Four horses, 18 wheels

When the going gets tough, sometimes low-tech saves high-tech.

The video below was shot last week during heavy snows near Ottawa, Pennsylvania.

I doubt either of these guys imagined they’d be doing this when they woke up that morning.  Hope they ate their Wheaties, but looks like the horses certainly did: (video no longer available)

Did you catch the field mouse running for his life in the middle of the clip?  Looks like he got a rude awakening by Belgian horse hooves.  He shouldn’t complain though.  It’s not every day you see an Amish farmer rescue an 18-wheeler!

I also found a video of the driver being interviewed on the Fox and Friends program yesterday.  Turns out his milk truck was empty. But impressive nonetheless:

And more fun in the snow, if you missed it: last month’s Amish buggy skiing video.

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    1. Richard

      Maybe that truck driver should consider giving up trucks, and switching to horses.Or maybe start paying groundhogs to start doing his milk route. Richard.Penn

    2. Lois Klobucher

      Wow this is soooo cool, I loved it
      The Amish are just AMAZING

    3. Marilyn in New York

      I saw that before, but the sound wasn’t with it before. It is just great !!!! A friend of mine and her husband live in Denver, Pa. and she was telling me that one of her children was ill and she had to get them to the hospital-that was before local ambulances were as popular as they are today. Her husband was at work and there had been a snow storm. She was shoveling like mad to clear to get her car out of the garage. One of her Amish neighbors came by in their buggy. When she explained what happened they told her to go inside. They took the horse off their buggy and pulled her car out of the garage into the street. They watched her other children while she took the one that was ill to the hospital. When she got home, they had cleared the driveway and even had supper waiting for her. But she never got over their pulling the car out with the horse. I will have to tell her about this.

    4. Alice Aber

      I could have used those horses a few times when I was driving truck in the winter. I never went off the road but my co-driver did, LOL. Even empty that truck and trailer is still a lot of weight.

      Yes Eirk, I did see the mouse but truthfully I had to go back and watch it a second time, LOL.

      Blessings, Alice

    5. OldKat

      I had seen this on a couple of other sites, pretty neat video. Makes you wonder who shot it.

      There a couple of interesting things to watch for. Things that you might not notice if you are not into driving the big horses, which I am; when the Amish driver gives the “Go” command watch the middle horses in the hitch spring into their collars trying to get the load started. Those two start just a hair sooner than the near side and off side horses (the outside horses). The two in the middle can’t break the load loose, but when the two outside horses lean into their collars … particularly the big offside horse (he is on the right side of the hitch, the left as you are looking at them) the load suddenly breaks free.

      The other thing to watch for is at the point where the truck is free and comes to a stop the fore cart suddenly jerks to the side, almost throwing the driver off his feet. He turns and looks back at the truck driver. There is no way I know this for sure, but I suspect that the Amish man thought that the truck driver did something to cause the fore cart to suddenly jerk like that. What actually caused the cart to jerk is that just as they come to a stop the near side horse apparently stirs up a nest where a little bitty mouse was burrowed down below the snow. It jumps up out of the snow and crosses directly in front of the hitch. The horse on the driver’s right side of the pole sees the mouse and throws his head down slightly to look at it. When he gets a look at it, or at least realizes that something is moving he shies briefly and the others react to him jumping and they move a bit, too. They aren’t going anywhere, because the fore cart is still chained to the 18 wheeler. It does briefly cause it to jerk to the side though. NOTE: Apparently no mice were harmed in the filming of this video; it makes it safely across the road. Of course he had to find another nice nest to burrow into. I take it that he managed that on his own.

