AS 168 - Introduction to Draft Horse Management


This course introduces students to the use of draft horses on today’s agricultural landscape. Classroom experiences are coupled with driving laboratories and horse chores as students learn the foundation skills associated with using workhorses to do agricultural work on Sterling’s land. Classroom topics introduce students to a variety of theory associated with working heavy horses including: breed selection, whole-horse healthcare, feed and forage, and driving principles. Driving laboratory topics include: harnessing procedures, ground driving the single horse, line management, hitching to a variety of implements and vehicles and safe operating procedures in a variety of driving scenarios. Daily horse chore laboratories complete the experience; topics include: feed and forage management, rotational grazing, fencing, pasture maintenance, horse care, hoof management, and harness repair.


AS 168: Introduction to Draft Horse Management

Summer Session I and II, 2013


Instructor: Rick Thomas (B.S., C.J.F.)

Office: 2nd Floor Kane, above the Barn


Office phone: 586-7711 extension 151

Home phone: 586-9670

Teaching Assistant: to be determined


Course Meeting Times/Location:

 Classroom: Time and location to be determined.

 Chores: 4:15-5:30 Assigned in group blocks (Farm)

 Driving Lab: Assigned in group blocks (Farm unless otherwise instructed)


I require students to actively participate in both lecture and laboratory; given the nature of the course, a learning experience is difficult to recreate if you are absent.

A full letter grade will be deducted after two absences (either lecture or laboratory or one of each, excused or not—see Weather and make-up labs).  Following a third absence, I will refer you to the Dean of the College and ask you to withdraw from the course.

Course Disclaimer

Due to the nature of this course, I require that all students are prepared mentally and physically for the day’s experience; this includes: arriving on time to the designated work location dressed appropriately (work boots, hat, raincoat, water bottle, snack if necessary, notebook, writing implement, etc…). I reserve the right to dismiss you from the day’s class if I feel you are incapable of safely working with the horses and performing the task at hand and I am required to report such action to the Dean of the College.  

 Course Calendar/Topic Index


Lecture Topic

Driving Laboratory Topic

Horse Chore Topic




command and control system,

navigating obstacles in-hand, navigating obstacles from driving position


Grooming, hoof care, in-hand control, stable procedures


“Think like a horse”

Driving principles

Harnessing and harness anatomy, collar fit, bridle


Communication System

Work Applications: using the single horse to skid logs/cultivate between rows

Mid-term quiz: Harness anatomy, practical: in-hand obstacle course, bridle/line care/harness inspection


Rigging the hitch and the physics of draft: special work applications

Work Applications (continued)

Whole horse health care/wound management/vital signs


The role of horses on today’s agricultural landscape

Driving principles: single horse with cart/pair with cart

Equine massage/Final quiz:

Texts/Reading Assignments

Leslie, S. 2013. The New Horse Powered Farm. Chelsea Green Publishing; White River, VT.

Handout packets.     


Assessment for this course happens through three evenly weighted (33% each) and distinct sectors: Classroom attendance and discussion participation, attendance and completion of assignments associated with chores labs, and attendance and mastery of topics introduced during driving laboratories.      

    I. Classroom handouts

    2. Classroom assignments

    3. Driving lab handouts

    4. Driving journal

    5. Chore handouts

    6. Quizzes/Tests

I will review your binder during each driving lab beginning the second week of classes and conference with you regarding your reflections (driving journal) from the previous driving lab.   

Assessment: Driving Laboratory. 

Each driving experience is unique to every teamster; you will keep a driving journal with guidelines for entries provided below.  Each driving session will be assigned a point value of 100: 50 points for mastery components, 50 points for thoughtful comments.


Driving Journal: Include the following information for each journal entry:


    Time of lab:


    Horse(s) driven/equipment used:

    Work attempted/accomplished:

    Unique events (description of any problem-solving that occurred during the lab):

    Mastery component attempted:

    Mastery component: success or in-progress?

    General comments:   

Weather and make-up labs

Be prepared to attend your assigned driving and chores lab; weather considerations clearly play a large role in what we are safely able to do outside.  If the weather is too inclement to be outside we will meet even for a short discussion period.  In the case of missing a lab due to weather, we will assign a makeup lab that coincides with our weekly schedule—this may mean attending a lab after supper or on a weekend.  Make-up labs will also be assigned in the case of an excused absence—an excused absence is one that has been discussed with Erica or me ahead of time or an unexpected event such as an illness that renders you incapable of safely and comfortably attending a lab session.  I do not feel obligated to create a make up lab for you if you skip class—an unexcused absence (see attendance policy). 

Professionalism: Dress for success

Each lab (driving or chores) represents a work situation so arrive prepared; this includes: wear appropriate clothing and bring along work gloves, sturdy boots for walking, sun protection (hat at the minimum), water bottle and snack if so desired, binder and pen/pencil, small notebook which can be placed in your pocket (rite-in-the-rain for example) and rain gear.  I suggest bringing a backpack with can be left in the barn or taken to our work location.