At the start of 2020, we were sure it was going to be our year. We had finally moved our workshop home after years of commuting, meaning more time to build carriages, more time to work horses and availability to accept work on weekdays. Our diary was starting to look really good, we already had an increased workload from previous years.
Enter COVID-19. Instantly all weddings were postponed or cancelled, cellar doors all shut- meaning no wine tours, everyone in lockdown, meaning no outings at all. They were scary times.
The costs don’t stop
Having 8 horses to look after didn’t stop, even though our source of income was cut. Being only a hobby business until this point, we didn’t have an ABN meaning absolutely no government assistance, no grants, nothing. The costs involved in maintaining horses is similar whether they are working or not.
Fortunately our workshop was considered essential, as people still required cars, so we were able to stay afloat. As the restrictions were lifted, we began thinking about how to move forward. We were able to keep our horses in work and training, but the social distancing thing, meant carriage rides in a town were really not an option.
An Idea was born
And so came the thought of our ‘no frills- behind the scenes’. The horses needed working anyway, and if we weren’t going out into the public eye, the usual time consuming cleaning and presentation were not as high of a priority. Our training vehicle is such that it can fit passengers with enough space to adhere to social distancing. It then occurred to me how lucky I was to have the open space, as scrolling through social media, being confined is what most people were struggling with.
I tend to take for granted the chance to pat, brush and just chill with the horses. I guess as it is a necessity for me, rather than an opportunity. It dawned on me that the chance to mingle with these magnificent animals in their home environment and the chance to see ‘behind the scenes’ at what involved, as well as the outing to the countryside and a carriage ride on back roads, might just be a sellable thing.
The fact that we were not required to transport, clean or preplan new routes, meant the cost could be significantly lower than what it is when we go out in a town. We could offer a per person price- as a minimum cost doesn’t have to be met and I can do the job without a second person. We could be totally flexible on times as we didn’t even need to leave home. It meant my young horses could get worked, and get customer miles under their belt. It really was a win-win. We put it out there as a trial, and it was so popular we decided to keep offering it!
So what do you actually do if you come out for a ‘no frills’ ride?
On arrival at our property, we will meet you, then take you to catch the horse/s out of their yard. If you feel confident doing so, you can lead them to where we are going to harness up. You are handed a brush, and get to brush all of the dirt out of their coats. You’re shown the harness, and with assistance, get to harness up. I explain what each bit of strap is for and how it works. You can be as involved as you like, or you can stand back and observe.
We hitch up the cart (You may need to help push) then I check over all buckles and straps and we head out on a roughly 4 km loop, where we can see various farm animals, usually tractors, a few kangaroos, and views over lake Alexandrina, on a clear day, as far as ‘The Narrows’. If you would like (and depending which horses we take) you may be able to take the reins and experience driving.
On our return, you can help unharness, brush off the sweat marks, then feed them carrots. Leading them back to their yards, you can then watch them roll, and scratch, and meet our other horses. Your kids may have disappeared by this stage, being encouraged by my kids to play with them in the dirt pile with their tractors. We used to say this experience lasted for just over an hour, but realistically it usually goes longer. Time tends to drift away when in the company of horses, I know I could watch them for hours! Also the clydies walk quite slow.
In the coming months Boris will be stepping up his training, so it will hopefully not be too long until he is able to take some no frills rides. In the meantime, the rest of the team are eagerly awaiting to take you for a spin. We would love for you to come and share this experience with us and to offer you a bit of incentive, if you mention reading this blog when booking, we will take 20% off the total cost for your group.