When you think about a horse and carriage service I would think you would mostly see pictures of glitz and glamour and fairytales and romance. I guess one wouldn’t normally look behind the scenes or have reason to think about how the horses got to the location to do the job in the first place. I would like to tell you about our trials and tribulations of a recent job.
A bit of a back story, my husband is a mechanic and well, I can guarantee that what they say about mechanics cars is absolutely true. About a month ago my husband mentioned we should do some car maintenance. Time carried on as time does and it got to December. December is usually busy for us, this year it was insanely busy. Car maintenance just hasn’t been a priority. ‘We will sort them all on our Christmas break’ I tell him confidently. ‘Most of our jobs through December are our Christmas light tours, so nice and close to home, so we’ll be fine’.
We were not fine!
Well…. we were not fine. We get booked for a funeral at Ridgehaven, select the car that should be the most reliable, load things in get organised, wash horses etc. Now for weddings and funerals we work out how long the drive should be, then double it. Then add on about half an hour buffer and that’s how we work out what time to leave. Any extra tasks we need to do on the way, ie drop kid off to babysitter, stop for fuel etc we allow double what it should take. Usually this means we arrive with about an hour spare, where we sit around twiddling our thumbs.
This particular fine day, we are tootling along the freeway, at 80kms an hour when all of a sudden our ‘most reliable’ car decides to pop a trans cooler line off. Bad news for an automatic transmission!! We get off to the side of the road and say a few colourful words. Right at that moment very happy for our time buffer.
Calling in the cavalry!
Hooray for mobile phones I say! I call a friend who lives 5 mins from our home, who thankfully was home and available. He drops everything, heads to our house to bring us a back up car. Meanwhile I’m on the phone to police, as two lanes of cars whizzing passed at 110kms, isn’t usually compatible with unloading horses and switching cars on floats etc. We ring the funeral home and explain our predicament, but reassure them we will be there as soon as we can. Then the waiting.
Now given the extent of damage to the car, there was a chance that it would have not been able to even move enough to get itself out of the way. We had back up car on route, but no tow rope. What better way to pass the time than finding all of the odd bits of baling twine, to tie together to make a length of rope long and strong enough to tow the car.
Finally the police arrive. Then our replacement car. Out of nowhere some roadwork vehicles and personnel arrive, and change the speed limit signs right down, making the policeman’s job so much easier! We had formulated our plan while waiting, given how patiently nibbles and tabby were standing, and aware of our buffer ticking away we decide to chock the wheels on the float, sit replacement car (with bull bar) right up behind the float in case chocks don’t hold, then place a whole lot of trust on the jockey wheel.
With a very fortunate stroke of luck, broken car mustered the strength to get itself out of the way. Replacement car backed away slowly (totally relying on chocks now) pulled around and we hitched it on. Huge sigh of relief, madly move all suits, harness, brushes etc from broken car to replacement car, and we were on the road again. We dropped our knight in shining armour to Stirling (I will ask him one day how he actually got home) then onward with our journey. By now our buffer was gone. Now I wish I could say it was plain sailing. Our ‘replacement’ car has a noisy gearbox. We have already pulled it off the road once, until we could fix it, but then needed a car so put another 3 months rego on it. Every knock, bump or strange noise on portrush rd, we were sure we were doomed… and then there were road works. Lots and lots of roadworks.
Basically the set up with the funerals in this circumstance, is we get there an hour early to harness up, then disappear around the back to wait for mourners to arrive. We then proudly pull the hearse to the ceremony location. We parked our float at the time that we should have been harnessed up and hidden.
Picture this, car and float pulls up, take horses off float, pull rugs off, harness on, run leading horses. Attach them to hearse, do up all buckles, jump in driver seat, and make our getaway, while still dressed In Jeans and a Polo shirt… it must have looked like some strange graveyard heist. Thanking my lucky stars for the beautifully behaved (and now accustomed to our strange life) horses, they just go about doing their job. Hidden away, my husband goes and collects our car, and drives to our hideout, where we go about presenting the horses properly, getting dressed and honestly breathing the biggest sigh of relief. We wait for the time, then proudly march into the courtyard to deliver the coffin.
We still managed to pull it off, not without its challenges and stressful moments, but we still managed to do the important job at hand. So thankful to the wonderful people who helped us out of this sticky situation. And yes, I have to admit, husband was right. We probably should have looked at car maintenance a bit sooner.