Whatever the season, the huge draft horses are always a big draw for visitors to The Rocks. While our volunteers talk with visitors about the history and process of maple sugaring, Bruce's horses get plenty of pats on the nose. Bruce does his own sugaring on his farm in Orford, but most of the questions he fields at The Rocks are about his nearly-one-ton companions. Below, he shares some information about his horses and his work at The Rocks.
Tell us about your horses.
They’re Belgian draft horses. Their names are Mike and Burt. I have another one, Bob, who I can use if I need to. Draft horse names aren’t typically very fancy. I like to keep ‘em short so they can understand it when I speak to them. They’re about 1850 pounds apiece. They’ll eat about 40 pounds of hay a day and about 10 pounds of grain each.
How did you get involved with working with draft horses?
I’ve been working with horses about 35 years. My dad logged with horses his whole life and I grew up with them. We log with them and sugar with them and do some of the farm work. We have the horses and a couple beef cows – and 2 to 10 kids, depending on how many neighbors are here.
What do you do, besides driving your team, when you’re at The Rocks for wagon rides?
They have a tour guide on every wagon, so most of the questions I answer are about the horses. I enjoy it. It’s a good time to get out and use your horses and talk to people about what draft horses can or can’t do. The programs at The Rocks have grown tremendously in the last 15 or 16 years. They’ve expanded to mail order trees. The maple program has become bigger.
What do you – and Mike and Burt – do when you’re not pulling wagons at The Rocks?
I have a full time logging business and use both horses and conventional logging equipment. Having both options is more versatile. I do get some landowners who request having horses instead of a machine, because it’s a much lower impact. It’s not as profitable. It takes longer to skid the wood out.
We also do sleigh rides during the winter at the ski area at Quechee Lakes in Vermont and do a lot of logging in the winter.
The horses are much better behaved when they’re working. I think they like to be active. Burt is 9 years old and Mike is 5. Draft horse will work until they’re about 20 years old, if they’re well taken care of and don’t get sick or get injured.
To learn more about Bruce and his horses and discover the sweet secrets of sugaring season, visit The Rocks for the New Hampshire Maple Experience, running weekends through April 5. For more information, visit the Maple Experience website. To make a reservation for a maple tour, call The Rocks at (603) 444-6228.