LAKEVILLE — Behind a broad stand of trees along Bedford Street, invisible to traffic hurrying to or from nearby Interstate 495, reside this town’s gentle giants — the Hallamore Clydesdales.
The 16 majestic draft horses live on the 40-acre farm of Dennis Barry, owner of Hallamore Corp., a rigging and moving company in Holbrook. When the horses aren’t at parades or fairs pulling an antique Studebaker freight wagon, they are either in their stalls or in the surrounding fields, located about a mile south of the highway.
The horses are over 6 feet tall at the shoulder and weigh about 2,200 pounds. Seen from a distance or up close, they are striking animals. Most are a reddish-brown color known as bay, with a bright blaze of white on the face and white lower legs or “stockings.” They have black manes and tails, and above their hooves is feathery hair that flutters as they walk — just like their famous cousins who work for a certain national beer company.
The breed is often a featured attraction at popular events around the world. A team of mostly white Clydesdales pulled a carriage at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics. Last week, Clydesdales were on the field in St. Louis before the start of Game Four of baseball’s National League championship series between the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals.
The public is welcome to visit the Hallamore Clydesdales at Barry’s farm, which is open year-round from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. daily. Admission is free, and visitors are asked to observe a few rules: Don’t park on the grass, limit stays to 30 minutes, no picnics or pets, and don’t feed the horses.
“We’re not big enough to have a tour guide, but we’ll answer their questions,” said Ned Niemiec, who manages the farm for Barry and who used to work for Anheuser-Busch’s Clydesdale teams. On a busy day, about 100 people visit the farm, Niemiec said.
Clydesdales are one of the largest land mammals in North America, and to see one up close and personal in its stall or being led from the field can be a memorable experience.
One recent afternoon, Niemiec brushed Commodore, a 10-year-old gelding — all of the Clydesdales on the farm are neutered males — who stood motionless outside his stall. “They are very good-natured. They are used to being groomed and handled,” Niemiec said.
In hot weather, the horses spend most of their days in their stalls with fans blowing mist to keep them cool. In late afternoon in summer, they are led into the fields, where they stay until early morning. In cooler weather, they are outside during the day and inside at night.
“When it’s time to come back in, they just walk back into their stalls. They know where to go, and you don’t even have to lead them in,” Niemiec said.
Barry and his wife, Marilyn, live in a house near the barn. “We’ve had horses for over 40 years,” Dennis Barry, 76, said. “I’m in the barn almost every day. I enjoy going with them when we take them out for events.”
The Hallamore Clydesdales are regular attractions at major fairs and parades in New England. Fall is one of their busiest times. They are featured at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield and at the Topsfield Fair. They also participate in the Plymouth Thanksgiving parade, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in South Boston, and the Fourth of July parade in Bristol, R.I., among others.
The farm typically sends a team of eight Clydesdales to an event. The vehicle the horses pull is an 1899 bright red former milk wagon with steel wheels. Although the Hallamore name or symbol is prominently displayed on the wagon and on the harnesses, many people who see the animals refer to them as the “Budweiser Clydesdales,” according to Niemiec.
Horses played a role in the Hallamore company’s early history, although those horses were not Clydesdales. Founded in 1895 in Brockton by Sperge Hallamore, the business first used horse-drawn wagons to deliver goods in the city. Then, the company used retired fire horses, according to Niemiec. In the early 1900s, the company became a trucking operation.
Joseph Barry and his sons, Leo and Dennis Barry, bought the company in 1956. The company now specializes in moving heavy loads, using giant cranes and oversized vehicles.
In 1972, Dennis Barry, who had always had a liking for horses, bought his first two Clydesdales and kept them on the property of the Holbrook business. “It’s one of those things that just grew and grew,” said Niemiec, who came to work for Barry in 1990.
In 1980, when Barry’s collection of Clydesdales had grown to seven, he purchased the farm in Lakeville, and he moved the horses there. Over the years, he acquired more Clydesdales from breeders across the United States, Canada, and Great Britain.
The Clydesdales promote the business and are a source of great pleasure for Dennis and Marilyn Barry.
“We enjoy having people come to see them,” Dennis Barry said. “My reward is seeing the expressions on people’s faces.”
Maintaining the Clydesdales is challenging and costly, according to Barry. The farm has three full-time employees and one part time. The horses each eat a half-bale of hay and up to four quarts of grain daily.
“It’s not like a hobby where you put your golf clubs away or your car in the garage,” Barry said. “They get sick in the night, just like children.”
The Hallamore Clydesdales are known throughout New England, and they generate considerable goodwill for the company, he said. “We all have excuses for how we finance our hobbies,” he added.
The Clydesdale breed originated in Scotland in the 19th century. Although used first in agriculture, Clydesdales soon found jobs in commerce, hauling goods in cities throughout the British Isles. The breed’s popularity grew, and Clydesdales were exported to the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Today, Clydesdales are still used in agriculture and forestry in areas where tractors are unsuitable. They also are attention-getting sights in cities, where they are used to pull carriages. Many owners keep Clydesdales simply for show or their love of the animals.