For our last interview with Woodland Workers, we chat to the brilliant Kate Mobbs-Morgan. Kate tells us more about working in horse logging, and why this traditional approach to timber extraction is still so important in forestry today.
Name: Kate Mobbs-Morgan
Organisation: Rowan Working Horses
Kate: Rowan Working Horses is primarily a low impact woodland management business using horses as the main extraction tool. We undertake work on a variety of sites specialising in difficult access, steep or wet sites and environmentally sensitive sites doing both the cutting and the extraction. This is mostly done from late August through the winter until the Spring when the nesting season starts again. During the summer months we undertake other land management work such a bracken control and mowing, attend a mix of shows demonstrating with the horses, plus some teaching and training.
How did you get in to this industry?
I have always worked outdoors, originally training in Horticulture, but I harboured an interest in working horses. I came upon a small charity, the then “Working Horse Trust” who offered some basic training days and opportunities to volunteer with them. I volunteered as much as I could whilst continuing to garden and raise a young family and got ever more interested in the woodland side of the work. I have built my skills up over a number of years initially through volunteering with other horse loggers, attending evening classes to gain an equine qualifications, adding chainsaw and first aid tickets to my C.V. I went self employed with my first horse in 2007 and have built the business up since then. There are no formal qualifications for horse logging but you can learn an awful lot through practical application and working with others.
Why is your work important?
I feel very strongly that there is a place for working horses in forestry today. The horses can work in places machinery cannot reach, or where it is not welcome. Horses can work successfully and efficiently alongside machines, extracting efficiently to trackside to somewhere a Forwarder can take the timber out on a longer extraction route. Working a woodland with the horses means there is little or no impact on the site, no big tracks are required to be cut in, nor any reinstatement required when we leave. The woodland is left so it can easily be worked in the future. We can work through a variety of sites including selective thinning, first thinning, coppice work with minimal to no damage to the remaining crop, and may also clear fell using a variety of horse drawn equipment.
What is the most important thing you have learned during your career?
That’s quite a hard question, I have learnt so much from so many people. I have learnt for myself that it so important to fill your working days doing a job you absolutely love, come rain or shine.
Would you recommend this job? What advice do you have for others interested in this career?
Absolutely, but they must be under no illusions – it is hard work and you need to have a passion it. If someone is interested then the best place to start is to volunteer with a good working horse logger and see if it is something they would like to take further. The British Horse loggers run courses that can lead on to support through an Apprenticeship scheme, and some horse loggers also offer training courses. These will give you a taste of what’s possible.
To find out more, you can follow Rowan Working Horses on Facebook and Instagram.