The Melksham, Calne and Chippenham Branch
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Boat Horses

A boatman’s horse was incredibly important, and it was very well looked after.

It had to be strong, but also able to pull steadily: it took patience and strength to overcome the initial drag and get a heavy boat moving. The horse would then need to maintain a steady pace all day, literally eating on the hoof from a nose bag, and older children would often have the task of keeping the horse walking along the towpath.

Traffic on the Wilts & Berks Canal would have purely been horse drawn, as the widespread use of steam and diesel came later in the 20th Century, and was less frequent on rural canals.

During restoration of the canal at Pewsham, horseshoes and nails have been found, but there is no evidence of overnight stabling which used to be provided at points along canals.

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