Rich history of heavy horses on the Southern Downs

LIKE OLD TIMES: Horses at the Heavy Horse Day perform old-style farm duties.
LIKE OLD TIMES: Horses at the Heavy Horse Day perform old-style farm duties. Casandra Garvey

IN A time before John Deere and New Holland, it took four hooves and a plough to get the farm work done.

Heavy horses made their way to Queensland in the early 1800s, and for Mick Bradford, they have continued to take part in the everyday work of the farm since.

"My father had working horses. He had about three or four," the horseman said.

"He bought a tractor back in the 1930s but we had draught horses right up till the late 1940s.

"Then I started back in them in 1974, gradually built them up."

For 16 years, the Yangan Heavy Horse Day has been a part of heavy horse history, and now all are invited to see a snapshot of what life on the land was like when farm machinery had four hooves and a mane.

Mr Bradford's 15 heavy horses are made up of clydesdales, Australian draught horses and the typical "mixes".

"I've got one that was mixed with a trotter," he said.

"And then there's Brigalow; he's 27 years old."

The most recognisable heavy horse breed in Queensland was the specifically bred Australian draught horse.

In 1826, famed pioneer settler James Atkinson wrote: "The purebred horses of this description are certainly too heavy for the climate, but it is probable that, by judicious crossing with the lighter kinds, a breed may be obtained with sufficient bone and strength, but yet not too heavy, for the purposes of draught in this climate."

As a result, the clydesdale, percheron, shire, Suffolk punch and occasionally some light horse bloodlines were bred together to create the perfect working horse for the Australian land.

In Australia's early days, the Australian draught horse was used to open up this country, with most farms using them as their ploughing horses or the horse to pull the wagons to railway sidings and docks.

According to Mick Bradford, they could plough a field for days, or be used for some lighter jobs around the yard.

"It's what I do of a Saturday. I just like them and I work the garden, everything with them," he said.

"I'd go for a drive on the slide, feed the pigs.

"I had a saddle horse that went heavy and, in 1974, the (Yangan) school centenary was on and I did him up with a pack saddle.

"It had two beer kegs on it, and we had a big procession and I just started back into it."

All are welcome to Mick's Heavy Horse Day in Yangan this Sunday.

The day will take place at Mick's property at 122 Swanfels Rd, Yangan.

Topics:  heavy horses history horses southern downs

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