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Horses for Courses - By Andrew Lane

Posted by sheiladearing on 08 Feb 2013 at 03:49 PM

Did you ever wonder what the saying ‘Horses for courses’ actually meant? I discovered that it is an old English idiom that means the right method or tool for the right situation. Well, here at RHS Garden Rosemoor we have the perfect example of horses for courses, in the actual form of horses!

Remember the tree felling and brash burning that ensued before Christmas? It was done with the intention of removing hazardous trees that had been killed or were dying due to Dendroctonus micans infestation. I did tell you to watch this space and here it is. As a continuation of that effort, with the brash burnt, the final thing to remove is the felled and cleaned trees.

The usual, modern day approach to this task would have been to bring in a machine called a ‘Forwarder’, which is a cab and trailer with a crane like ‘grab’ on it that can pick up the logs and stack them on the trailer to be taken away. This method will still be used but the hurdle to jump, excuse the pun, is the access to the trees which are scattered about the woodland. A Forwarder is a big bulky machine, which isn’t particularly manoeuvrable and, given our rather damp climactic conditions, would cause a lot of damage to the structure of the woodland floor. Enter the heavy horses and taddah!!! Problem solved!

It may seem like stepping back in time but for this situation there are no better tools than a couple of heavy horses, a swingle tree (a metal bar used to balance the pull of a draught horse) and two burly blokes skilled in the art of log extraction and horsemanship. Hence; ‘Horses for Courses’!


Ben and Simon from forest crafts have had a long standing relationship with Rosemoor, which has spanned over several different projects that have required traditional techniques not widely used in a modern era of technology and machinery. Ben’s two sizeable (over 18 hands!!!) Shire horses, Tom and Joey, were built for this kind of work and they do all the things that a machine can’t. They’re extremely manoeuvrable, weaving in between trees and over rough terrain, they don’t cause compaction or damage to the ground and they can cope with otherwise inaccessible ground conditions. Better yet, they’re carbon neutral and we’re all for that!


All of these things are great and they get the job done but actually the best thing about having heavy horses working around you is that they look incredible! They’re absolutely awe inspiring to watch, just their sheer power and determination, pulling up to a ton each, together they’re unstoppable. They clearly enjoy their work too, doing what they were bred for, muscles taught and rippling, sweat glistening, and the thick fog of their breath as they strain against unimaginable loads. It really is a great example of man and beast working together successfully.


There are still several days left of log extraction but the team are moving swiftly, as a target of 30 trees was smashed by 26 extra on the first day, we had to cut some more trees down just to keep them busy. Once the trees have been removed and stacked on the woodland track, they’ll be picked up by a Forwarder and taken away for sale. This will leave empty glades in the woodland but the future plans, hot off the press (don’t tell anyone I told you), is to re-establish some mixed conifer woodland with trees that aren’t susceptible to the Spruce Bark Beetle. It’ll also give us a chance to grow some rarer and more interesting conifers that will still provide that important backdrop to the Formal Garden.


tish.sheridan said:

How wonderful! I wish there were more shires at work in big gardens!

on 25 Feb 2013 at 03:32 PM