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Jaffrey

born in the saddle

Sawyer family has maintained Jaffrey’s Silver Ranch for three generations

  • Lee A. Sawyer third generation owner and operator of Silver Ranch in Jaffrey reflecting on the various horses, carriages and experiences he has had throughout his life on the ranch.
  • Lee A. Sawyer third generation owner and operator of Silver Ranch in Jaffrey reflecting on the various horses, carriages and experiences he has had throughout his life on the ranch.
  • Lee A. Sawyer 65, third generation owner and operator of Silver Ranch in Jaffrey points to a photograph showing a Morgan horse pulling a carriage through the water. Sawyer said this is one of his favorite photos.
  • Silver Ranch in Jaffrey is comprised of 360 acers. Here, owner and operator Lee A. Sawyer reflects on the various carriage rides, sleigh rides, lessons, weddings and trail rides he has been a part of over the years. <br/>
  • Stephanie Gray and her mother Linda Gray of Greenfield selecting a carriage for Stephanie's upcoming wedding. "I've always had a dream of having horses in my wedding," she said.
  • <br/>Stephanie Gray and her mother Linda Gray of Greenfield selecting a carriage for Stephanie's upcoming wedding. "I've always had a dream of having horses in my wedding," she said.
  • Lee A. Sawyer keeping warm in the tack room at Silver Ranch in Jaffrey. The stable has 22 stalls and in its "hay-day" held 30 horses.
  • <br/>Stephanie Gray and her mother Linda Gray of Greenfield selecting a carriage for Stephanie's upcoming wedding. "I've always had a dream of having horses in my wedding," she said.
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  • Lee A. Sawyer owner and operator of Silver Ranch explaining to Linda Gray of Greenfield what type of carriage would make the best fit for her daughters upcoming wedding.
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  • Lee A. Sawyer 65, pets "Ollie" as he smiles and explains that despite being allergic to them he will always love horses, especially driving them. Driving, he said, "is more social (than riding)."
  • <br/>Lee A. Sawyer 65, pets "Ollie" as he smiles and explains that despite being allergic to them he will always love horses, especially driving them. Driving, he said, "is more social (than riding)."

Lee A. Sawyer, 65, of Jaffrey will tell you that he is a “practical guy.” On one hand, this is undeniably true. As the owner and operator of the oldest continuously working livery in New Hampshire, Sawyer has taken dozens of “difficult” horses and turned them into safe animals that “earn their keep.” And yet, there is something beyond practicality at work on Silver Ranch. It’s something that can’t be used to pay the bills or explain what Sawyer sees in the eyes of some horses – but it is true nonetheless. It’s something that is perhaps best described as love.

It all began when Sawyer’s grandfather, Rossco Sawyer, graduated from New Hampshire Agricultural School (now UNH) in 1911. He went to work as a coachman on a farm in Peterborough. By 1917, he had purchased the land that would soon become Silver Ranch.

Although Rossco had chickens and dairy cows, he had a passion for horses. “My grandfather’s heart was in the horse trade,” said Sawyer.

By the 1930s, Sawyer’s grandfather had created a polo field on the farm and was hosting small rodeos. “There was still the idea of the wild west back then,” said Sawyer. “People loved the west.”

Sawyer’s father, Alfred Sawyer, was born on the property in 1919. Alfred and his sister Nancy shared Rossco’s love of horses. Eventually, Sawyer said, they needed to find a way to pay for their hobby so they began giving pony rides and lessons.

Sawyer grew up riding and driving horses alongside his grandfather and his father.

He knew he loved horses too, but for three years he took a job “off the ranch” repairing farm machinery.

It didn’t last.

“All the satisfaction is in what you’re doing. We love what we do,” he said explaining his return.

Doing what he loves has given Sawyer some wonderful memories. In his office hang more than two-dozen photos of horses pulling carriages across snowy fields, through water and up mountains.

One photo in particular stands out. On July 21, 1991, Sawyer drove six horses up the Mt. Washington auto road. The photo shows Sawyer in the driver’s seat, being pulled by a team of chestnut carriage horses in one of the original “mountain wagons” used to carry tourists up and down Mt. Washington between 1861 and 1911.

On July 20, 2011, he did it again. This time, Sawyer drove two horses up the mountain as part of the 150th celebration of the Mt. Washington auto road.

Throughout his years at Silver Ranch, Sawyer has observed that “horses are healing for people.”

Nowadays, people are well aware of horse therapy, he said. But Sawyer said he has always just known they were good for people. In the early 1960s, Sawyer and his father were asked to bring ponies to Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center to work people with disabilities.

Sawyer said many of his favorite moments with horses and people are when they transition from being afraid to being at ease. “It’s very satisfying to make a horse comfortable and watch it become useful,” he said.

In 1996, after his father “slowed down,” Sawyer took over running the stable full-time.

Today, Silver Ranch is made up of 360 acres and 5 separate properties. Each year, the ranch provides carriages or horses for six to seven weddings. In addition to growing hay, the ranch is home to six horses full time, and continues to offer trail, carriage, hay, and sleigh rides, as well as boarding, carriage repair and restoration, and entry level riding and driving lessons.

On March 5, Linda Gray and her daughter Stephanie Gray stopped by to pick out a carriage for Stephanie’s upcoming wedding.

Both Linda and Stephanie have taken riding lessons at Silver Ranch.

“When I moved to Jaffrey, I came here with my kids and rode every Sunday,” said Linda. “I’m a cowgirl and this is a ranch... it felt like a home,” she said.

Stephanie will be married on September 20, 2014. “I always had a dream of having horses in my wedding,” she said. “At first I thought of riding my horse but then riding in a dress seemed like a bad idea. So I decided to return to my roots (to Silver Ranch).”

As for the future, Sawyer isn’t sure what will happen. “I’m a natural born agriculturalist,” he said prefacing his point-of-view on building and open spaces. “If there’s land to feed people, I’d like it to stay that way.”

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