New Brunswick

Old-fashioned horsepower: Logger relies on draft horse in the woods

A forestry worker in central New Brunswick is going back to old-fashioned horse power to make a more stable living.

Craig Sabean, the owner of Napadogan Horse Logging, is going back to the way logging used to be

Craig Sabean, the owner of Napadogan Horse Logging, with his 14-year-old Percheron mare, Taylor. (Jordan Gill/CBC)

A forestry worker in central New Brunswick is going back to old-fashioned horse power to make a more stable living.

Craig Sabean, the owner of Napadogan Horse Logging, may be new to the horse business, but he has been in the forestry business since 2008.

Sabean said his experience working for a marketing board and for J.D. Irving Ltd. showed him a demand for a different way of harvesting wood.

"I kind of saw there was a niche market for wood that you couldn't really cut with a harvester, and there was people who really didn't want harvester damage," Sabean said.

The solution: going back to a kind of logging used for centuries, before harvesters and skidders hit the scene.

"I liked horses and I like working with them," he said. 

"I like animals so I thought it'll be a win-win for me."

Places machines can't get at

Sabean says there are some places machines can't get to, but that's not an issue for Taylor. (Napadogan Horse Logging)

Modern equipment can cut more wood, Sabean said, but there's wood that can only be reached using a horse.

"I can do jobs that a machine can't," he said.

"With a machine, you have to keep away from the brooks and things like that. So [it's] kind of an advantage with a horse — you can get in near the brooks."

And a horse operation requires less overhead, he said, listing gas for his pickup, and oats, hay and water for his horse among his regular expenses. 

With modern machinery, Sabean said, there are much higher fuel and maintenance costs, meaning that some crews have to work 24 hours straight to remain profitable.

"Basically, they need at least 250 to 300 cord of wood to make it profitable for them," Sabean said. "Whereas I can go in on two or three acres, and I can work there for two weeks and pay the landowner, pay myself.

"I only have to put out 10 cord a week to make a good decent living, whereas a guy in a machine, he's going through 20, 30 acres in a week."

And if the machinery fails, a new harvester could run to $500,000, a new horse about $3,000, he said.

Growing in popularity

Taylor spent the first six years of her life working in the woods, and is in 'really good shape for her age,' Sabean says. (Jordan Gill/CBC)

Sabean's partner in business is his 14-year-old Percheron mare, Taylor.

"She's in really good shape for her age," he said. "She worked in the woods full time up until she was six-years-old, I believe."

Sabean said he expects this method of harvesting wood to grow in popularity, as has already happened in Europe.

"There's more and more demand for select cutting and smaller areas being harvested," he said.

"The big machines and the big coming in and clearing 300 to 400 acres for somebody is … starting to go the other way now."   

About the Author

Jordan Gill

Reporter

Jordan Gill is a CBC reporter based out of Fredericton. He can be reached at jordan.gill@cbc.ca.