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, July 21, 2010

Felling and presenting timber for horse extraction

 Part of our business is firewood production. Here I prepare a mature Ash which was felled earlier in the year and left to dry out on the ground.

 Now ready for extraction by horse it must be cleaned up. All its brash (side branches) are cut down into small lengths and cleared to one side or these will become obstacles which will trip up the feet of the logger and the horse.

 Regardless of size, age or species of timber the onus is on the sawman to prepare the timber to be extracted.
To ensure safe practice the chainsaw operator must clean off the felled timber and clear a path to it.

The thinning of this Spruce is no different. Often a  tree is not leaning in the direction of the extraction path so a sequence of specific cuts and use of a felling bar (a long handled wedge) is needed to drop the tree in the right direction to reduce further man handling.

 This particular felling bar doubles as a 'Cant hook' which grips the tree so it can be rolled or turned without strain on the sawman's back.

It is essential that all its branches are cut clean off because any one of these will snag  in the earth causing more drag on the horse, which will ultimately reduce the payload.

 The chainsaw operator should fell and present all timber in a correct manner for the horseman. As well as leaving the racks (extraction paths through the standing timber) tidy and free of all obstacles all felled timber should be pointed in the direction the horseman has chosen to go, placing all the brash out of the way in between the racks.

There are two ways to present the timber. If it is too heavy to be man handled out onto the rack from where it is cut down, then it should be dropped so the heavy end is pointed towards the rack. The area around the heavy end along with the space between it and the rack should be cleared of brash- so that the logger can leave the rack with the logging horse and be able to back the horse right up to the timber having no other work to do than to slip the choke chain around the trunk.

If the timber is light enough to be man handled out to the rack then it should be left in bundles, ideally with the heavy ends propped up on a small cross beam of wood as can be seen above. Even a small branch is effective in providing a gap between the ground and the timber so that the logger can slip the choke chain around the bunch without having to roll any of them about to get choke chain under them.
This is the most effective use of labour.

A clear passage that is vital to ensure safe footing for horse and logger has the added advantage that can be seen on this rack which we extracted through by horse recently during heavy rain. Despite large volumes of rainfall the ground has been left in a perfect condition.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Heavy horses in Athenry


Shire mare at the Athenry Agricultural Show in County Galway today where -despite the adverse weather conditions- we had a successful display bringing together seven heavy horse breeds in the one place, the first time such an event was staged in Ireland.

Some of the line up; from left to right, 

Irish Draught with owner Eamonn Foy from Dublin, 
Suffolk Punch owned by Ray Kerr from Northern Ireland,
Friesian with owner Val Good from Dublin,
then Percheron owned by Pat Maloney from Galway
and Shire with owner Pat Murray from Roscommon.

Brian Gallagher and his Clydesdale stallion

 My Mountain Ardennes shown by Paddy Rooney-Trojan Heavy Horses crew

Pat Maloney with his Percheron gelding which he works in forestry.

I had not just chosen prime examples of each heavy horse breed but invited horsemen who were all experienced and professional handlers. This was evident on the day during high winds and squally showers which made the horses excitable and lively.

 Irish Draught and Friesian

The upshot of which was a perfect oppurtunity to demonstrate one of the reasons we staged the display; to show to the general public that despite heavy horses being percieved as docile because they are  large and  slow moving, that given the right conditions they can be (because they are horses) alarmingly lively and light on their feet.

Ray Kerr's Suffolk Punch mare shown by Dave Reid from Dublin.

 All experienced horse people know that the bombproof horse does not exist - whatever the breed- so for the sake of safety with the high winds, we decided not to show any heavy horses in vehicles or implements as originally planned, and instead show all seven breeds in hand or in harness.


To mark this first gathering of seven heavy horse breeds in one place each exhibitor was presented with a sash and rossette by the Show Chairman Tommy Whelan.

Val Good and his Friesian gelding which he works as a carriage horse.

Percheron and Friesian

 The day went well due to the horsemens' skill and enthusiasm - some travelling from Dublin and Northern Ireland- at their own expense.
I would like to thank them all for their help and support.

All heavy horses were shown by people who work them on roads, farms and  forestry- traditional horsemen who keep the future of working horses alive.

More photos to follow.