We often get asked how we started our carriaging thing and I am only too happy to explain! We all have to start somewhere! Coming from a completely non harness background, even I am surprised with where this journey has taken us. I have always loved horses, when I was a teen I (perhaps stupidly) brought my first horse. I did pony club, pretended to event but really just rode for pleasure. Through my young adult years, I continued ’playing’ with eventing, when I met and married my husband. We bought a hobby farm, and were really keen to find a way to make a living with horses. Initially we wanted to offer trail riding. We had our plans in place and were trying to work out how to make it happen.
My friend heard of our plans and offered us Calvin. Now If there was ever a life after racing success story, it would have to be Calvin. New Zealand bred, and raced until the age of 10, Billy Boy as he was then known amassed over $600,000 in prize money. At the end of his racing career, he, like many of his breed, faced an uncertain future. Picked up by a standardbred retraining facility, and winning the heart of my friend, Calvin was in luck. Selected for his inquisitive, and polite nature, he was off to become a riding school pony. When my friend got quite sick and couldn’t keep him, she asked if I could take him.
My not hugely horsey husband pointed out that Calvin knew how to do harness. Bear in mind that I had NO experience with harness whatsoever, I’m a very capable rider, but at this point, hadn’t even driven a harness horse. So off we went to buy a harness and cart. What could possibly go wrong?!
Off we went with our new found toys, putting the harness on, then attaching the jinker, it all looked pretty good. We set off up the road, and it was going fantastically. Calvin very calm, considering last time he was in a cart it would have been racing, ambling along the gentle incline. Then we got to the crest. Apparently it wasn’t all as straight forward as it looked. You see in harness, there is a strap called the breeching, which is effectively the brakes. we hadn’t connected that effectively, and the cart ran fair and square into Calvin’s backside. This is true testament to his honesty. I imagine most horses in this situation would leave rather quickly, or complain or something. Not Calvin, he stopped, and he looked at at us, giving us that stare, language barriers aside that said ‘what on earth are you incompetent morons doing?’ Having realised we had no idea, we unhitched, I led horse home, husband dragging jinker. We enlisted some help after this, to explain how the breeching should be attached.
Mildly put off, due to our own incompetence, we were scrolling classifieds one evening and found a beautiful burgundy Victoria carriage advertised. After repeatedly calling my husband a dreamer, we went to look, the owner took us for a spin with her horse, and we purchased said carriage. I remember the first day we took it into Strathalbyn, driving the 7kms in from our property. The attention we raised, I remember wishing I dressed more appropriately. At one intersection, I have no idea how, but one of the traces came off. The traces are the things that attach the horse to the cart, and there is two of them, one on each side. One coming off and the horse trying to walk forward could have a very interesting outcome. Not with Calvin! The usually very obliging gentleman planted his feet and refused to move. A quick look down indicated what needed fixing, and he was once again happy to carry on.
Many mistakes and successes have passed since these times over a decade ago. Calvin has taught us so much, and answers any question with honesty and loyalty. Not the bravest soul, he does his job because we ask him to knowing we wouldn’t put him in harms way. Calvins favourite jobs are weddings, pulling our Victoria carriage. He knows it’s all about him and delights when all the people tell him how beautiful he looks. He also loves Christmas time, his Christmas light tours, going in Christmas parades. More recently Calvin has found his calling in granting last wishes, Pulling our London trolley, always so patient, noble and proud, carries coffins to their final resting place.
Now 22 years old, he is fit and healthy, and still loves his work. We ensure he doesn’t have to do hills, limit his passenger load weight, and always pick him for the important jobs like transporting Father Christmas.
We have been very fortunate in the progression of our business, finding opportunities in places where we least expect and lessons in things that initially present as challenges. We have been fortunate with meeting horses and people, at just the right time to learn what we need to, but they are stories for another day.