Chris Wadsworth reports from Auldgirth, near Dumfries, where husband-and-wife team David Roycroft and Steffi Schaffler operate Teamwork Horse Logging – with a little help from their trusty steeds, of course.

TEAMWORK Horse Logging was founded by David Roycroft and Steffi Schaffler in 2014. Based at Auldgirth, north of Dumfries, Teamwork do forestry work with their horses in south-west Scotland, and sometimes further afield.

David Roycroft, originally from Warwick, worked as a tree surgeon before developing an interest in horse logging. He gained experience working with the late Doug Joiner in Herefordshire, before undertaking horse-logging work on his own account at several sites in the Midlands.

Steffi Schaffler was born in Munich, and gained a degree in organic agriculture before eventually moving to Scotland to work for some years on the Camphill Village Trust community at Loch Arthur, near Dumfries. Here she combined the roles of farmer and care worker for special needs people in the village community.

In 2011, Steffi entered the then-current version of the British Horse Loggers Apprenticeship Scheme. She was the third entrant to the scheme, and the first woman. Over three years, she gained experience on horse-logging projects in Wales, north-east England, and Scotland.

David and Steffi moved to Dumfriesshire in 2012, and their daughter Merida was born in 2013. They eventually settled at Hillend Farm House at Auldgirth, and have developed their horse- and forestry-based business. 

Their work is typically in small, privately owned woodlands requiring sympathetic, low-impact treatment. I travelled with them to one such site at Barfil, a few miles west of Dumfries.

Barfil Farm has 80 ha of woodland, in various mixtures over several plots. The owners had previous negative experience with a mechanised contractor, which resulted in much damage to the soil, standing trees, and to the drainage of a wet site. The culprits were asked to leave before completing the work.

Teamwork were asked to tidy up and finish the job, but before they were able to complete the work, the wind made a complete mess of the site, and it turned into a rather larger job.

Barfil Farm has now asked Teamwork to manage all 80 ha its of woodland.

Forestry Journal: David with Tyne and Sky, Steffi with Tin Tin and Ulvins arch.David with Tyne and Sky, Steffi with Tin Tin and Ulvins arch.

 On the day of my visit, the workforce consisted of David and Steffi, plus apprentice Gabriella, who is on a work placement in the newly revived version of the British Horse Loggers Apprenticeship Scheme.

 Teamwork had all four of their working horses at the site. Tin Tin and Stig are both heavy draught horses standing at around 16 hands. Tin Tin is a French-bred Comtois, and Stig is an Ardennes.

Tyne is a stocky cob, rather shorter than the first two, and with a fair amount of Clydesdale in his ancestry. Sky is a new addition, a cob of around 14 hands, and originally brought in to work in a pair with Tyne.

David and Gabriella were working with two heavy horses in Norwegian-made Ulvins skidding arches which reduce draught and soiling of the timber. Steffi was working the two cobs as a team, but it was proving to be hard going.

Tyne is a steady plodder, while Sky is an enthusiastic bundle of energy. It was clear that he was frustrated by being anchored to his slower-paced companion.

Steffi opted to try him solo, and was surprised and delighted by the transformation. The little horse was soon moving timber as big, or bigger, than that drawn by his larger colleagues. Such is the delight of working horses, engaging with individual personalities, and finding that which works best.

The timber was cross-cut at the landing to 3-metre biomass chip. This would be stacked by Teamwork’s latest acquisition, a FORS MW horse-drawn forwarder with a Farma petrol-driven hydraulic crane, made in Finland. This machine is designed to be drawn by two horses, but Steffi and David are being sensibly cautious.

Forestry Journal:  David stacking with the FORS MW forwarder. David stacking with the FORS MW forwarder.

The forwarder is proving its worth for stacking, but getting horses used to standing quietly while the crane is in action needs care and patience. Ultimately, they will be able to forward with their horses directly from the stump, and with minimal ground impact.

 Scandinavia remains a source for much high-quality modern horse-drawn forestry kit. In addition to the Norwegian arches and the two-horse crane forwarder, Teamwork also has an eight-wheeled, single-horse, manual-loading forwarder made by Österby Smejda in Sweden.

Investment in such technology increases the range of tasks and sites that Teamwork can address.

In addition to forestry work, David and Steffi undertake other work with their horses. Each summer, they have bracken rolling contracts, using a horse to draw a steel roller with slats on edge. This causes multiple bruising of the bracken stems, and the consequent bleeding of sap depletes the food reserves in the overwintering underground rhizomes. Repeated applications over a couple of seasons weakens the bracken plant, allowing suppressed vegetation to re-establish, and can eliminate the bracken entirely.

Bracken rolling can provide an alternative to chemical methods, and, if it is growing in other vegetation, the roller causes virtually no damage to the heather, grasses, or sapling trees.

Forestry Journal: The labour force of Teamwork Horse Logging (left to right): Tin Tin, Gabriella, Stig, David, Steffi and Tyne.The labour force of Teamwork Horse Logging (left to right): Tin Tin, Gabriella, Stig, David, Steffi and Tyne.

A horse-drawn roller with a walking driver can cope relatively easily with ground conditions that would be dangerous for a quad bike or ATV. Concealed rocks and stumps can be stepped around. Working across a slope with both horse and operator secure on their feet, a horse roller can cope with gradients that would be unsafe for machine work.

 In a more genteel setting, the horses have done several seasons grass mowing on the wide lawns of a large mansion. They tow a gang of ground-drive, reel-type mowers.

 As an extension of their woodland operations, David and Steffi have a firewood business. They also make and sell some work-horse and horse-logging equipment.


Forestry Journal: David and Steffi load the Ulvins arch.David and Steffi load the Ulvins arch.

Horse logging does not require the heavy chains used in machine skidding, so they provide lighter chokers. A strong crossbar trails behind the horse, and links the traces that run back from the horse’s collar to the hook that pulls the load. This is known by many names, but is most commonly called a swingletree. Teamwork manufacture swingletrees in both wood and steel.

Finally, they make a strong, simple grab hook with a swivel. This fixes to the centre of the swingletree, receiving the choker that attaches to the skidding load, and providing a useful handle to lift the swingletree.

 Horse loggers carry the swingletree, hook, and choker when turning the horse to hitch on to a log, so it is important that these components are as light and strong as possible.

Always keen to promote both horse logging and working horses more generally, David and Steffi have provided horse-logging demonstrations at both the Great Yorkshire and Royal Highland Shows in recent years. They put on training courses for aspiring horse loggers, and, as mentioned earlier, trainees can be taken on to gain work experience.

Contact Teamwork Horse Logging:,

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