Horses Step in to Do the Job Motorized Vehicles Can’t Handle


Work horses might be considered obsolete for most tasks in the modern era, but engineers for U.S. Cellular in Wisconsin now know better.

NPR recently profiled Jason Julian, a farmer from Medford, Wisconsin, who uses draft horses for logging and to do some of the work on his organic dairy farm. The horses’ pulling abilities in all weather turned out to be exactly what U.S. Cellular needed when the embarked on a plan to upgrade 200 cell towers.

Some of the towers in need of upgrades are located in remote areas accessible only by unpaved access roads and paths. Snow and mud made these paths even more treacherous than usual, and the motorized vehicles used to deliver equipment to the towers couldn’t get the job done. That’s where Julian and his Brabant horses came in.

The process is fairly straightforward. Julian hitches up two horses to a wooden wagon and meets a delivery truck at the road. He then guides the horses up the path—sometimes steep, sometimes in knee-deep mud, and sometimes both—to the cell tower.

The load can weigh around 2,000 pounds, Julian told NPR, but the horses are fit for the job. They spend the winter dragging 1500-pound logs out of snow-filled Wisconsin forests.

Brabant Horse
Brabanter by Steffen Heinz via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0

Brabant horses share ancestry with Belgian Draft horses, but breeders have maintained a stout, thicker-bodied conformation for the Brabant while the Belgian has become taller and lighter over generations. According to the American Brabant Association, the horses are ideal for work in sustainable forestry and on small farms thanks to their quiet and willing disposition along with their strong, sturdy build. It turns out that strength and willingness to work has uses beyond forestry and farming.

Cell phones seem like a strictly modern technology, but for some mobile customers in Wisconsin, that technology would be in trouble without some help from the oldest form of horsepower.

Leslie Potter is a writer and photographer based in Lexington, Kentucky.


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