      BTW: On some boards where I have seen this posted people post comments talking about the “team of Clydesdales”. This is a “hitch”, not a team. A team is always two horses, one is a single and anything else is a hitch. Specifically, this is a four abreast hitch versus a four-up, which would be two in front of two. Also, the two in the middle and the one on the right as you look at them are full blooded Belgians. The big boy on the offside looks like he may be crossed up with maybe a touch of Percheron and/or Shire in him; can’t really say for sure. His color is not typically what you see on a Belgian and he is a little too “up and down” to be a typical Belgian. Also, I have never known an Amish to use Clydesdales. When I have asked about it they always say that Clydes don’t have “enough heart”, meaning they aren’t hard workers. Non-Amish people that work draft horse say that “Clydesdales” are “all show and no go” meaning the same thing. There are, however, some people that use Clydesdales in the woods skidding timber to logging roads etc. Apparently they work hard for them. Regardless, the hitch in the video is made up of some pretty stout horses that know how to work and the driver handles them really, really well.

    6. Bob Rosier

      OldKat….very interesting information. You are certainly very knowledgeable and very observant. I remember the old freight trains (they may still do it) backing up to give slack between the cars. That was the only way they could get started. Then going forward it was bang…bang…bang…etc. as the cars caught up !

    7. Christina

      That’s just plain awesome! Horses are such beautiful and amazing creatures 🙂

    8. Oldkat, great commentary. I should have let you write this post. You can be our de facto horse expert. Or at least I know who I’ll ask now when I have horse questions!

    9. Alice Mary

      I’m sure glad I decided to look at the blog just now! It made my day! I love OldKat’s comments and look forward to hearing more horse-related explanations. (in Chicago, growing up, we still had a few horses around–the “rag man” would come thru our alley every once in a while. I remember my mother scooping up manure after he passed by and putting it on her garden–postage-stamp size, of course!. There were a couple of produce salesmen who also had horse & carts (this was in the mid to late 1950’s).

      Thanks for the video, Erik, and the commentary, OldKat. (You meet the neatest people on this blog!)

      Alice Mary

    10. Slightly-handled-Order-man

      That is very neat. It shows that old ways of doing things still works best.

    11. Dana

      Yes that is so great to know that old way works the best. In the same time shows how little such a powerful horse need to be distracted by a tiny creature. Good clip!

    12. lanore

      Love that video, and had to watch it twicw to see the mouse. Funny. =-D

    13. OldKat

      Bob Rosier; thanks for the feedback. Always leery of posting a long post like that, because you never know how it will be received. Here goes another.

      Dana, funny you mentioned how little it took to distract the horse to begin with. That is actually how I came to notice the mouse in the first place. I had noticed the cart jerk and assumed that the truck driver had applied the brakes while the horses & cart were still moving forward. When I watched it again I noticed that the truck was actually at a full stop; as were the hitch & fore cart, but that the first horse had shied and the others had reacted to that. So I started watching I again to see what had caused the first horse react that way. When I saw that it had tipped its head slightly forward I knew something had gotten its attention on the ground. I watched still another time and bingo, there was the mouse.

      It is a cause and effect type of thing. That is kind of the way you have to drive horses, too. You have to be about three steps ahead of them and watching for ANYTHING that could cause them to want to bolt. Most can deal with anything as long as they can see it and identify what it is. It is when they can’t figure out what an object is that they want to get away from it. It could be as simple as a kid’s jacket lying on the curb, or a plastic garbage bag put out for trash pickup. If they get it in their head that it is a boogey man, it is a boogey man until you can prove otherwise & even then they usually still want to get away from it ASAP.

      Have you ever noticed that a horse will often turn its head down sharply to look at something that is right in front of them (usually accompanied by a snort)? Well, that is because their long distance vision is in the BOTTOM half of their eye. It is the TOP half that is for close up and mid-range vision, so they have to tilt their head to see what is right close in front of them. Likewise, they tilt their head up to look at something that is further away. I think it is that moving from long range vision to short range vision that causes them to misidentify common objects as possible boogey monsters. Since they are prey animals, their instinct is to run from the unknown which sometimes makes handling them a little iffy.

    14. Kate in PA

      This happened about eight miles from me! I heard from Amish friends that it was on Monday, Feb. 21, the morning we woke to 7 inches of wet snow that was not predicted in advance.

