able to visit an urban farm any school interested in having us visit them with our heavy horses can contact me, and we will tailor make a memorable demonstration to fit into their science or history curriculums.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Weddings and promotions

Travelling nationwide we have a selection of harness, farm machinery, wagons and carriages undertaking everything from film and promotional work to providing an elegant carriage and pair for weddings.

Our heavy horses prove as eye catching whether at agricultural demonstrations driving a flat cart

to sowing seed with a box drill

or forking manure from a Scotch cart as part of a re-enactment of rural life in Ireland of the 1930's.

On this occasion pulling a traditional delivery dray at a country fair with the next generation on board, my daughter Holly.

Whatever the event, we have the working horses, equipment and personnel to provide a memorable experience.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Heavy horse heritage

Eighteen years ago the Garden Field of Airfield Farm, Dundrum in Dublin being ploughed with a pair of Irish Draught/Clydesdale cross bred mares.

Taking over as Farm Manager in 1980 I worked this urban farm using draught horses in keeping with Airfield Farm's heavy horse heritage- not only were the sheds full of horse drawn machinery, but in the stable the painted name plates of the Overend family's farms working horses 'Kitty', 'Nellie' and 'Nora' still hung above each stall.

Continuing this tradition in such a unique environment inspired me to form my company 'Trojan Heavy Horses' which has since seen us undertake every road, field and forest operation that can be done using the might of these magnificent animals.
This year on Saturday and Sunday
September 12 and 13
'Trojan Heavy Horses' will return to Airfield to plough and till a field so it can be set with seed, restoring this farm's unique heavy horse heritage.

'Tilling' the soil is done to produce a good 'tilth', the name given to a fine bed of earth that seeds can grow in. This is achieved by breaking down the large clods of earth (traditionally left exposed over the winter to frosts) which are the result of turning over the grass sod by slicing through it with a plough.

Pages from Henry J Webb's ' Advanced Agriculture' of 1894

For more information on Airfield Farm go to the Blog Archive on the top left of this page and open the November 2008 posting titled 'Airfield Farm'.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Traditional rural skills and crafts

Recently while trying to get in contact with a craftsman that we had met at an agricultural show (for a client whose timber we were drawing out) we noticed in general how hard it is to track down various woodland trades and skills- many are virtually unknown outside their own circles.

Consequently I decided to host a directory that should, by improving communication between us all, increase all our businesses and at the same time show woodland owners the many possibilities of how they can manage or profit from their timber.

 An Iron Age dwelling called a Crannog being reconstructed at Brigit's Garden supervised by Forester and Woodworker Steven Burke from Athenry- www.brigitsgarden.ie

Conversations between those initially contacted about such a directory resulted in the decision not to restrict this solely to woodland related businesses, but to include general traditional rural skills, crafts and produce.

If you have a skill, craft or product that you consider relevant you are welcome to e-mail me an image (photos, logo or business card) and a description along with your contact details and I will list it on this page. My email is tomnixonheavyhorses@hotmail.com
This service is free.

Scroll down for the following;

Forester and woodworker

Nature Farming 
            - Self Sufficiency Courses 
               - Working Horse Courses

Wooden gates, post and rail fencing

Native trees and hedging
                   -Rustic wooden gates and brackets
                         -Charcoal and
                         -Hedgelaying, stonewall and
earthbank repairs

Horse logger based in England


Forester and woodworker
Steven Burke
Tel. 087 798 4209
email stdebu@gmail.com

''From tree to timber frame house-

Interior of The Crannog in Brigit's Garden, Roscahill, County Galway

Steven Burke is a forester and woodworker who also operates his own sawmill at home.
His set up enables him to cut logs into suitable timber sizes and use them for timber frame constructions.

So far his buildings consist of Chalets, Workshops, Offices, Potting Sheds and Treatment Rooms.

He also builds decks, playgrounds, gates, Rustic furniture - anything that can be built from wood.''

To see details of course on ''Woodwork and Construction of Traditional Wooden Building''  click below;


Nature Farming
Self sufficiency courses 
Working horse courses

Ballinreeshig Nature Farm
Ballygarvan, County Cork

website; www.reeshignaturefarm.blogspot.com

'Striving to create more awareness about self sufficiency and  promoting biodiversity in the way we farm with nature. Ballinreeshig Nature Farm provides many opportunities for people to learn more about the true values, and importance, of an ecologically sound approach to the way we live our lives.'


