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

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ear to the Ground

Photo; www.eskercommunity.org

Esker Monastery and Retreat House just east of Athenry nestles on a wooded hill and was founded in the eighteenth century by friars living in the woods nearby. These were the few who had remained in the area after most of their order had left in 1574 when their abbey and lands at Athenry were confiscated during the suppression of the church begun by Henry VIII.
Further persecution in 1691 saw the close of a remarkable school these friars had established in those same woods, until in 1707 when they rented land between two lakes at Esker to finally establish a monastery, continuing to this day a religious tradition in the area going back to the thirteenth century.

It was to the door of this monastery that we went seeking a suitable woodland site to demonstrate horse logging for Ear to the Ground, RTE's hugely popular rural affairs and farming programme, who felt that such a skill and service would be of interest to their viewers.
As most horse logging is suited to difficult terrain many woodlands we work in do not lend themselves to bringing in anyone bar our own logging crew. We needed a woodland site that was both accessible to a camera crew and also had a variety of trees needing removal so we could show the full range of work we do.

 Esker Monastery graciously offered us the use of their woods so we could bring the little known skill of horse logging to a wider audience, following the monastery's long tradition of being an educational facility, which has seen this religious community over the centuries have schools for both the poor and better off, at different times a private school, a Sunday school and a school that taught trades and farming skills- in fact Esker Monastery was the first agricultural college in Ireland.

Their woodland proved ideal to show how a working horse can go into a small wood and remove old or windblown timber with little interference to both the woodland floor and nearby residences.

As with all jobs our first step was to walk the entire site, earmarking work to be done and undertaking a Risk Assessment so as to ensure that all work carried out could be done in a safe manner. None of the mature Ash and Beech at the woods surrounding edges needed tending, whereas there was a lot to be done among the main body of Spruce.

We identified what timber was to be drawn out by the horse with little cutting, such as long fallen trees whose decaying trunks criss cross the woodland floor making it difficult to walk through.

Most of the timber to be removed was wind blown trees, some of which had not fallen all the way to the ground but were hanging on standing trees.These had to be cut down and then cross cut into lenghts about 12 feet long.

Removing these trees opens up the canopy allowing more light down to the woodland floor, which encourages to thrive the hundreds of seedlings like the occasional Beech (above) shining out

among swathes of Ash and Holly seedlings that cover the woodland floor.
The level of natural regeneration in this wood is astounding.

Some of the windblown trees had fallen over with the rootsballs tipped out of the ground 

creating caverns big enough to fit a man and dog inside.

More again had snapped close to their base,

while others snapped high up in the canopy, and now their broken off stems were held above in a web of ivy.

With hazards and work identified we began preparing routes into the Spruce so the horse could get access, cutting out standing dead trees and bringing down overhanging boughs and trunks.

Photo; Ella McSweeney

Though most trees were cut down and then cross cut into small lengths before being attached to the horses chains, there were a couple we pulled away full length from where they hung leaning against other trees. This mimics an actual horse logging technique to lessen the effort on the horse by deliberately felling a tree so as it catches on the other standing trees, never falling all the way to the ground. With less of it's trunk in contact with the ground there is less friction when the horse starts it's pull, so reducing the effort the horse has to exert to get the load moving. A perfect example of this was caught on film on the day.

The Ear to the Ground camera crew spent the entire day with us detailing every move we made from morning till dusk. It proved a long and worthwhile day broken up with a fine feed laid out for us by the hospitality of the monastery - many thanks to Father Vincent Kavanagh and Father Michael Cusack.

Ear to the Ground presenter Ella Mc Sweeney did try her hand at logging with the horse, and how she got on can be seen in the Ear to the Ground programme which can be viewed on the internet by going into RTE's website  http://www.rte.ie/tv/eartotheground
 Go into RTE Player -Enter Ear to the Ground into Search and open 23 February 2010
(Programme 16 of Series 17)

Photo; Ella McSweeney

Trojan Heavy Horses  Crew- back row, left to right-
Paddy Rooney (Sawman), Tom Nixon (Owner), Martino Newcombe (Horseman)

Ear to the Ground Crew -front row, left to right 
Kevin Fagan, Ella McSweeney, Niamh Kennedy, Tiffany Hodder