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.
Accepting the challenge proposed by the Mountain Partnership, the Equid Power Network* (www.equidpower.org) organised a virtual event to promote the importance of Working Equids in Mountain Areas, as a contribution to the celebrations held for International Mountain Day 2020.
During this event, four guest speakers present different case studies from different parts of the world, highlighting the economic, ecologic and social importance and of working equids in mountain areas.
Case 1. Soil Conservation in Mountain Areas: Challenges and Threats. The (low) impact of animal traction in agroforestry management in mountains. Tomás de Figueiredo, IPB - Polytechnic Institute of Bragança / CIMO - Mountain Research Centre, Portugal.
Case 2. Working Equids and the Production Chains in Rural Communities in the Central and South American Mountain Areas. Eduardo Santurtun, The Donkey Sanctuary México.
Case 3. The Importance of Working Mules in the Tourism Sector in Nepal and How They Contribute to the Livelihood of Mountain Communities. Hari Joshi, Animal Nepal.
Case 4. The Contribution of Working Equids to Sustaining the Livelihoods of Ethiopian Highlanders. Bojia Duguma, The Donkey Sanctuary Ethiopia.
*The Equid Power Network is a coalition created by:
- FECTU (European Draught Horse Federation)
- The Donkey Sanctuary
- World Horse Welfare
with the aim to highlight the benefits of working equids by promoting their responsible use and care, recognising them as a valid, affordable, clean and renewable power source, as well as their value to human livelihoods through their contribution to financial, ecological and social capital.
The Working Animal Alliance (WAA) is a strategic coalition of stakeholders seeking to raise awareness of the contribution working animals make towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The WAA believes that the critical contribution working animals provide towards the life of people is largely overlooked, despite spanning several areas of activities, including economic development, fighting poverty, climate change mitigation and the dissemination of diseases. Worldwide, working animals are very frequently one of the most valuable assets that people own: they facilitate income generation, enable resource provision, allow access to education and further gender empowerment.
The Alliance is an informal group of countries, intergovernmental bodies and relevant stakeholders who will focus on emphasizing the crucial contribution of the world’s 200 million working animals towards the livelihood of hundreds of communities. It will take coordinated activities aiming to strengthen synergies across sectors and to support the delivery of the SDGs.
It intends to work with countries that have large working animal populations and that are planning to present their the Voluntary National Reviews, to help highlight working animals’ contribution to development reflected in their reports.
Joining the initiative is free.
More information regarding the Alliance can be found at the Alliance’s webpage: www.workinganimalalliance.org