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Draft Horse Resources

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The tourism industry generates trillions of dollars in the US. In this huge industry, it is essential for businesses to differentiate themselves from competition, and one way this can be done is through implementing draft horses. Not only can you utilize the draft horse for their work, but this can also be marketed in a unique way that catches people’s eye. Here are a few examples of utilizing draft horses for tourism: 

  1. Budweiser Clydesdales

The Budweiser Clydesdales were established in 1933 as a celebration of the end of prohibition. August A. Busch, Jr. and Adolphus Busch III surprised their father, August A. Busch, Sr with a six horse hitch of Clydesdale horses pulling their company’s beer. They quickly realized the marketing opportunity, and sent a second six horse hitch to New York City where they drew crowds of thousands as the horses delivered beer to prominent politicians who fought against the prohibition. They toured down to Washington DC where the Clydesdales delivered a case of Budweiser to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Since then the Budweiser Clydesdales have remained one of the company’s main methods of advertising. There are now multiple hitches that travel around the country to various shows, events, and exhibitions. Expert handlers lead the now eight horse hitch in complicated maneuvers to demonstrate the horse’s power and historic use pulling goods through crowded city streets. In addition to the drivers, the Clydesdales employ handlers, farriers, veterinarians, advertising and communications staff, media specialists, and more. 

In addition to their public appearances, the Clydesdales also appear in Budweiser commercials, most notably their SuperBowl commercials that began in 1975. Budweiser also hosts tourists at site locations- both at their original production site in St. Louis, Missouri and at the breeding facility in Boonville, Missouri. 

  1. Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island sits between Michigan’s lower and upper peninsulas, and is home to the historic Fort Mackinac. Today the island hosts over 1,600 unique lodging locations, museums, local restaurants, and miles of trails. One of its most notable aspects is the lack of motorized vehicles. The island relies solely on draft horse trolleys and/ or bicycles for any transportation. 

During peak season there are over 600 horses living on the Island (which surpasses the amount of year round residents, 500 people). Manure is used for compost, and the city streets are flushed during off hours to keep everything clean. The Island has private carriage rides, daily trolley tours, and horseback riding available for guests. Additionally, the horses perform all transportation services like deliveries. 

The Island employs 10-15 people as a main barn crew, with additional positions for private barns and tour companies. They also require truck/ boat drivers and handlers, a farrier, and five rotating veterinarians. 

  1. Agritourism 

According to the USDA, agrotourism “links agricultural production and/or processing with tourism to attract visitors onto a farm, ranch, or other agricultural business for the purposes of entertaining or educating the visitors while generating income for the farm, ranch, or business owner.” An increasing number of agritourism sites host draft animals to perform labor in agriculture or logging (these will be described in future sections). This provides a more sustainable route of work while also bringing a family-friendly and engaging ‘coworker’ onto the farm. 

For example, Country Dreams Farms in Essex, NY utilizes Belgian draft horses for a portion of their farm labor. They also use these horses for hay and sleigh rides, in their petting zoo, and for marketing promotions. Country Dreams has set up a breeding facility so that they are able to regenerate their labor with low costs, and they use the horses for fertilizer and harvesting the hay that fuels the animals.

Utilizing draft animal power in agriculture is important for a plethora of reasons. Not only does it preserve traditional methods of living that have proven fruitful for generations, but it also promotes a deeper connectivity to the work that you cannot get with a piece of equipment. Working with draft horses provides a coworker– one that you care for, work with, and can turn to for emotional support.

The uses of draft animals on a farm are plenty- from plowing, cultivating, harrowing, and dragging fields to mowing, hauling harvests, and more. Horse manure can be used for compost and fertilizer to be spread on pastures or fields to increase soil nutrients. 

Horses are also able to have a complete carbon cycle- meaning that they can contribute (via fertilizer) to the fields that grow their hay, which fuels their labor. They are able to regenerate, whether that is from injury or reproducing new workers for the fields. They do not require any hazardous inputs– gas, oil, or hydraulic fluids; and upon death their bodies can be taken in by the Earth and are not left to rust. 

Typically draft horses are used on smaller scale farms, since the labor can be more intense and take longer than some machinery. According to some estimates a farm under 100 acres can be as productive with horse power as it is with mechanization. 

The opposing argument is that increased machinery can allow work to be done more efficiently and on a larger scale. The one obvious downside to draft animal power is the inability to lift vertically. This has driven innovation to create hybrid vehicles that rely on horses for hauling, but an engine for vertical lifting.

Forestry has many of the same benefits as agriculture- reduced soil, water, air, and noise impacts. Many draft horse foresters utilize a hybrid system for picking up logs to stack or load trucks that then haul the logs to sawmills. 

Draft horses also provide a method of labor in restricted areas that don’t typically allow for motorized vehicles. National, state, and local parks may restrict the size of mechanized vehicle due to their environmental impacts and eyesore for the park visitors. Implementing draft animal power here allows for the same work to be done in restricted areas without disturbing the natural landscape.

In addition to the traditional labor methods described above, draft horses can be used for various shows, fairs, exhibitions, demonstrations, and more. For clarity, this section is split into “fancy” and “farm” type events. 

“Fancy” shows tend to focus on the more modern style of draft horse. These shows have classes such as cart, wagon, unicorn, four, and six horse hitches to show off the breed’s characteristics. The horses used are leggier, sleeker, more athletic, and have more action than traditional styles. “Fancy” show horses wear a different style of harness that has more embellishments, and pull high wagons that are not practical for field work. This is not to say that these horses cannot be utilized in field work, but they typically are reserved for showing. For example, the Budweiser Clydesdales are not used in field work, but do a different form of labor in transportation. Other large companies are beginning to invest in “fancy” hitches to travel and compete in fairs where they are able to market their products while potentially winning thousands of dollars for their performance. Much like athletic groups, these hitches have a competition season where they are able to win individual events that count toward national points, culminating in national and world finals that are hosted annually. NASHHCS- National Association Six Horse Hitch Classic Series.

On the other hand, “farm” style shows don’t focus on the appearance quite as much. Many of these shows have similar events, cart to six horse hitch, but they also feature feed sack races, log skidding, and heavy weight pulls to showcase the farm horse’s strength. These horses tend to be shorter and stockier, which makes them better suited for the farm work that they do outside of their occasional showing. 

Farm horses are also typically used for community events like plow days and workshops where anyone can come out and see the traditional working methods. These are hosted by individuals, farms, breed registries, and local draft horse clubs.

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