Skip to Main Content

Draft Horse Resources

Banner for draft horse psc history materials page

History of PSC Draft Horses

The Paul Smith’s Wilderness Resort opened in 1859 and was one of the greatest hotels in the region at its peak. It boasted guests such as Grover Cleveland, PT Barnum, and Calvin Coolidge. Paul Smith died in 1912, but the hotel continued to run through 1930 when the main building burnt down. Throughout this time horses were used for a variety of settings– light horses were used to transport guests from the surrounding train stations to the hotel, and they were the popular choice for exploring or hunting excursions. Draft types were utilized in the forest for logging or collecting sap- both two large forms of income for the resort. Horses would skid logs to St. Regis shoreline where they could be floated to the sawmill on site and milled to be sold for lumber.

PSC opened in the 1930s, the first graduating class was mid 40s. In the 1960s Gould Hoyt (existing professor, woodsmen, forester, etc.) offered to bring his own horse to campus to teach students. This was so popular that the college decided to install the barn and pastures where they sit to this day in the 1960s (the land was previously a golf course, so it was partially cleared). Hoyt re-established the presence of draft horses on campus- 

For many years he maintained the college’s draft horses. He began the horse-logging program at the college with one horse in 1962. By 1963, two more draft horses had been added, and the program has been sustained ever since. Hoyt instructed thousands of students in the effective, hands-on use of horses in logging operations.”

Hoyt combined the draft animals with his forestry, silviculture, and sugarbush management courses, and he led students in building the barn on Keese Mill road (add photo of signage in barn– FOR 270 1960). One of his students, Bob Bhrel, took over the program in 1983 when Hoyt retired. In addition to draft horses, Hoyt also assisted in building the forestry club cabin and establishing the PSC Woodsmen’s team which he advised until 1992. In Spring 2023 the Woodsmen’s arena was dedicated to Gould Hoyt. 

Bob Bhrel ran the draft horse program from 1988-2017. Throughout this time he continued the work that was done by Hoyt– utilizing the horses in logging operations and for silviculture practices. During his time the program switched from Belgians and Percherons to Canadian drafts- a slightly smaller and more rare breed. Bhrel also aided in establishing the draft horse club in the early 2000s as a way to set aside funds for students and increase engagement. Bhrel spoke about the future of the draft horse program with vision– he saw the development of a draft horse minor and potentially traveling with the team and students to competitions. In addition to the draft horse program, Bhrel also coached the men’s rugby team 

In 2017 Sara Dougherty graduated from PSC and had spent the past 4 years learning through Bob Bhrel. She took over the program when Bhrel retired, and continued to create a more diverse, welcoming environment for student teamsters. During her time at PSC students traveled to the Canadian Draft Horse Expo where they showed off the school’s team. In 2019 the program retired Lady and Fee to SUNY Delhi where they would continue to be used to teach students, but would not be working as demanding of jobs. 

In 2022 Camille Goethals was brought in to continue running the draft horse program. During her time she has reinstated sleigh rides at PSC’s Visitor Interpretation Center, reinvigorated the draft horse club to provide weekly wagon rides and driving opportunities for students who cannot take the class, and created on campus sites for the horses so they can be more visible and accessible to students.