Hitch In Farm Working Horses. Embracing True Horse Power.

Hitch In Farm Working Horses. Embracing True Horse Power.
Ellie Paddock

Honored to have Ellie Paddock, from Hitch In Farm Working Horses agree to be interviewed for Equitas. Here she chats to Lynny Cairney...

Ellie, tell us a little bit about yourself and what do you do?

"Hi all, I'm Ellie from Hitch in farm working horses. We have 12 working, riding and driving horses. We use them for forestry and farming work - producing quality organic fruit and vegetables and also free range meats (though I'm actually vegetarian!). We train both people and horses - everything from ground handling to carriage driving, for novices and experienced teamsters alike! Want to learn to halter break? We can help! Want to drive a team of 8? We can help you do that too!"

When did you start with horses and when did you take an interest in your current area of horsemanship…or womanship!?

"My sister and I starting riding when I was about 7 years old. We had just moved from Hong Kong to Bahrain and it was one of the sports that were offered for girls. Most of the horses at the school were Arabs who didn't meet the grade for racing. It was less learning to ride and more learning how to survive - We loved it!"

I started carriage driving as a young teenager after I outgrew the pony I used for eventing, and I broke her to drive when she was 8 / 9 years old. I then went on to work at dressage and polo yards. After that, I did a degree in ecology and started a masters in forestry.

Horse logging seemed to be a good way of tying two passions together so I moved from Cornwall to Hereford and started learning horse logging...the rest, as they say, is history!".

Wow, that's a good solid start! What, if any, challenges have you faced as a woman in the Equestrian industry?

"A bit of context first... Mike and I work together, we have both been driving horses nearly 20 years independently of each other. He is much more experienced then me in a working (logging, farm work) context. I have done a lot more competitive riding. This doesn't mean that I have nothing to contribute... And I am constantly annoyed when people ask me things like "oh you're a stay at home Mum?," When I have just been out as groom while they learn to carriage drive... At my job!!!

I have to bite my tongue when people say things like "oh so you like horses too?" or "isn't it nice you support Mike's dream so much?,". I had a query from a client this week and it was very simple, I replied but received the response "thanks Ellie, but can you ask Mike his opinion too please?,".

On another occasion, we did a demo where the horsemen got a free lunch. Their grooms also got lunch. As Mike's wife, I didn't... Even after I had been out driving a team of 6 on the plough all day. Somehow though that really affects my confidence in my own abilities. Another example is when we went to view a new farm recently and was told that I could stay inside while Mike looked at the farming facilities if I wanted... An outrage!!  I could go on..."

Well that's given me an eye twitch to hear! It shows that while we have come a long way raising women's profiles, there is clearly a way to go yet, especially in the more agricultural forms of equine industries. Please now tell us who inspires you?

"Anyone who is honest about their successes and failures. There's far too much perfection in the age of social media and it's a bit dull really".

I agree and it has particularly added pressure on young people to always appear to be out on top. How do you maintain a work/life balance?

"Organisation! No, I'm joking... in reality, it's all a big smudge and we muddle through together with the help of our family and community".

I love it! Now, you have a mixed herd. Please tell us about your breeding programme - Do you breed every year? Do you run a stallion with the mares in the field, cover in-hand, or use AI?

"We breed to replace our own herd, as nature intended in a field. If our horses are going to breed they have to have proven their ability in riding, driving and working. Health is also a very big consideration. We will no longer breed pure bred heavy horses. They have too many genetic issues and a good horse, is a good horse even if it has a cheap passport".

That's such a valid point. There are a lot of good mix breed horses and good is good regardless. You have a wonderful stallion, Rodger who is exemplary. He's calm, workable and steady. How do you achieve this with your stallions and colts? How does this work with mares on the farm too?

"We manage our stallions the same way we manage our mares. They need friends, fields and food. They live as a bachelor herd, currently five stallions and colts and one gelding. Replicating the bachelor herds wild stallions form when they don't have a herd of mares of their own. They are trained to understand that when they are wearing a bridle, they are at work.

The boundaries are clear and consistent, as with any good training method.

We also have decent electric fencing and they are kept out of sight from the mares when they are turned out. We do, very rarely, get a surprise foal... teaching abstinence only, doesn't work for horses or people!"

Where do you want to see your business/working horses in general going in the future?

"I bought our first farm in 2015. We had only been together for a few months and we wanted to give self sufficiency a go! We started offering training as a way to supplement our income and it took off in a big way, taking us away from our original aim of just living with the land a bit. I am really looking forward to getting a new farm (we sold ours in 2021 as it was too wet for the horses really, and we've been looking for a new one ever since). The plan is to get back to farming in an environmentally sustainable way, enjoying each others company, and remembering to enjoy the horses. We will still offer training but it won't be wall to wall. In 2019 we did 300 taster days in a year and we've realised that's not how to do it!"

Any advice for other women out there in the equestrian world looking to get started with working horses/business?

"People will always tell you what you can't do, even when it's something they have never tried. You probably can, if you really want to. We were told we couldn't get planning permission on our land and we did first try. Apparently, you can't earn a living from working horses and yet here we are! Another one I heard is that you won't be able to do anything once you have had a baby... But you can with the right sling!! I even rode with our baby on my back and more recently with him sat in front on my western saddle or Mike's (he's 3)."

Ellie, it's been a pleasure and an insight to learn a bit more about you. Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed! Finally, where can our readers find out more?

"Hitch in farm working horses" on Facebook
@hitchinfarm on Instagram
And more recently at Hitch In Farm on YouTube! We've started uploading tutorials and other working horse things on there, so do check that out!"

Many thanks to Ellie for having a chat with me and kindly giving us an insight into such a unique lifestyle within the Equine Industry.