AS 174 - Draft Horse Management I: Driving Principles 
This course introduces students to the systems required to safely manage and work a team of draft horses. Topics include the natural history of Equus caballes, functional anatomy, physiology, and draft horse care methods including both conventional and alternative medical approaches. Following extensive practice with ground driving maneuvers, horses will be hitched to a variety of carts and implements to learn safe hitching and operational procedurals to do farm and forest work. This course is a prerequisite for Draft Horse II: Work Applications.  


         Draft Horse Management I: Driving Principles 

(Updated: Fall 2012)


Instructor:                              Rick Thomas BS, CJF

Office:                                      Barn Loft

Phone:                                     586-9670 (home)    



Required Textbooks: (note, not properly cited)

Greene, Ann Norton. Horses at Work: Harnessing Power in Industrial America. Harvard University Press. ISBN: 978-0-674-03129-6

Budiansky, Stephen. The Nature of Horses. The Free Press ISBN: 0-684-82768-9

 Miller, Lynn. Work Horse Handbook (2 ed.). Small Farmers Journal

Schriefer, D. Agriculture in Transition. Acres, USA. ISBN: 0-911311-61-0

Composition Notebook

Course Format and Assessment:

This course couples classroom modules with real work experiences using our horses in a variety of farm and forest settings.  Students must come to class prepared to lead discussions based on a select group of readings.  I expect students to spend 8-10 hours per week on readings and assignments in order to gain the most from our time together.  A three-hour driving lab will be scheduled during the first week of class with every effort made to pair students with similar abilities, experiences, and goals.    

Personal Interest Project

The magnitude of this course is staggering, I have been a serious teamster for the past 14 years and still find so much to learn.  Quite frankly, we will just scratch the surface over this course and really, the next two semesters; therefore, I want you to spend a great deal of this term focusing on some aspect of working animals that really sparks an interest.  The format and assessment rubric will be provided prior to midterm, beyond that I will grant you a great deal of latitude in designing your project.  Below, find a list of a few of the past project titles:

  • The physics of a wooden evener: which horse is really doing all the work?
  • Feed analysis of first cut versus second cut hay.
  • Nutrition for performance: matching feed input to work output.
  • How to adjust a walking plow: considerations for a clean furrow.
  • Grandpa’s team: a story from my childhood.
  • Working horses in the woods: equipment for easing the load.

 You may wish to have several products from the PIP, I only require a well- designed and articulate presentation and your script which will be a 5 to 7 paragraph paper no more than 800 words.  

 You will keep a Driving Journal to document your weekly driving experience and your Mastery Test outcomes; also, you will keep a Reading Log to help you prepare for classroom discussions neither of which will be turned in for a grade but all of which I expect you to use a resource and bring vigor to our class discussions.

 Course Disclaimer:

Due to the dangerous nature of this course, I reserve the right to remove a student from class if I feel their judgment is impaired.  The day’s driving lab may or may not be made up depending upon the circumstances.  Please consider your actions and behaviors the night before a driving lab; I recommend a good night’s sleep, breakfast (and lunch if the lab is in the afternoon), be well hydrated, and prepare yourself emotionally for the work. 

Driving Labs

 Driving labs are the essence of this course; they are why you are here.  Laboratory time is your time to spend actually working with the horses in a real (or simulated) farming or forest setting.  Driving labs are dependent upon weather conditions and occasionally must be postponed due to inclement weather.  I expect you to come prepared with a backpack filled with appropriate clothing layers and work gloves.  In addition, you are required to bring a hardhat and wear work boots. 

I strive to be consistent with the learning experiences each of you should have during this course; however, you each bring varying levels of experience to the table.  The agenda for Driving Labs will vary; further, the weather and the overall health of the horses will play a big role in what we are able to accomplish.  It is probable that we may have class at my house at least once this term; stay alert for announcements either during class or through the white board at the entrance to the dining hall.  I ask that you stay in continuous communication with me so that I can meet your learning objectives to the best of my ability.