The horse, once a prime essential for the cultivation and general running of a Northern Ireland farm, has now been edged out by its modern counterpart, the tractor, but 60-year-old Randalstown farmer Mr James Houston claims that the horse can still play a useful role.
Mr Houston has been breeding and using Clydesdales for more than 20 years and, although a tractor owner, he says he still finds his eight-year-old mare “invaluable” on his 60-acre farm.
Last week, for example, Mr Houston was using the Clydesdale to distribute farmyard manure on the land.
“Normally, one would employ a tractor,” he said, “but the fields, if they are in a wet state, can be badly cut up by heavy machinery. The horse and cart, on the other hand, will not do anywhere near as much damage and you can therefore get on with the job.”
Until last year, Mr Houston used horses for all his ploughing.
“I enjoy using a chill plough and I firmly believe that the work can be compared favourably with that turned out by the tractor,” he said.
“Today, the number of farmers in Northern Ireland who employ a horse on the farm are few and far between but I can recall the time when the horse was regarded as an essential requirement. I can remember ploughing as many as 23 acres with horses.”
The horse, in Mr Houston’s opinion, is versatile and can still be used for a variety of work.
“But apart from looking at it as a means of power, I have great admiration for it as an animal,” he said.
Mr Houston, who has had successes with Cludesdales at Ballymena Show, has kept horses since 1940.