Ploughing with horses is an art which takes time and practice, champion ploughman Victor Scott from Limavady, Co. Derry explains.
Scott won the horse-drawn class at last weekend’s Northern Ireland International Ploughing Championship in Donaghcloney, Co. Down.
“I started ploughing with a tractor – vintage – a number of years ago,” he said. “Then I started helping a friend to plough with horses. I ended up buying my own horses and I got into it that way.
“They asked if I would help them to do a wee bit. You need somebody reining the horses and somebody ploughing. These fellas didn’t know an awful lot about ploughing, but if you can plough with a tractor, you can plough with a horse – there’s not a lot of difference – it’s the same idea.
If you have a good man on the horses that will bring the plough in at the right place for you all the time and keep your horse straight it’s not really hard work.
“In fact, if you were in ground where there’s no stones you don’t even have to hold on to the plough; the plough will run up the field itself – so it’s not exhausting at all.
“I just changed to horses because of the nature of the horse. I keep quite a lot of horses too. We do weddings and funerals and driving competitions and all sorts.
“We keep them going all year round, we do a lot of work at Christmas – Santa Claus work and all sorts of things. We cut corn with a binder and plough too with them.
“It’s like an athlete, the more often you do a thing, the better you get. The more you use your horses, the more settled they become and the more they listen to you.
“The horses (Shane and Harry) were doing quite well today, but I’m using a young horse – a two-year-old horse today – [because] one of my other horses died one day in the middle of a wedding.
“Shane is experienced and knows what he’s doing but Harry has a lot to learn – it’s only his second ploughing match,” Scott added.
Scott had to train up two-year-old Harry to work the plough after his older horse died – unfortunately timed during a wedding.
“You have to start from scratch; you mouth them, you long-rein them, you start them by pulling a light tyre and then you move to a heavier tyre to get them used to pulling something – and then you move into yoking them in pairs,” he said.