Wooden gates, post and rail fencing

Paddy Murray,
Moorpark Sawmills Est 1947
Birr, Co. Offaly Tel. 05791 21245 and 087 7442168

''Hand crafted from Irish Larch this adaptation of the zig-zagging, early American split rail fencing offers the same rustic look but uses much less timber as all the posts are mortised and all the rails are tapered to fit into them, making it one of the easiest fences to build, making it perfect for D.I.Y.
Each piece is hand crafted from Irish Larch which is known for it's strength and durability. Using only Larch from sustainably managed woodlands these gates (hand crafted to your own design) and fences require minimal maintenance and no chemical preservatives - a unique and 100% natural product.''


Native trees & hedging
Rustic wooden gates and brackets
Charcoal and firewood
Hedgelaying, stonewall and earthbank repairs

Niall McKenna
Tel. 086 3061248

''Woodland Heritage-
my aim is to protect and enhance natural native woodland and plants principally through regeneration and replanting of native stock in appropriate locations and soil suitability.
All seed is from local provenance where possible and grown outdoors so as to maintain hardiness and ensure survivability under Irish conditions.

Most of the main species are available, as are all of the native shrubs and plants which can make a very useful and attractive hedge or boundary. A complete delivery and planting service along with aftercare and maintenance is available.
Trees or shrubs can be supplied barerooted or in biodegradable pots at 1, 2 or 3 year old.
All planting is done with hand tools (ie. spade) to minimise damage to existing vegetation particularly in existing woodland.

Much of our ancient woodland was protected by some form of enclosure to limit access to grazing animals - both wild and domestic. Dry stone walls or earthbanks were installed and maintained where no natural boundaries existed and eventually these tended to develop into natural hedges.

We can also undertake dry stone wall and earthbank repairs, gatepost fitting or stone pier building and fit rustic wooden or metal gates. Hedgelaying is another service provided during the dormant season.

Finally, any surplus timber (after hedgelaying, thinning, pruning) can be turned into firewood, charcoal or craft material - if suitable.''


Horse logger based in England

Doug Joiner 

Heavy Horses/Childer Wood Heavy Horses,
Hill Farm, Stanley Hill, Bosbury, Ledbury,Herefordshire, HR8 1HE, England
Phone; (+44)  01531 640236 
Mobile; (+44) 07773 900751
Website ; www.heavyhorses.net
Email; doug@heavyhorses.net

 ''I have been a professional horse logger since 1993 and am a woodland manager and qualified trainer.
I work for statutory, national and local bodies, various woodlands and wildlife trusts and owners of small woodlands. I manage Childer Wood and uses horses for all the work ;timber extraction, scarification, fertilising, bracken and bramble control as well as moving the tools and equipment. I believe very strongly in the future of the working horse, in it's flexible power and delicacy.
It is a truly appropriate power source for the ultimate low impact timber extraction system, handling all types and sizes. A well trained horse and a professional contractor team led by a horse logger can only assist in the growing , management and harvesting of quality timber.
Horses can be used at low capital cost to work with a range of equipment in private,conservation, amenity and commercial forestry, working alongside or replacing tractors and heavy machinery.
I offer training in horse logging, horse work and woodland management; in groups and individually.
I also demonstrate horse logging at shows across the country. 
I am Chair of the British Horse Loggers the national industry body for professional horse loggers and an active member of FECTU the European Federation for the Promotion of the use of the Working Horse''

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Crusheen Co. Clare working on our current contract Martino Newcombe - who trained with me in heavy horse handling at Airfield Farm in 1991- extracting pole length Larch thinnings along a main ride in very wet conditions. If this had been done with a machine the ride would have become impassable, but because of the low impact of the horses we will be able to use this ride to extract timber until the end of the job. The surface  damage is so light that this will be green again in three to four weeks

At the landing the poles are cut into three metre lengths and stacked ready for sale. Larch is a valuable tree in that it is tougher, stronger and more durable than any other conifer than Yew. It grows six times quicker than Oak and being impervious to rotting and insects is used for railway sleepers, bridges,pit props, pilings, boat building, fencing and gates.

Hay and corn

Kerry in 1993, when I was Horseman on Muckross Traditional Farms demonstrating how a ' reaper and binder' is used to harvest corn as part of Muckross's depiction of farming life in the 1920's and 30's.

