A recent hazard tree project completed by our company reminded me of the advantages of working ponies versus larger draft horses. The project site was one where we have worked several times before. Our job was to remove standing dead timber from around an historic cabin. There is no road access to this place, so using conventional logging equipment is out of the question, which is why the ponies have helped us nearly every time we’ve worked there.
Taking the ponies to this place still has its logistical challenges. While we can pull the horse trailer to within a quarter mile, turning it around is another matter. We had to drive an extra half an hour down the road and back in order to find a place with the right dimensions to turn it around. I was very thankful for its relative small size, facilitated by having smaller equines, as it was still tough to find a place where we could get headed back out again.
The historic cabin where we worked sits on a lakeshore, with the road about 200 feet above it. The quarter-mile-long access trail down from the road to the cabin is quite steep and narrow. I was thankful for the agility and sure-footedness of my pony friends, as well as their small size, as we worked our way down single file between trees and over and around rocks and logs.
The work site is quite constrained, with the lake on one side and marshy areas on two of the three others. Within the domestic area there are three structures as well as boats, a boat dock (pulled out of the lake for winter storage), a firepit, and other features. Most of the downed timber in the domestic area had to be skid around various obstacles and stacked in only a few places. The last area we worked had the additional challenge of dealing with trees that had been blown down. Not only did they fall in less-than-ideal directions but the root wads took up space that we might have been able to use for skidding. I was very thankful, then, for the small turning radius of my ponies because we often were nearly pirouetting with me holding the singletree and log chain in the air to get in position for each skid.
For the past several weeks, I’ve been thinking about the question ‘why work ponies?’ This project, with the need to transport the ponies to a backcountry location, its steep narrow access trail, and its constrained physical layout, was a great example of a good fit for working ponies. I’m so fortunate that we can use the ponies in this way and that my pony partners are so willing!
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2015