In revising The Horse-Lover's Encyclopedia, (and earlier, writing Horse Crazy!), one of my goals was to expand awareness of the draft horse scene. How do I know it's a scene? Largely due to my mother's subscription to The Draft Horse Journal.
Founded in 1964 by Maury and Jeannine Telleen, DHJ is published quarterly. A subscription is $35, and it's a bargain. Articles are both in-depth and wide-ranging, covering both the North American draft horse and draft horses around the globe. There are regular columns by a veterinarian and a lawyer, and jokes scattered around on the bottoms of the pages for extra smiles.
The Winter 2017 issue features articles on leading Clydesdale sires, a working field-day for Brabant horses, the equine artist Shannon Lawlor, horse-powered haying and Christmas tree operations, and "Testosterone and the Breeding Stallion." Production values are high and the photography is often beautiful. If you had the impression that draft horses were a thing of the past, DHJ will change your mind. Horse prices are high at the many annual sales, horse pulling and big hitches are going strong, and many people enthusiastically use horses on the farm. DHJ sponsors and reports on Horse Progress Days, an annual field day at which innovative horse-drawn farm equipment makes its debut. Yes, innovation is still happening in the field of horse-drawn farm equipment!
I particularly love the way DHJ articles take me beyond what I already know. In a recent article about logging in the Ardennes forest, I was startled, even concerned, to see a single horse being driven up onto a pile of logs. Turns out these large horses (the Ardennes breed looks similar to the Brabant) are taught to step onto the logs to help settle and organize them into a compact pile. I wouldn't have thought a horse could be taught to do that, calmly and matter-of-factly, as part of the normal course of work.
The horse is driven using a jerk-line. Two reins made of rope combine into a single line that comes back to the driver's hand. Gentle tugs and voice commands allow for sophisticated communication. The command "un pas" (one step) is especially important.
To see a horse who looks like an intelligent boulder, thoughtfully trampling a pile of logs, expands my mind to the possibilities between human and horse. It's reason enough to subscribe to this great magazine--or in my case, freeload off my mom! Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Draft Horse Journal.