Northwest Wanderings: Photographer Alan Berner shares scenes, videos and conversations from travels through our region.
Clyde and Java are a 3,600-pound team of pulling power.
They work well together and like each other. And at the start of each shift in the woods hauling logs for Wes Gustafson, he gets them to focus.
He doesn’t want them thinking, “Oh no, not another day of this.”
Instead, after the laborious task of hitching them up, he “gets them thinking like 4-year-old boys. Wheee!”
Clyde, a gelding, is the lead and Java, a mare, trusts him.
Gustafson, 60, says, “They’re smart, but not in the way we think. They sense everything. Once they understand this is what we’re doing, they’re creatures of habit and like things to be repeatable.
“It’s a different kind of smarts — more intuitive.”
Instructions are simple and the horses are surprisingly agile.
They can do a 360-degree turn in one spot.
“Haw” means turn left. “Gee” means turn right. “Back up” and “whoa” are obvious.
If there’s a command they don’t know, they’ll learn it in a couple of days.
“Once the horses are tuned in, they can read your mind — almost.”
Gustafson, a tech worker in the Bay Area, decided 22 years ago that he wanted to “do something different.”
He read up on horses, bought a team and “went from zero to two big draft horses.”
Two years later, he moved to Washington state and founded his business, The Wood ’n Horse Company.
Gustafson says you can’t be in a big hurry with draft horses.
“They’re bred to work, not run fast.”
He likes the quietness of the work and says the horses are easier on the land.
They also can work in tighter spaces than a lot of modern equipment.
“It’s hard work, but fun.”