Suffolk Draft Horse Farming

Guide to the Suffolk draft horse bred for work on the American farm, includes information on farming capabilities and physical strength of Suffolk horses, and a photograph detailed with draft horse attributes.

| July/August 1987

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    "To work all day with a well-broken and willing team is a pleasure as well as a job."—Wendell Berry
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    THE FARMER'S FRIEND. The Suffolk is the only draft horse bred for farm work. 1. It has a docile temperament and a great willingness to work. 2. The short back and legs give the horse a good build for pulling. 3. Shoulders are upright, positioned for power, not speed. 4. Forearm and thigh muscles are especially long and strong. 5. An efficient keeper, it does more work on less feed. 6. The smooth coat on the legs doesn't collect dirt and mud.
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    Rutledge was born to farms and farming—he learned land lessons from his "grampaw," known as Uncle Willie and now in his 80s.

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Real horse power on the American farm means the Suffolk draft horse. (See the Suffolk draft horse chart and horse photos in the image gallery).

Suffolk Draft Horse Farming

"Come up, gentlemen," says Jason Rutledge. The two red draft horses heave forward into their collars. The field cultivator—called a rear-end wiggler—lurches into motion.

Rutledge proceeds into the cornfield, drawn unerringly down the rows by two Suffolk Punch geldings. As each tautly muscled leg moves and plants a round hoof in the soil, it presses 1,600 pounds into the ground. A prodigiously powerful step, but delicate as these things are measured.

Rutledge holds the reins firm. "You've gotta stay in touch with a draft horse all the time," he says, and they move quietly through the cornfield while Rutledge tells them how well they're doing. Three thousand feet up on Copper Hill in the mountains south of Roanoke, Virginia, where he lives with his wife. Sally, and two youngsters, Rutledge "orders up" all of his 76 acres with these chestnut horses. It is quiet on the mountain, and the team, plodding through the cornfield, evokes idyllic memories, old photographs, times gone by.

But Rutledge will have none of that.

"I don't want to give the impression that I'm a complete eccentric," he says as the draft horses stop for a breather. "These animals have a place on the modern farm. Look down there."

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