Letter Re: The Utility of Horses and Horse Theft Prevention in Hard Times

Hi Jim,
I read your blog every day as I am preparing my family for the likely collapse. Thanks for the info.We are looking for the ideal spot for our retreat and have found many possible places all in the Pacific Northwest (wooded, very private and off of main roads, creeks, etc.)

Here is our dilemma: We have four horses and want to grow our own hay to feed them. How does one find a property that is remote and hidden but still with enough flat, fertile land to grow hay (5-10 acres per horse!)? Our horses are all small and hardy breeds but still need to eat! In a TEOTWAWKI scenario, do you consider horses a positive for transportation, pulling/plowing power?

We are preparing for a worst case scenario — no gasoline to import hay, closed roads, Golden Hordes, unlimited government regulation of farming/production, hungry horses, et cetera.
What are your thoughts? Thanks, – Alex

JWR Replies: Owning well-trained horses is highly recommended, particularly in a long-term situation where gasoline is either unavailable or prohibitively expensive. I recommend that you locate your retreat in both good pasture and haying country that has reliable rainfall and fertile soil. Plentiful water in the absence of grid power will be the first and foremost consideration. Assuming that you have a pair of horses that have worked in harness, find an old-fashioned horse-drawn hay mower and a large hay wagon, so your horses can earn their keep, by bringing in their fodder.

Training of both horse and rider is crucial, if nothing else than for safety. As our family has learned, a horse can do a lot of damage in a hurry, even if they are at a standstill. Get the best training you can afford. For draft horses, Doug “Doc” Hammill up in Montana is one of the best. There are of course hundreds of trail horse trainers, but for practical versatility I recommend that you also search out the best working horse trainer in your region. (Even if you don’t own cattle now, you may someday in the future.) OBTW, I recommend watching the DVD “Clinton Anderson: On the Road to the Horse Colt Starting”.  

Unless you find an exceptionally isolated property, security will be dependent on having neighbors that you can trust and in having enclosed stall space where you will secure your horses every night. You will of course need perimeter electronic security. Get a Dakota Alert infrared intrusion detection system, at the minimum.

If and when you relocate, try to buy a parcel that is essentially landlocked–but I mean this in the good sense of the term–namely a parcel with a neighboring ranch between you and and the county road. Ideally your property should have just one private deeded right-of-way lane for you to watch. (Your property should sit at least one “40” back from any public road.) That will distance you and hopefully shield your stock from line of sight, and it will greatly simplify your security arrangements. Limited avenues of approach will considerably reduce the requisite security man hours and also greatly reduce your stress level.