    15. Mona

      Great article Erik, let’s keep oldkat for sure….as he does seem to know his horses… you know what he does??? Maybe own a horse farm !!!

    16. OldKat

      If anyone is still following this thread, you might get a kick (no pun intended)from this link. Probably not a live link, so copy and paste.

      I suspect there are more of these big guys out there doing specialty work than most people would beleive.

    17. Oldkat, great story. Sort of in the same vein as this 18 wheeler story. But it seems like getting 100% hi-speed coverage to every last corner of Vermont, as the lady says is the goal, is going to be pretty expensive. Good deal if you are in the horse-rental business though.

    18. kerry

      It really is amazing to see the strength of these horses working together. When my father once had some of our acreage “logged”, some local Amish did it with their horses and giant logging wagons; cut the trees, the horses would drag them out, load a number of them up with some contraption, and then go down the road miles and miles away (and these were big old trees – they did not cut the trunks down). It was odd to drive home from my local college classes and have to park off the bottom of our hilly drive because logging horses were in the way, ha ha.

      What is REALLY amazing and rather startling is that here where I live we often see very young boys driving 4 of the (usually) Belgians not only in the fields, but pulling large loads on our roads as well. I see them frequently once (Amish) school lets out, not even young teens yet. Don’t think I agree with them doing that on the roads, but I guess it’s normal for them, of course.

    19. Amish children driving teams of horses

      Kerry that is a good observation, Amish boys and girls will drive some of these teams-or hitches I think I should probably say-which can be a bit of a surprise.

      What shocked me even more though is when an Amish friend gave me the reins to a pair of Belgians, don’t know what he was thinking, but I didn’t drive us into a ditch so I guess we were lucky.

      Actually, I think they are pretty responsive and well-trained, though I’m sure OldKat or someone else could comment more.

    20. OldKat

      Nice story Kerry, thanks for sharing it.

      Erik; yes responsive and well trained animals, those ARE some keys to allowing a youngster or other less experienced person to handle any driving horse or horses. That and the age of the horse or horses. The commonly expressed logic in the draft animal community, dispersed as it may be, is that the first time purchaser of a single or a team (few people are willing to start with more than that, for good reason) would be well served by purchasing an animal or a team that is WELL trained and WELL seasoned. Well-seasoned meaning that they have been worked a whole lot (years & years) and have been exposed to many different circumstances.

      Many people will say that they probably learned more from having a first team that were a couple of old pros than they ever did from watching DVD’s, reading books, etc. The IDEAL way is to have a mentor nearby that grew up driving draft animals (in the Northeast oxen are still used to some degree), but unfortunately those old timers are fading fast and in some areas they just don’t exist at all. Sometimes your mentor may have to be Ol’ Dan or Ol’ Bess , i.e. the animals themselves.

      The real key though is getting enough frequent, steady work to keep the animals focused on the task at hand rather than looking for reasons to run away, act up or otherwise be difficult. That is the problem I have. Mine don’t get worked enough for me to even consider handing the lines over to some inexperienced person, though hopefully I will be able to work more with them sometime soon.

      BTW: Historically “reins” were called “lines” west of the Mississippi and reins east of it. Now most folks use the term lines regardless where they live, though you will still hear people in the east soemtimes refer to them as reins.

    21. OldKat

      Wish this blog had a spell checker; “soemtimes”?

    22. Bob Rosier

      I meant to ask you another question about horses. I have plowed with a hand plow behind a single horse guiding him with Gee, Haw, Whoa, Back. I was only 15 at the time, but I thought it was real cool! With multiple horses as the Amish use, I believe it is common practice to call out the name of the horse on the right side “Star Gee” to turn the team right, or call out the name of the horse on the left “Duke Haw” to turn the team to the left, but I’m guessing here a little. I have tried to listen when I see these teams on the Amish farms, but I am never close enough to hear. Any help?