GOULDSBORO, Maine — In this neck of the Schoodic Peninsula, all the excitement about horses this past weekend had nothing to do with the array of sleek thoroughbreds in the field for Saturday’s 114th running of The Belmont Stakes.
Instead, the main equestrian fascination in this seaside Hancock County community was Archie and Andy, two hefty Haflinger draft horses that arrived on Friday from Kentucky to take up permanent residence at Darthia Farm on West Bay Road in Gouldsboro.
The team replaces three draft horses that Bill and Cynthia Thayer lost to a barn fire May 7 that destroyed the 153-year-old barn and killed the horses, sheep, pigs, calves and fowl trapped inside. Bill Thayer, 75, had owned and worked one those draft horses since it was eight months old. When the horse died in the fire, it was 29.
The Thayers, who have been organic farmers on the 150-acre spread since 1976, were devastated by the barn fire and the loss of their animals, many of which were more like friends to the couple than livestock. The old wooden barn was only 75 feet from their home, but local volunteer fire departments responded quickly and were able to keep the tower of flames away from their farmhouse.
After hearing that the barn was covered by only $15,000 in insurance, friends within the local community, the organic farming community statewide, school children and complete strangers quickly raised $70,000 within 10 days of the fire. That amount has since grown to nearly $100,000.
“I think we have enough to cover everything,” Cynthia said.
It was Cynthia who went online after the fire and found a team that was for sale in Kentucky. Bill flew out there a few weeks ago to inspect Archie, 10, and Andy, 9, and to drive them before finalizing the purchase. The drafts were trucked to Maine last week.
“In Kentucky I put them through different situations that commonly spook driving teams,” Bill said. “I had them pull a very noisy wagon and drove them through an enormous puddle. I hooked a metal manure spreader to the back of a wagon and took them around a big field. They did very well. Obviously someone had done a lot of work with them.”
It was Cynthia’s idea to acquire the team even before Darthia Farm had a new barn in which to house them.
“After the fire, Bill would get up in the morning with nothing to do,” she said. “Now he has the horses to work.”