Low-impact logging uses real horsepower

Posted March 08, 2014, at 6:46 a.m.
Raymond Hill wraps a chain around a log while his Belgian draft horses Bill (left) and Sam wait patiently while working in a Lincolnville woodlot. Horse logging is preferred by landowners who want very low-impact logging done on their property.
Raymond Hill wraps a chain around a log while his Belgian draft horses Bill (left) and Sam wait patiently while working in a Lincolnville woodlot. Horse logging is preferred by landowners who want very low-impact logging done on their property. Buy Photo
Raymond Hill (left) and Jim Ostergard take a lunch break after giving the horses some oats while working in a Lincolnville woodlot. Ostergard is a certified master logger and just like Hill he has been using horses for logging for about 10 years.
Raymond Hill (left) and Jim Ostergard take a lunch break after giving the horses some oats while working in a Lincolnville woodlot. Ostergard is a certified master logger and just like Hill he has been using horses for logging for about 10 years. Buy Photo
Jim Ostergard (left) of Peregrinator Services Horse Logging and Raymond Hill of Second Draught Farm roll a pine saw log from the scoot, a large wooden sled, using peavies while working in a Lincolnville woodlot.
Jim Ostergard (left) of Peregrinator Services Horse Logging and Raymond Hill of Second Draught Farm roll a pine saw log from the scoot, a large wooden sled, using peavies while working in a Lincolnville woodlot. Buy Photo
Raymond Hill hold the reins of his horses Sam and Bill as they pull a scoot full of logs to the roadside while logging in a Lincolnville woodlot.
Raymond Hill hold the reins of his horses Sam and Bill as they pull a scoot full of logs to the roadside while logging in a Lincolnville woodlot. Buy Photo
Jim Ostergard (left) holds onto the horses while Raymond Hill loads logs onto the scoot at the landing. The logs are pulled from the woods one at a time on rough trails and at a landing they are loaded onto the scoot, which enables the horses to pull heavier loads on hard-packed snow to the roadside. Hill and Ostergard, a certified master logger from Appleton, both use horses and have been working together in the Lincolnville woodlot for a customer.
Jim Ostergard (left) holds onto the horses while Raymond Hill loads logs onto the scoot at the landing. The logs are pulled from the woods one at a time on rough trails and at a landing they are loaded onto the scoot, which enables the horses to pull heavier loads on hard-packed snow to the roadside. Hill and Ostergard, a certified master logger from Appleton, both use horses and have been working together in the Lincolnville woodlot for a customer. Buy Photo
Raymond Hill backs Sam and Bill so he can hook onto a log while working in a woodlot in Lincolnville. Hill owns Second Draught Farm in Washington where he farms using his eight horses and also offers horse-powered farm work such as plowing and logging.
Raymond Hill backs Sam and Bill so he can hook onto a log while working in a woodlot in Lincolnville. Hill owns Second Draught Farm in Washington where he farms using his eight horses and also offers horse-powered farm work such as plowing and logging. Buy Photo
Belgian draft horses Bill (left) and Ben haul a load of logs to the roadside as Raymond Hill (left) and Jim Ostergard ride out of the woods to take a lunch break. Hill and Ostergard both use horses for logging in their separate businesses. This method is preferred by landowners who want very low-impact logging done on their property.
Belgian draft horses Bill (left) and Ben haul a load of logs to the roadside as Raymond Hill (left) and Jim Ostergard ride out of the woods to take a lunch break. Hill and Ostergard both use horses for logging in their separate businesses. This method is preferred by landowners who want very low-impact logging done on their property. Buy Photo
Jim Ostergard, 72, of Appleton cuts the limbs off a pine log while working in a Lincolnville woodlot. Ostergard is a former commercial fishing boat captain who became a certified master logger. He has been using horses for low-impact logging for 10 years.
Jim Ostergard, 72, of Appleton cuts the limbs off a pine log while working in a Lincolnville woodlot. Ostergard is a former commercial fishing boat captain who became a certified master logger. He has been using horses for low-impact logging for 10 years. Buy Photo
Raymond Hill talks to Sam, one of his Belgian draft horses, before starting work in a Lincolnville woodlot. &quotIf someone told me 15 years ago that I will have horses, I would have laughed.  Now, I could not imagine my life without them," Hill said. He has eight horses he uses to cut hay, plow fields and do low-impact logging.
Raymond Hill talks to Sam, one of his Belgian draft horses, before starting work in a Lincolnville woodlot. "If someone told me 15 years ago that I will have horses, I would have laughed. Now, I could not imagine my life without them," Hill said. He has eight horses he uses to cut hay, plow fields and do low-impact logging. Buy Photo
Jim Ostergard (left) and Raymond Hill unload pine saw logs from the scoot near the road in Lincolnville.
Jim Ostergard (left) and Raymond Hill unload pine saw logs from the scoot near the road in Lincolnville. Buy Photo
Raymond Hill and his horses pull out a pine log in a Lincolnville woodlot.
Raymond Hill and his horses pull out a pine log in a Lincolnville woodlot. Buy Photo
Sam, a Belgian draft horse, is owned by Raymond Hill of Second Draught Farm in Washington.
Sam, a Belgian draft horse, is owned by Raymond Hill of Second Draught Farm in Washington. Buy Photo

Raymond Hill’s trailer thundered under the heavy hooves of Belgian draft horses Bill and Sam as Hill got ready to work on a cold morning in Lincolnville.

Hill owns Second Draught Farm in Washington and offers farm work and logging done by real horsepower.

“If someone told me 15 years ago that I would have horses, I would have laughed. Now, I could not imagine my life without them.” Hill said.

With well-practiced movements, he put harnesses on the animals while constantly talking to them, as if he were a parent trying to explain the rules of a game to a child.

Hill has been working a woodlot with fellow horse logger Jim Ostergard of Peregrinator Services in Appleton. The use of horses offers one of the lowest-impact logging practices these days, said Ostergard, a certified master logger.

While the production numbers of a large skidder are far greater than horses, the cost of running a machine and making the payments can offset the extra income.

“The major difference is that the work is finished slower using the horses, but the landowner pretty much ends up getting the same amount of money.” Hill said. “We work with landowners and foresters to come up with a harvest plan that makes sense financially and leaves the forest with the least amount of damage. Land owners often use the trails we made for recreation, after the work is finished.”

“Few people offer work horse services, including logging with the animals, but their number has been on the rise in recent years.” Ostergard said.

Ostergard fells the pine trees and cuts them into manageable saw logs. The horses — weighing 1,800 to 2,000 pounds each — pull the logs from the woods on rough trails one at a time. Hill walks behind at a brisk pace holding onto the reins, talking to the horses nonstop along the trail, commanding them to turn one way or another or just telling them how great they look doing their job.

Using a skid-steer machine, the logs were loaded on a scoot, a large wooden sled, that Bill and Sam easily pulled on the hard-packed snow to the roadside landing, where a logging truck can pick the logs up.

The work is hard and no one will get rich doing it, but it is fun to work with the horses, Ostergard and Hill agreed.

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