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Dirt Farmer Teaches How To Drive Horses
In a day of huge tractors and selfpropelled farm machinery, you wouldn't expect much interest in learning to drive horses. But this isn't the case for Kenneth Demers who has been running a school in horsemanship for the last seven years.
Demers, who says he is just a "dirt farmer", holds his draft horse workshop three times every year on his farm near North Adams in western Massachusetts. The one-week course is offered through North Adams State College, North Adams, Mass.
The classes of 20 students have an opportunity to work with Demers' 10 to 12 Percheron draft horses, doing all kinds of farm work. Each workshop is a 5-day course. The first day is lectures and classroom instruction on the college campus, and the next four days are spent in learning to harness, hitch and drive a team.
The emphasis is on learning by doing. Says Demers: "I can show you how to plow in 20 min.; but you have to put on a lot of miles before I can make a plowman out of you."
Students in the course drive teams in various farm jobs. One workshop is held in the winter, giving students an opportunity to drive horses in log-g ging operations.
Students come to the horsemanship school from all walks of life. Demerss has had doctors,' businessmen; and farmers in his classes. About half of them are women, and they range from about 16 to 66 years of age. Up to now, they have come from 38 states, four Canadian provinces, and two foreign countries.
"In the seven years that I've been doing this, I've had nearly 300 students," says Demers, "and they've been the finest people I've ever met. I guess there's something special about people who like to work with horses."
The horsemanship course, which meets two weeks in summer and one week in winter, is so popular that it's usually filled five months in advance. Enrollment in each course is limited to 20 students so that everyone has plenty of time to work with the horses. Tuition for the course is $60 per person, plus room and board. Students can be housed in a college dormitory, stay at a nearby campground, or 'arrange their own motel .accommodations.
The Demers farm where the course is conducted is a real "working" dairy farm with a 40-cow herd and 400 acres of farm land. Demers, a veteran breeder of registered Percheron horses, says there is an increasing interest in draft horses all over North America. The price of mares in some cases has increased 10 times over the last 10 years.
For more details, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Dept. of Continuing Education; North Adams State College, North Adams, Mass. 01247.

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1980 - Volume #4, Issue #4