Jay and Trace stand calm and ready for a hard day’s work on the Kerr farm in Quick. They’ve been working together for years and it shows.
“Not all my horses are this quiet,” says Glen Kerr, laughing. “My young one would have his head hooked on that pole, he’d have his bridle off by now and you’d think the flies were out.
“But these guys are unbelievable.”
“These guys” are Shires—tall draft horses known for their easy-going temper and great pulling strength.
Hitched to a cart in town, Kerr said that Jay and Trace can easily pull four or five tons.
On the farm, Kerr keeps 16 Shires as dedicated winter sleigh teams.
“The horses get to trust you,” Kerr said.
They also get to trust each other. Kerr hitches his young and old horses in teams so the young ones can learn a bit of patience from the veteran pullers.
Kerr and his wife Dolores have run winter sleighs on their farm for 20 years. But they didn’t start doing it commercially until 2003.
That was the year that Glen retired, along with many of his horses.
From 1987 to 2003, Kerr and his horses had a totally different career—logging.
“You had to be on the job by seven in the morning, horses out of the barn and ready to go at eight o’clock,” he said.
While Kerr and his horse teams skidded logs out of the bush to a self-loading truck, a faller worked ahead of them cutting down and stripping trees.
Horse logging was a great way to make a living until the BC Liberals came into power in 2001, said Kerr.
“They eliminated it completely,” he said. Under the NDP government, Kerr said B.C. horse loggers were able to take a small cut of the province’s timber supply ever year.
That changed when the BC Liberals brought in B.C. Timber Sales, an agency that for the first time had horse and machine loggers compete at the same timber auctions.
Few horse loggers could compete.
“To me it never did make sense,” said Kerr, adding that there is still a niche for horse logging.
“Machines are so much faster at harvesting the timber, but they don’t do selective logging,” he said. “They clear cut.”
Kerr said he had always planned to retire to run sleigh teams. The Kerrs keep enough horses that they can run up to three sleighs at once, carrying groups of ten through the Quick hayfields and up into wooded areas.