Horses for woodland courses

Horse logging is now very professional with its own association – British Horse Loggers – its own training scheme and with a professional register of approved contractors across the UK.  I recently enjoyed a demonstration hosted by the association’s Patron, HRH Prince Charles, and wanted to share a bit more information about this with you.     

Horse logging can be a cost effective, low ground damage technique in the right circumstances, including on PAWS (plantation on ancient woodland) restoration sites, as we found when we applied it at Plas Power Woods, a PAWS site close to the River Clywedog, last September. 

Harry the Horse. Image: WTPL

Harry the Horse was a hit at Plas Power

A local horse-logger was used at Plas Power to extract planted larch over short distances. There was little or no ground damage resulting from the operation and already natural regeneration is responding. It was also an excellent people engagement opportunity on a busy site, attracting lots of public interest and providing an inspiring educational opportunity for countryside students from nearby Coleg Llysfasi who visited to learn how the Woodland Trust manages PAWS on its estate. They even suggested that Harry the Horse should have his own Facebook page!

In delicate woods horses can be a better alternative than using  heavy machinery to move tree length trunks short distances to ride side, or where you have to extract short distances over wet or soft ground. Operators now have a variety of purposed designed equipment for this, suitable for moving single or multiple stems, and they can double up on horses and operators if faster working rates are required.

Percheron and swingle tree. Image reproduced with kind permission of British Horse LoggersThe horse is in effect a replacement for the winch cable and takes the tree length logs to ride-side, using a different route each time, minimising ground damage. The logs can be collected from ride-side using a conventional forwarder but horse-drawn forwarders, with their own powered lifting arm, are now available. 

One case study we looked at had involved two logging teams felling and extracting 70 tonnes of logs over 21/2 days in wet woodland using two horses; total costs about £2,000 with income of about £3,000. 

Operators normally have no difficulty making arrangements for grazing and stabling of horses.  They will prefer to also carry out the felling work necessary to ensure that extraction takes place efficiently, but not the marketing and sale of timber. Operators are also happy to take part in public events and can provide safe timber extraction on heavily used sites – when combining a public event with timber extraction it’s generally best to hold an event towards the end of the work programme so that the public can be shown what has been achieved.

Dales cob and bracken basher - image reproduced with kind permission from British Horse LoggersHorses can also do other things, including bracken control using a heavy roller – a  technique the Trust has used at the Punchbowl, and possibly the distribution of fencing and tree planting materials over rough ground.  Further details about these techniques and the British Horse Loggers can be found on their website

Jerry Langford, Wales Director

About Kaye Brennan

Senior Campaigner (Policy & Advocacy) for the Woodland Trust and Administrator, 'Woodland Matters' blog
This entry was posted in Climate Change, Conservation, Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS), Wales and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Horses for woodland courses

  1. Lawan Bukar Marguba says:

    This definitely an environmentally sound and sustainable approach logging. It is safe, does not involve trampling of the ecosystem and neat.

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