Friday, August 24, 2007

A Horse is a Horse of course, of course!!!

We mentioned farm horses briefly in another blog. We mentioned that horses were brought to Thief River Falls from Montana and sold to farmers to replace oxen for field work. It is hard to tell just how big these horses are but note their long heads and their sway like backs.

The sulky or riding plow was a major advancement in the ease of work on the pioneer farm. Walking behind a plow team all day long was not an easy task. This plow was designed with a shaft that is already at the shoulder height of a team of horses. The first picture shows a man walking behind a plow. Notice how well built his horses are.

The basic rule for the sulky plow was one horse per acre per day. Most often this plow would have been pulled by three horses though two could have done the job. Adding the third horse made the work easier on the whole team and your horses would be fresher throughout the day.

Most farmer's named their horses. Many of the horses were spoiled and considered part of the family. They were big horses, often standing 17 hands at the whither, or where the mane ends. Generally they were gentle and in time, I will share a picture of Dorothy sitting on the back of one of the Anderson's team as a small child. Later in life, my dad had a team of Belgians, a big draft horse, their names were Beauty and Bell. The man that sold them to him missed them so much he bought them back! The question is, what is a hand?

The origin of measuring a horse this way is very old, but easy to understand. In days long ago people did not have the common measuring devices (like tape measures, etc.) that we do today. To measure a horse, they used what was handy (no pun intended): Their hands. At various times in history and in different locales a "hand" was defined as the with of a person's hand using the fingers only, the width of a person's hand using the fingers and the thumb, the height of a clenched fist, and possibly others. Somewhere along the way, the measuring unit of a hand was standardized to mean four inches. Though the origins are ancient, a hand is still the unit of measurement for horses that modern horse owners still use today. Belgians might be as tall as 19 hands at the shoulder, or 76 inches.

On July 4, 1883, starting from Crookston at the crack of a rifle, there was a barn storming rush of men eastward. Men rode behind ox teams, or came on bouncing buckboards, with others on horseback or even riding mules, each eager to have for him a choice piece of land to claim as his home

July 1896, A team of horses with an empty wagon drove up LaBree Avenue on Tuesday last, the horses feet stuck in the mud and the horse tried to pull them out by sticking his nose in the mud; falling in thus he laid down and so did the other horse. The driver jumped out and he too, stuck in the mud and was helped out be the bystanders minus his shoes. LaBree Avenue must be paved!!!

1903 A mail man in Ransom almost had his ear bitten off by a horse.

J. Donovan who was reported killed by being run over by a plow, was later said to be alive but mangled.

1910 Horse and mule hides $1.50 to $3.00

A man by the name of Daly made a deal with Fred Zaisner for the purchase of a team of horses for $350.00. He gave the man a check for $425.00 and got cash of $75.00 from Mr. Zaisner. The check was not honorable and Daly is bound over for trial.

And one more for today:

June 1915 St. Hilaire woman seriously hurt in runaway, horses spooked by fluttering cloth

So much for horsing around!


Lots of accidents happened on the farm and in the city with horses. Although it may seem romantic that a horse is a runaway with a damsel in the buggy, it happened and the Lone Ranger or Roy Rogers wasn't always there to stop the horse or snatch the lady off before the buggy or buck board went over the cliff.

Let's look at some old newspaper articles about horses and see what we can find.