This new blog is my attempt to keep people who are interested in the driving horse and the vehicles they pull, updated with new books and resources when I find them. I attend a few events that may interest the readers here so I will post the photos and information as soon as I get a handle on this blog thing.
About me – I have been interested in the driven horse since Alex and I bought our first draft horse in 1977, I think it was. We bought a second horse, then a wagon and a few farm implements. The ol’ timers of the area taught us how to work the horses, and one ol timer in particular, Joe Brisboy, help us build our first 5th wheel hitch wagon. It was made from old car axles on rubber tires but we were pretty tickled with it. We used it to show at the Idaho State Draft Horse International for many years. We later borrowed a flat bed stake wagon that had been rebuilt for some friends of ours who also had a museum in
Sandpoint, Idaho. The rubber tired wagon was also used for our second team of horses even after we had the nice wooden wheel wagon. Our kids were able to take it to the fair by themselves and show a team of horses. When Joe built that wagon he figured if a little weld was good, a lot of weld was better. That wagon stood the test of time, even if it was not particularly good on uneven ground.
A neighbor and friend, Mike Bird, helped us to build our first wooden wheel cart. Better known then as a Yoder cart. The first set of wheels came off an old Fire department hand cart – and we built everything else. Wheels are always the most difficult and the most important part of any vehicle. Without propper wheels – you have nothing. That cart turned our pretty good but we wanted to build another cart if we could just find the wheels.
With the new found interest in obtaining another set of wheels, I went to the Waverly Midwest Horse Sale. This is the sale to top all sales. Around 1200 head of horses – and acres of equipment – all horse drawn. I had a booth set up to promote a publication I had just created called The Reach. I figured the best way to find wheels was to ask the Amish. So I did. Everyone suggested I contact Ed Stutzman. I was not sure how to find Ed. The Amish all dress alike so you couldn’t look for a man with a beard and black hat but someone told me there were 3 forms of communication in Iowa. Television, telephone and tell-an-Amishman. So I put the word out that I was looking for wood wheels and Ed came to my booth.
Ed was so accommodating. He had wheels for sale and offered to teach me as much about fixing wheels as I had time to learn. He actually put me to work replacing a few spokes in a wheel he had in the shop. Seeing how he managed the shop with no electricity and seeing all the tool and wooden spokes, felloes and hubs – well, I kinda got hooked! I leaned enough about wheelwrighting that I decided I didn’t want to do that for a living – but I was fascinated with the art. Seeing all the wooden wheels in varying states of repair was fascinating! In the Amish communities – horses are the mode of transportation, and farm power. The rhythmic clop-clop of the buggy horses pulling a variety of carriages and wagons was hypnotic and it felt like I had been transported back in time.
Limited time for matters ahead of me did not allow me to spend more than a few days at the Stutzman Wheel Shop. I bought some wheels and sent them home with a friend who was traveling with me. I had to attend another horse sale in Wisconsin to promote The Reach. After that sale I had a few days to tour a few of the well known Amish draft horse breeders and the best know horse collar manufacturer in the country, Brodhead Collar. It was Saturday when I found the shop, and they were not open, but William Plank, the owner of the business could see how interested I was in his business that he gave me a personal tour. He showed how and where the leather parts were sewn and was so kind to start up the huge factory size machines that stuffed the straw into the collars. Seeing first hand how a collar was made – well, I can only say it was mind bending what goes into these leather collars.
When I got home from the sales we were able to build another cart – this time with new wheels , axles and shafts. It turned out great. We sold the first cart and eventually built a third.
We wanted a show wagon of our own – we appreciated having the one to use but we felt it was time we had our own, so when we went back to the horse sale in Iowa on year we bought parts and pieces of what we figured could have been an old Fire department water wagon. It was big and it was a 5th wheel so this would work great for our own Hitch wagon. We had the parts fixed that needed fixen’ and another ol timer friend who restored anitque cars, taught me to spray paint and do the finish work on the wagon. I painted and sanded and painted and sanded until I wanted no more of it- but the result was extrodinary. I used a metallic British Racing Green (deep dark green) and we had the metal parts either made in brass or brass plated. The look was spectacular!
We eventually put together a six horse hitch of show Belgians. We also used the show horses to mow and rake hay. Everyone had to work – horses included. Mowing hay was a great way to teach horses to work together.
So my interest in horse-drawn vehicles grew. If I had the money I would collect the vehicles but my pocket book only allows me to collect a few miniature vehicles. But the interest in the vehicles has made me the world’s largest resource for books and plans for building horse dawn carriages, buggies, carts, sleighs, wagons and hearses. My resources grow as a result of my good customers who share new information with me.