Draft horses and mules among the Amish of North America
About speaker, Dale K. Stoltzfus:
I was born in 1951 on a dairy farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. My father and mother and my 5 sisters and I all worked hard to take care of the 45 dairy cows and their replacements as well as the 2000 laying hens we kept. We carried all the milk from the cows in buckets to pour into the bulk tank in the milk house and we carried all the eggs in baskets to be washed and packed into cartons to send to a wholesale egg processor. I spent many happy hours playing with my dog Lady too.
I spent 11 years managing my own retail food business and then 25 years as a Realtor helping people to find homes and farms. I have always had a special affinity for animals, especially horses. In 1988 I bought a pair of Belgian mares. I chose heavy horses so that I could further my latent horse interests by taking my family and friends on wagon rides. As I learned more about heavy horse activities that were going on around me, I became more drawn into life-fulfilling experiences I could not have imagined. These include my volunteer work with Horse Progress Days and my work with the annual Pennsylvania Draft Horse Sale, both of which have had major impacts in the Draft Horse culture of North America. I grew to adulthood in a community-at-large that, because of a major Amish presence, has always taken the presence of Draft animals for granted, but my own interest has always been extra keen; partly because of the horses and partly because of the unlikelihood that a group of Christian religionists who relied on horsepower to farm could exist and thrive in modern times; this in a country that prides itself on what it defines as progressive innovation in all things. Furthermore, my involvement with Horse Progress Days has unexpectedly opened my life experience into developing friendships and acquaintance with people from many parts of the world. Lately I have become aware of the "Millenium Goals" of the United Nations to eliminate hunger throughout the world by the year 2030. I believe draft animal power could play a major role in this effort if it is recognized for what it is and what it has to offer. My latest efforts include working toward a cultural exchange program supported by a partnership between Horse Progress Days and the international aid organization Mennonite Central Committee that is making plans to bring a Tanzanian agricultural engineer to eastern PA to work with local Amish shops to develop equipment and harness for oxen and donkeys to be made with components that are readily available in Tanzania. I also take great pleasure in working with my own horses making hay on our own land and on the lands of a neighboring Amish farmer.
In October 2016 the Portuguese Association for Animal Traction APTRAN together with the European working horse network FECTU organized a symposium on THE XXI CENTURY MOUNTAINS:SUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT OF MOUNTAINOUS AREAS BASED ON ANIMAL TRACTION in Bragança (Portugal) during the Ist INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN MOUNTAIN REGIONS.
The following abstracts of the symposium underline the relevance of working animals worldwide and the important role they continue to play today. After an overview of the renaissance of working horses in Europe in the last decades different aspects of the possible use and further development of animal traction are presented, based on experiences in Portugal, Switzerland and Italy and dealing with societal, economical, environmental and agrotechnical issues.