Old School: Traditional Farming on Display at MSU Draft Horse Event

The century-old Michigan State University (MSU) draft horse program will hold its annual Plow Day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 14 on the east side of the MSU Pavilion for Agriculture and Livestock Education. Local aficionados and their draft horse teams will demonstrate traditional farming equipment, including two plows recently donated to the draft horse program by the Eaton County Draft Horse Club (ECDHC).

The event introduces students and the community to the pulling power of draft horses and the art of manual plowing. Draft horse program coordinator and Plow Day organizer Cara O'Connor said she expects more than 20 community members and their draft horse teams to participate.

"We invite people to bring their horses and plows and demonstrate them for our students and each other," O'Connor said. "The teams have a variety of horse breeds and plow styles and will often allow students to drive their horses. This is an experience the students wouldn't have had otherwise."

The ECDHC presented the MSU draft horse program with a walking plow and a White Horse Machines sulky riding plow at the Michigan Great Lakes International Draft Horse Show in October, but Plow Day will be MSU's first chance to put the plows to work.

Jim Greenman of the ECDHC said the club decided to donate the plow after years of working with O'Connor at Plow Day. The group earns money by providing horse-drawn transportation at Lansing's annual Silver Bells in the City holiday event, Ag Expo at MSU and to the nearby city of Charlotte for their annual Frontier Days festival.

"We got to know the students during previous Plow Days and decided to donate our proceeds to help them develop their (horse-driving) skills," Greenman said. "Draft horses are made for plowing; now the students have something they can work with and learn from."

The donation adds another dimension to the draft horse program at MSU, O'Connor said. Students enrolled in the introductory animal science course ANS 141: Draft Horse Basics will have a new lecture and laboratory segment on farming now that they have the newly donated equipment. Also, members of the MSU Driving Club will have enhanced learning opportunities.

"We have previously worked more on showing the horses, but now we have the capacity to cover farming," O'Connor said.

This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the draft horse program, O'Connor said. Centennial apparel will be available to purchase at Plow Day. A formal commemoration will take place during the Michigan Great Lakes International Draft Horse Show and Pull set for October 18-21 at the MSU Pavilion.

Plow Day is free and open to the public. Lunch will be available for a small donation.

The MSU Department of Animal Science has a 100-year tradition of educating outstanding students, providing excellence in research and engaging communities through Extension activities. For more information visit www.ans.msu.edu.  

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