48 Degrees North

Logging with Horse Power

Long before powerful skidders moved logs around the forest, draft horses did all the heavy lifting

By Justin Franz
Courtesy photo

The John Deere 948L-II is one of the most potent logging skidders the company offers, weighing in at 49,570 pounds and putting out 300 horsepower, enabling a logger to drag just about anything out of the forest. But Kenn McCarty’s logging skidders are usually a bit less heavy-duty, coming in between 1,400 to 2,000 pounds and producing an average maximum of 14.9 horsepower. That’s because McCarty’s skidders are actually draft horses. 

Long before powerful skidders moved logs around the forest, draft horses did all the heavy lifting — or should we say dragging — in the forest. And while a machine like the 948L-II is 20 times more powerful than a horse, it can also be pretty destructive, McCarty said. “You can move a lot more with heavy machinery, but you have to do a lot more rehabilitation (to the land) afterward.”  “We can be a lot more surgical.”

Using draft horses was once standard practice before the advent of heavy machinery. But McCarty said it’s coming back into fashion, especially in places like New England. Using a draft horse can also be more economical for a small clearing project. It’s especially beneficial when doing fire mitigation work (McCarty and his wife Susan both retired from wildland firefighting and have a combined 33 years with various state and federal agencies). 

The McCartys both love horses and when they retired from firefighting a few years ago they knew they wanted to do something that involved the majestic animals. So they moved to Montana and started Live Oak Belgians in St. Ignatius. But logging is just one of the many things their company offers. They also offer wagon rides for weddings and special events. For more information, visit liveoakbelgians.com.

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