Horse logging is the removal of felled timber using horses. Horse-logging, or snigging, has grown very popular in recent years and for good reason: using horses in woodlands is traditional, eco-friendly and the horses can work in steep conditions where machinery would often get stuck. Horses can get to areas that machinery can’t get into and they work much more quietly than most forestry machinery: they are good neighbours where woodlands are near to housing.
Various breeds can be used including Ardennes, Suffolk Punches, Belgian Draft horses or Norwegian Fjordhorses: often the horses used are smaller than traditional carthorses as they have to be more agile and able to handle slopes and move around trees. Typically they can work a 6-7 hour day and can remove around 8-10 tonnes of timber each day. Large loads of over a tonne can be moved significant distances.
The horses can either use chains to pull the logs or a Norwegian/Scandinavian timber arch, which is a metal arch making extraction easier. The arch has two shafts, which go on either side of the horse, and there is a bar at the back with teeth on which the butt of the log rests. This has the effect of making it easier for the horse to pull the log but it also prevents any jolts being transferred to the horse’s back. The horses are driven from the ground using reins and voice control.
By contrast heavy machinery often disturbs drainage, damages flora, compacts the soil and may damage surrounding trees. The noise and fumes from machinery are less appealing than the equivalents from horses. Horse-logging also means that areas where timber is being extracted do not need to be closed to the public.
You can find out more about them at the British Horse Loggers website at: www.britishhorseloggers.org You can also find details of horse-logging contractors on this site and equipment for sale.
There are also various groups of horse-loggers and in total there are about 130 active horse loggers. Perhaps a third of these are women, many coming with a background in horses rather than in forestry. Horse-loggers sometimes do other forestry work including bracken rolling, and are often involved in shows and demonstrations. They have a well-deserved eco-image and while moving logs the horses provide fresh manure at the same time!