Horses with Jobs: Carriage Horses
By Margaret Evans
Job Description: One or more horses, usually of the draft breeds, pull a wheeled vehicle designed for comfortable or elegant passenger transport.
Tally-Ho Carriage Tours’ legacy dates back to spring 1903 when Anton Henderson started the first horse-drawn transportation company in Victoria, British Columbia. In the late 1940s, the company switched from a transportation to a tourism company. Over the decades, Tally-Ho kept pace with the times as different styles of carriages met the changing social and economic needs. Today, the company is owned and operated by Donna Friedlander.
The company has 15 horses, a mixture of Percherons, Belgians, and Clydesdales that are kept at Hidden Acres Farm about 25 minutes from downtown Victoria. They are trucked in for their workdays. In peak season, there could be two shifts of horses working each day and up to six carriages per shift. On retirement, the horses live out their lives at Hidden Acres.
Tally Ho Carriage Tours is the oldest sightseeing tour company in Victoria. They are passionate about promoting the cultural and historic significance of the human-horse relationship. Photo courtesy of Tally Ho Carriage Tours
“In the summer, we run from 10 am to 10 pm so we run two shifts of horses, each approximately six hours,” says Kate Clark, Manager. “The shift begins with a feed and groom, then they are trailered from our farm into town where our staging area is. We do what we call a ‘pre-trip’ of both horse and carriage, which is a check-over to make sure both horse and carriage are in proper condition. From that point we drive the horse to our carriage stand and begin tours. At midday we stagger the horses back to the staging area for a shift change where the evening shift waits for the carriage to hook, then begins the night shift.”
Tally-Ho’s carriages are all Montreal-based Robert Carriages Inc. vis-a-vis (face-to-face) style carriages pulled by one horse.
“We have seven carriages in total but on a typical summer day we use four and on Friday and Saturday nights five. This means we are using eight to ten horses in a day. Scheduling horses is the tricky part as you have to schedule-in their days off and be prepared for the unexpected like a shoe being thrown. We also pair horses and drivers together.”
Clark said that, in Victoria, the animal rights groups are a noisy but very small minority and don’t interfere with business too much, even on the days they are out protesting. Tally-Ho has an excellent safety record.
“We have had cases of harassment but nothing compared to the larger cities like New York [where] activists are quite volatile,” she says.
As for future plans, going forward they want to continue showcasing the old ways with modern styles.
“We are very passionate about working with horses as well as draft breeds. Our mission is to promote the partnership, and the cultural and historical significance of the relationship between horse and human. Sadly, traditional uses are becoming obsolete and we hope to have a hand in the revival of bringing some of these useful traditions back.”
For more information, visit the Tally-Ho Carriage Tours website.
Main photo courtesy of Tally Ho Carriage Tours.