Annual plow day helps preserve draft horse farming traditions

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FREDERICKTOWN, Ohio — What do draft horse farmers do when they get their spring plowing done? They get together and do more horse plowing in a fun meets with friends and neighbors.

Each year, Joe and Sally Reed of Fredericktown save a few acres of land in early spring to be plowed by fellow members of the Central Ohio Draft Horse Association and other teamster from across the state.

Reed was born into a family of draft horse farmers. His dad was secretary of the Percheron Draft Horse Association for years, and Joe has been the president of the Central Ohio Draft Horse Association quite a while, and probably will be for life. And aside form being a Percheron breeder; he is a popular draft horse judge.

His wife, Sally, the other half of this team and “Girl Friday,” can do it all, from putting a draft horse show together to driving a team — and she can drive a truck better than most of the guys.

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Busy day

When the teamsters got together in early May, Sally and Joe were interrupted by the early arrival of a new foal in their barn.

A Percheron mare was bred to a Jack and the resulting foal is a mule — a long-eared Percheron. We all had to take time to go see the new foal and it’s fast becoming socialized, accustomed to people.

Field work

Out on the field, the skies cleared early, the temperature was in the mid-60s, good temperatures for the horses to work in with plenty of rest stops and socializing.

A few people passing by stopped to view the teams at work. Some came in to ask questions and were welcomed. A few gray beards recognized some of the old plows from their days growing up on a farm.

Some of the plows were converted from early tractor plows as horse-drawn plows became scarce. The moldboard is still a tool of tillage on small, and many large, farms. In fact, it’s still evolving.

Pioneer Plow Co. of Dalton, Ohio, came into being to meet the Amish demand for horse-drawn farm equipment that was no longer being made outside of their communities. One of Pioneer Plow’s latest creations in the ongoing evolution of the horse-drawn plow is a battery operated, hydraulic plow lift. No more back breaking levers to pull, simply hit a switch and the plow is quietly lowered or lifted into place.

Even the moldboard design is still being improved. The latest addition is a 5-foot Norwegian design that won a lot of plowing contests in Europe. Its length gives it a slower twist — more leverage, less draft — and less breaking as it cradles and turns the soil.. The result is a neater job with less time preparing a smooth seed bed.

At the field day, Mike McKay had one of the hydraulic lift plows, and the gray beards looked at it in amazement and wished it had come along 50 years earlier.

For the next generation, the best is yet to come. That’s what it’s all about: preserving and improving draft horse skills and traditions and passing them on to the next generation.

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