Meet John Dougherty

Horse Farm of Distinction Feature: Briggs Stable In Hanover

For more than a century, Briggs Stable in Hanover, Massachusetts, has demonstrated excellence by providing the equine community with training, lessons, boarding, a tack shop, trailer sales and more. They also contribute to the local economy with 11 employees on-farm and three in the tack shop. The stable’s rich history and reputation has allowed it to stay in business, even during tough economic times like the 2008 recession.

“Briggs Stables opened in the 1920s,” said Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation Equine Committee Chair John Dougherty. “It was primarily a wood business with a general store and they had four teams of horses for their groceries, ice and lumber. This store went on until the mid-1920s, when my wife’s grandfather had enough of the general store and decided he just wanted to focus on horses, so he started taking in boarders.”

According to Dougherty, this lead to the formation of the Hanover RidingClub, who built a club house and ring at Briggs Stables. The family also offered lessons. This was successful, and Briggs currently has about 50 horses in the barn and the Hanover Riding Club is now celebrating its 86th year. Dougherty and his wife were married in 1968 and have raised two daughters at Briggs Stables. Now they have families, and Dougherty enjoys sharing his equine passion with his five grandchildren.

When asked how they have achieved this level of success, he said “we have a fine bunch of boarders and we take good care of all of our horses. We’ve been known for taking care of our horses and maintaining a good safe environment for them and the riders.”

For this reason, Dougherty has routinely applied for, and received, Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation’s Horse Farm of Distinction award. This honor signals to the public that a stable is inspected by its peers in the industry, who feel that the stable is doing a good job and would recommend it to the public. According to Dougherty, it is a “stamp of approval.”

“It’s a very comprehensive test,” Dougherty said. “And when we pass that, it says that the public can trust us and that we take care of our animals.”

In order to apply for this honor, a horse farm must be a member of MFBF. However, Dougherty says that he is not just a member for this award.

“Many years ago, I found out that MFBF is a good organization to be a part of as they are the only ones supporting our industry legislatively,” Dougherty said. “Massachusetts Farm Bureau is the only one who represents horsemen and horse farms with legislative problems, local problems and advancing the sport and livestock characteristics of it.”

For example, many years ago, MFBF pushed to include equine in the definition of agriculture. This designation allows the equine industry to partake in some of the benefits that other livestock owners and producers enjoy, such as enrolling stables and/or boarding facilities in Chapter 61a, which gives the equine industry a tax break on land.

According to Dougherty, when MFBF added the equine industry to its roster, “it made a difference in how the equine industry was included in the definition of agriculture.”

More recent examples of MFBF’s work for the equine industry include support of a bill that would change the Massachusetts horse riding instructor licensing program to be more in step with surrounding states’ licensing process. Currently, the Massachusetts licensing process includes a written test with questions focused on animal health, not on instructing riders. No other state has this test. The legislation that MFBF supports would require the licensing process be removed and CORI checks being made a requirement for all riding instructors. Additionally, MFBF also worked to revise helmet laws to make them more workable for adults on private properties and for equine show exhibitors.

“By being a part of MFBF, we receive the backing of almost 6,000 members,” Dougherty said. “They help us by supporting the equine industry on a local, statewide and national level.”

For more information on Briggs Stables, please visit