Ever heard of Horse Progress Days? It is an annual event heavily attended by Amish (we’ve covered a previous edition in Michigan here and here).

Here to explain more is David Arment of Restfulhome.net, with a look at this year’s event, held in northern Indiana.


three-horses-horse-progress

Horse Progress Days was held July 1st and 2nd at the MEC (Michiana Event Center) North of Howe, Indiana. The event had beautiful weather and was well attended. This was the event’s 23rd edition.

four-horse-team-indiana-amish-event

Northern Indiana is home to a large Amish population and Horse Progress Days is custom made for them. This is because Horse Progress Days has as its stated goals “To encourage and promote the combination of animal power and the latest equipment innovations in an effort to support sustainable small scale farming and land stewardship. To show draft animal power is possible, practical and profitable.”

announcers-wagon-horse-progress-days

The event had demonstrations in the fields near the event center with multiple events taking place simultaneously. There were demonstrations on tree and lumber cutting, herding animals with dogs, and horses in the fields working.

horses-two-dark-hay-demo

The draft animals in the fields were mostly horses, but a pair of oxen did hay raking and a pair of donkeys also participated in the events. The animals demonstrated manure spreaders, plows, other cultivating machines, cut hay, raked hay, baled hay and wrapped hay. Multiple teams of horses did each of these activities.

oxen-at-horse-progress-days

There was also a demonstration of riding draft horses, where these large animals showed off how well they can be ridden and how well-groomed and beautiful they can be.

horses-pair

Indoors could be found vendors who sold the equipment in the demonstrations outdoors as well as many vendors who sold ancillary products for farm families.

horses-clydesdales

Late in the afternoon in the arena, demonstrations were held with teams of horses pulling wagons. There were many six-horse hitches with different breeds of horses.

six-horses-percheron

It is hard not to characterize the event as “carnival like”, but in the subdued and respectful manner that Amish events seem to enjoy.

amish-crowd-at-horse-progress-event

The food vendors, (with my perpetual favorite being the kettle corn), the demonstrations of everything from tomato growing to exotic animals (camels, lamas and the like) and oxen and donkeys in teams making what appeared to be random appearances on the grounds, all contributed to the feeling of discovery and expectation… What might I see next?

not-a-mule-horse-progress

There is a need for equipment that is pulled by horses so that Amish and others can continue to farm with horses. Years ago the horses simply pulled the same equipment that tractors pulled.

horses-four-haflinger-horse-progress-days

Actually that is perhaps said backward as draft animals were used for farming before tractors. So in the earliest days tractors pulled the same equipment that horses pulled.

horses-four

In any event, as tractors became more powerful the equipment they could pull became larger. As the older equipment that horses could pull wore out there was a vacuum for equipment to fill that space. Now equipment is manufactured with draft animals in mind.

horses-four-hay-demo

Horse Progress Days helps the Amish and other farmers who use draft animals find the latest in new machinery that can be pulled by their animals.

horses-three-plowing-demo

While equipment is a very large part of the demonstrations, most of us cannot get past the horses. And Amish love their horses. So the horses are all groomed and have on their very best harness. To the eye of the horse lover, this is a wonderful sight.

horses-three-perchron

In many respects this is more than just an event that showcases farm equipment and the horses that pull them, it is a celebration of Christian Faith and traditions. To quote from Dale K. Stoltzfus in his explanation, “Horse Progress Days: Why? What For?”:

“…that stubborn group of souls called Amish continued their efforts to weave their understandings of Christian Faith and traditions into their everyday lives, within the larger cultures and societies in which they lived. And a big part of the tradition of living out that faith was, and is, the use of horses to farm. And even though the big tractor equipment manufacturers more and more abandoned production of horse drawn farm equipment, the need for it never went away. And in empty spaces in barns and sheds on Amish farms, lads who felt at home with nuts and bolts and welders studied the equipment that their counterparts in the ‘modern’ world were abandoning, and figured out ways to make it themselves. In the meantime, the numbers of individuals who were born Amish continued to grow and large numbers of young people in Amish communities chose to embrace the faith of their fathers and mothers…”

This event is a traveling event. Next year’s edition takes place in Pennsylvania.


David Arment is the owner of Restful Home, an outlet for Amish-made home decor, including “standout plaques”, carved wooden signs, message boards, and more.  Restful Home is one of our advertisers at Amish America, and if you’d like to support what we’re doing here, check out David’s site for some neat products made by the Amish for your home.