Jeff and Sue Burg and six Percherons provide rides at variety of events
by Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
It all started with a pair of white Arabian horses that Jeff and Sue Burg were given 20 years ago. They found a surrey from an Amish family near Bertha and were soon asked to drive for a wedding.
“It just exploded from there,” Jeff said. “For every one event we did, we booked two.”
For the first five or six years, Horse Power Acres of Holdingford used just the white horses. After seeing Percherons at a friend’s house, they got the itch for more horses.
“The next weekend, we got a team at an auction,” said Sue. “Then we offered white horses with a carriage or black horses with a larger wagon.”
The Burgs, who met in high school, had bought vacant land southeast of Holdingford in 1987, where there had once been a schoolhouse. They built a house and started their family, adding a daughter and a son.
A few years later, a neighbor offered them first chance at 38 1/2 acres, which they bought. They plant half in hay and use the rest for pasture.
They built every building on their farm themselves. The most unique is easily the wood-sided silo with an observation deck on top.
“Jeff had a wood silo in his head for years,” said Sue. “He designed the exterior elevator for it.”
Over the years the Burgs have added a variety of wagons for carrying people. Their newest wagon was found in Wisconsin via word of mouth.
They also have a large trolley (with a roof) and a “people-mover,” which is a rubber-tire wagon that works well off-road.
Although the aging white horses are gone, more horses have been added to the Burgs’ barn, bringing the total to six Percheron geldings.
They are happy to do any event, from hay and sleigh rides to weddings, parties and town festivals. The Burgs “haul right around 10,000 people in a year,” said Jeff.
“For our daughter’s wedding, we used the green wagon with four horses,” he said.
One of their most memorable events was doing a “meet and greet” with a city council candidate in Golden Valley.
“He was running a ‘green’ campaign,” Jeff said. “So on four Saturdays in October 2010, we drove him up and down every street, stopping for him to talk with people. It was fun to do.”
The horses take the Burgs from Little Falls to Brownton and from Starbuck to the Twin Cities.
The most touching events the Burgs do are funerals.
“It’s an honor to do a funeral,” said Jeff. “It’s usually for people who were into horses. When their family comes out of the church and they see the horses, they just light up. That’s what makes us feel good — we know what it means to them.”
The Burgs use events to teach people about horses.
“Sue will drive, and I’ll walk around the wagon and talk with people,” Jeff said. “More and more people are not growing up on farms and we try to educate them about these large animals.”
The horses aren’t the only thing the Burgs enjoy about the events they do.
“My favorite part is meeting people and sustaining relationships with some,” said Sue.
Weather won’t stop Horse Power Acres. From the extreme heat of summer to below-zero winter days, the horses work during it all.
“Horses can go five or six hours without water,” said Jeff. “When we get home, they’ll eat hay before they drink.”
The Burgs learned years ago how to keep warm on the coldest days.
“We wear good Carhartts, ice fishing snow boots and hand warmers,” Jeff said. “We don’t worry about what we look like. We rotate sooner — we don’t wait until we get cold.”
But the horses aren’t used only to carry people. The Burgs hook up all six horses with a 1929 McCormick corn picker for events with the Northern Minnesota Draft Horse Association.
“We use them to haul manure,” Jeff said.
With their two children grown, it’s more than horses that keep the Burgs busy. They own a rental home not far from their property. They both have full-time jobs; Jeff manages the Holdingford mill and Sue is a group lead at Precision Optics in St. Cloud.
Jeff also runs the boilers for both of the Catholic churches in Holdingford as well as for the mill. He and Sue teach religion classes together once a week during the school year at St. Columbkille in St. Wendel.
Jeff is a farrier, too. He shoes a couple hundred horses a year.
“I had to do my own, since nobody wanted to do the big horses, so I taught myself,” he said. “Then people heard about it.”
“There is more to us than horses,” Sue said. “We like motorcycle rides; Freedom Fest is the main one we go to.”
The Burgs love having a hobby that pays for itself, but more than that — “we absolutely love the horses,” said Jeff. “We’ll probably have them until the day we die.”
For more information, call (320) 746-2666 or (320) 333-2571.