By Shelby Stewart
Brandon Twp.-Technological advances aren’t always the best option, and local logger Carl Gillies can prove it.
Gillies is currently logging Herb Hogan’s property in the township with his pair of horses, Maizie and Daisy. The horses are three-quarters Belgian horse and one-quarter Haflinger horse, and the two are half-sisters.
Gillies, who grew up on a farm, started using horses to log in 1985.
“In 1980, I bought my last log skidder,” he said.
After using the skidder for the next five years, Gillies sold it for a very small profit because it was no longer useable to him.
Instead of buying another expensive skidder, Gillies bought his first team of horses.
“It’s slower, but it doesn’t tear up the ground, and it’s more environmentally friendly,” he said.
In addition to being greener, the horses have longevity that machinery doesn’t.
“My last team lasted 21 or 25 years,” he said. “These two (horses) are only three and a half years old.”
The horses live on Gillies’ farm, and he takes them back and forth every night from the job site. They’re much easier to get around the woods than machines as well.
“You have to treat the horses like an athlete,” said Gillies. “A horse can pull two-and-a-half to three times their weight.”
Gillies had thought he had made a mistake when he saw how slow the process could be, but the compromise of working smaller lots has been well worth it.
“If you have ten thousand acres, I’m not your guy,” he said.
Though the current pair is young, they are determined. Gillies says it takes a lot of training to have a broke woods horse because of all the extra noise out in the woods, such as twigs, as well as the uneven ground.
“I never make them pull more than they can,” he said. “I want these two to grow up thinking they can pull anything. If you give them something too heavy, they’ll think they can give up whenever they want.”
The longer logs of knotty pine that the horses pull will go to a small saw mill producing fence and deck boards, while the shorter logs will produce floor boards.