Have you been driving a team of two or a single horse for a while and you’re feeling relaxed and calm? You feel ready to test your skill and get outside your comfort zone? You want to up your game?
Well, let’s talk about hooking four horses. We encourage teamsters who want to challenge themselves to do so, but you need to give it some serious thought. And of course, do it safely.
What are some circumstances that require four horses?
Situations where you need more power and energy:
- hauling a heavier load
- pulling a load over a longer period of time or distance, uneven terrain
- being more efficient. Instead of single bottom plow, you can use a two bottom or gang plow
- showing off to your friends and family (OK, maybe that’s just us)
More power is always in demand – and it’s cooler to drive more horses. Using four horses to pull a piece of equipment that is set up for two will enable you to go much longer and get more work done.
But before you go out and start driving four horses, there are matters that must be considered. Such as:
- equipment: will you do two or four lines? What kind of evener or implement are you hooking to?
- safety: adding two horses creates more power and therefore more room for error. You have a wider turning radius. What is the experience/confidence level of teamster?
- the job: are you working with a heavy load? Is the terrain hilly or rocky? What is the size of the field you’re working?
With the decision made to hitch four horses, the question now becomes HOW? While the amount of power, in theory, is the same, there are two general configurations when hooking four horses. Four up and four wide…
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What’s the difference between Four Wide and Four Up?
With four wide:
- all horses are pulling on one evener, connected directly on the load
- it’s more efficient to get the power to the implement
- it’s easier to control the power because you only have one hitch
- you’re using only one set of lines
With four up:
- It’s easier to get through narrow gates and roadways
- The front horses are actually an extra 10 feet away
- The tugs need to be tight on both teams so they’re all pulling their share of the load
Is one easier than the other?
Four Up is more challenging in the beginning. All horses need to pull their share of the load. There’s more room for error. It’s harder to get used to; it takes way more practice and you have another set of lines. You have to make sure to keep the four lines organized in your hands and it’s easier to drop one.
That said, learning to drive four or more horses is simply just a progression of the teamster’s skill level and interest. There’s a lot more to think about and more decisions to be made…
Random four horse team facts:
On a show-style wagon the lead team will usually be connected to the tongue with a doubletree on the end with a proper heavy dray wagon, the lead team’s doubletree is connected by a cable running along the bottom of the tongue to the wagon axle so they’re pulling on the load and not just on the tongue of the wagon when putting four up to a plow or other piece of heavy tillage equipment, a rope and pulley hitch, similar to the MacKinnon Hitch of days gone by, should be used. Both teams are connected to each other by ropes going from the tugs of one team, through pulleys attached to the doubletree to the tugs of the other team. Make sure the doubletree is heavy enough to handle the added horsepower when you want to keep that headland at the end of the row as small as possible, Four Wide is the way to go. Your hitch is only 10 feet long instead of 20.
If you’re interested in learning more or would like some instruction, reading material, long lines, check lines or 3- and 4-wide eveners, contact Terry at (403) 689-0149 or firstname.lastname@example.org.