What little girl DOESN'T want to be Cinderella on her wedding day. Well, what little girl that does NOT work in the carriage industry that is. There's a distinction there. The work that goes into your magical, Cinderella like dream starts weeks before you exit the white chapel vis a vis on your perfect day.
The horse needs to be looking and feeling his best. Feeling his best is an every-day priority. Day in, day out, 365 days a year. He needs to be fed, watered and looked over. Every other month his feet are trimmed. Fecal samples are sent to a lab 1-2x a year to determine if he needs to be dewormed. He's also vaccinated annually and a few months later gets a couple boosters. All this work is simply basic, pasture ornament horse care. Once we get into work, even just pleasure driving, we now might need shoes. Then for the looking good part. A healthy, happy horse will always look better than a sickly, unhappy one. But even when starting from a good regiment, some extra care needs to be taken. In exercise, in grooming, and in work.
Our busy season starts around Halloween and is in full swing Thanksgiving through Christmas. The parties, corporate events, etc. during this time keep Max in work 2-4 days a week. He looks AMAZING at the end of this period. But by the end, he needs a little break and so do us drivers (who have other day jobs in addition to driving). The tack needs to be cleaned and repaired as do the carriages. A month or so of rest, and back to work getting readyValentine's day is the start of our season here in Georgia. With the 30 day countdown until our 2016 debut, we start to really kick it into gear. The horse comes first. Always. As with people, fitness is not an overnight process. Neither is getting a georgia red clay out of a tail. We use a Belgian named Maximus for our operation. He rides as well as drives and we try to do a bit of both to make sure he's properly muscled for his job. For example, you wouldn't condition an endurance horse by barrel racing or schooling grids. Conditioning for Max is lots of LONG SLOW hills. Usually riding one day, driving 2 during this exercise. Once a week we do a bit of dressage schooling. Learning self carriage is important for pulling a carriage (see what i did there?). Really though, it helps him use and develop himself correctly as well as maintain flexibility & helps become that picture of a horse on your wedding, proposal, and Valentine’s day. So far pretty much like getting ready for a show after a few weeks off, right? Now comes the tack, the carriages, and the paperwork/marketing/networking. The harness we prefer for drafts uses a collar with hangs and traces. These 3 pieces are the parts that actually does the pulling and of those pieces, it's the traces and hangs that do all the work. The collar is for weight distribution. The collar is leather and the traces (sometimes called tugs) are sturdy nylon with chain ends. There are an many types of traces as there are horses. One is not more “right” than another. This is just the best fit for us. These attach to what's called a swingletree which is bolted to the shafts right by the carriage. The shafts are for keeping the horse in line, turning, and braking. Yep. Shafts are for "push". The breeching is attached to the shafts and that's your breaks. Some carriages have hydraulic brakes, but others do not. Our shafts, swingletree, and upholstery are in need of some TLC, so now is the time to get all that done. Luckily we have a shop in town that refurbishes wood and they think they can handle us. The next closest carriage repair is in Greer, SC and even they send many of their things out to the Amish in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Fingers crossed our guys at Ranger Renovations are as good as they say they are! Valentine’s day being all that it is, we start taking reservations as soon as requested, and we start advertising on social media two to three weeks out. This not only fills us up for Valentine’s day, but people with romance on the brain also start calling for wedding reservations. The holiday lets us cross promote with other local businesses too. We recommend restaurants in our growing downtown area, and they do the same for us. Also this year, High Definition Media will be photographing your carriage experience! This is new for us and I’m REALLY excited about it. Personally, I think we’ve set an amazing opportunity for a proposal to happen. All that romance AND a way to capture an elusive moment on film. I hope someone takes advantage!
We’re only getting started. There’s still almost two weeks until flowers, and dinner, and a horse drawn carriage ride on the bricked streets of historical downtown….