- By Shari Sue Halik
Over the course of forestry major Ethan Tapper's logging internship in Maine, he worked tirelessly in the craft of logging with horses in the woods -- and doing all the work necessary to make this possible. There was the grunt work -- mowing, raking, and baling hay for John's three horses Casey, Bubba, and Dan, and the better part of a week welding, cutting, grinding, and remanufacturing an old logging cart to John's specifications. But the larger benefit of the experience was understanding the implication that logging with horses could have on forestry.
Ethan's internship in rural Maine was with a self-taught horse logger, John Plowden, who has used the power of draft animals to harvest timber, pulp, and firewood for over twenty years.
"I gained many practical skills from my work with John, but a large part of my learning was realizing the incredible potential that exists in logging with horses and the implications this could have on the way forestry is practiced," says Ethan.
"Horses are not ideal for every woodlot or every silvicultural treatment, but in the right situation they can do things that no other harvesting system can. Their impact can be incredibly slight, especially with regards to soil compaction and erosion and (given a conscious teamster) to the residual stand they leave behind."
Surprisingly, Ethan explains, cost is also on the side of logging with horses. "The overhead costs associated with working with horses, especially compared to mechanized operations, are incredibly small, which allows them to work in smaller and less profitable woodlots and to conduct timber stand improvement (TSI) cuts with less cost to landowners."
"I began to see that horses were not simply a lower impact and lower yield version of a skidder but rather unique harvesting systems able to carry out unique forest management. I care deeply about forests, and I have come to care passionately about working with horses in the woods. I found logging with horses to be an intensely fulfilling experience, and one that, given what I know about forests, feels right to me."