This piece of equipment cut the corn and tied it into handy sized bundles- sheafs - which had then to be stood upright in the field to dry out. Only then could the grain be separated from the straw stalks which was stored in heaps.
The working horses drawing this reaper were my Irish Draught/Clydesdale mare and Shire stallion, which we won the Birr Cavalcade the previous year with, pulling a restored C.I.E. wagon filled with bales of straw- the modern method of storing straw.
Corn is any type of grain such as wheat or barley that is used as food for humans, the edible part being the seed head while the stalks become straw used for bedding livestock.

Hay is grass that is cut and dried so it can be stored - saved- and later used to feed livestock during the winter. In the photo below the Lakes of Killarney in the National Park are visible in the distance beyond where I was cutting hay with a ' finger bar mower'.

The invention of a horse drawn mowing machine meant one man could do the work of many men who would have had to cut this long grass by hand with a scythe. The mature grass when cut is still full of moisture so to make it into hay it must be turned over so wind and sun can dry it out.

This was usually turned by hand with forks though some farms would have used a horse drawn 'hay- maker' pictured below.
Both hay and corn must be dry before they can be stored so making them is always at the mercy of the weather.

The following pages from Henry J Webb's Advanced Agriculture of 1894 gives a detailed account of the types of horse drawn machinery that were used for making hay and cutting corn.

Friday, March 27, 2009


'Domino' a young Shire getting his first lesson in draught work.
To shift any load be it a dead weight or a vehicle, the power of a working horse is harnessed by connecting it to a load through a complicated system of leather, ropes and chains called 'harness'.
Harness differs to suit the vehicle, equipment or amount of horses.

When turning a horse for fieldwork these chains rub tight around the horse's flanks and legs so the first lesson a young horse gets is a gentle build up of both pressure on its sides from the chains, and pressure on its shoulder from a weight.

This is best done by having the horse pull a tyre which is soft on the backs of it's legs should the horse step backwards - a hard object like a railway sleeper might spook a young horse - and a tyre also gives an even pull unlike a sleeper which will hop on uneven ground.

One piece of harness that is always present is the 'collar' which sits just above the shoulder around the neck.
Loads are moved by the action of the horse pushing forward into the collar.
Collars are traditionally made of leather and blanket stuffed with straw or hair, and act as a pad to protect the horse's neck from being damaged by the metal 'hames' .
The hames are hooked into the chains running back to the equipment.
In the past the hames were often made of wood.

This pair of Connemara/Thoroughbred cross bred mares I have been training for a client over the winter have a surprisingly good temperament for this type of cross, and are coming along well. Full sisters, 3 and 5 years of age, they are being trained to be driven under a wagonette.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Shire Horse

' Lucky Lad, a Shire Horse ' painted by H. Crowther around 1914 shows all that is prized in this, the largest of the English heavy horse breeds; long legs, proud bearing and heavy feather (hair on the lower leg).

Height is judged where the shoulder meets the neck, and described in 'hands' which are four inches each, so a horse that is 17 hh (hands high) is 5' 8'' high at the point of it's shoulder.
The mother and father of any horse is referred to as it's dam and sire.

'Nashs Domino'-one of the young Shire horses we are training in - rising four years of age and should make 17 hands high.

His breeding;
Sire - 'Moorefield Joseph' (Premium Stallion)
Grand sire - 'Hillmoor Prince Charles' (Super Premium Stallion)
Great grand sire- 'Hillmoor Enterprise' (Super Premium Stallion)

Dam - 'Trem-Y-Wyddfa-Sue'
Dam's sire - 'Hillmoor Enterprise'

Domino's sire 'Moorefield Joseph' was bred by well known breeder Ray Williams from Lancashire. While not the biggest of Shires at 17 hh, 'Moorefield Joseph' bred many show winners, and what is most important to me - bred super working horses.

Blessed with good temperament, a willingness to work and please and very good legs, feet and general conformation -I see Domino as one of the best Shires I have owned. His grand sire and great grand sire were both Super Premium stallions and both National Shire Horse Show winners on many occasions.

Grand Sire 'Hillmoor Prince Charles' with his owner Mr. Tony Bull, a noted breeder of heavy horses, from 'Arclid Shires and Clydesdales' in Cheshire, England.

Domino's great grand sire 'Hillmoor Enterprise' was thought to be the best Shire stallion in the world for a quarter of a century, and as he is also Domino's dam's sire, this young horse will definitely be one to watch out for in the future where Trojan Heavy Horses are working or showing.

Below is the breed description from Henry J. Webb's 'Advanced Agriculture' of 1894, written when heavy horses like Shires were still the most common form of traction in England.