Established in 2009 and initially a hobby, Carriage of Occasion literally plodded along for a number of years, with our beautiful Calvin and his stunning Victoria carriage. Working full time in our other business, and trying to kick goals there left little time or money to embrace or enhance the carriage side of things. It almost seemed like the moment we got a small breakthrough, it was 3 steps backwards somewhere else.
When the opportunity arose, we purchased a couple of carriage wrecks with the intention of doing the work on them when we found the time, then took the plunge and purchased our Clydesdales youngsters as the new carriages were too big for Calvin to pull. Loose plan was both would be ready around the same time. What we didn’t factor in was life and its other distractions.
Slow progress is still progress
Slowly but surely we were chipping away at rebuilding one of the carriages (our lovely wine wagon) and advancing with the young horses training. Progress is progress, no matter how slow.
Now, there are not a lot of people that offer carriage rides in South Australia. The accreditation process is very confusing and confronting, the insurance element is hard to source and expensive, maintaining horses and vehicles is time consuming and at times overwhelming, but well, I guess we are just a little bit crazy, or at least stubborn and determined. One of our ‘competitors’ as I saw them at the time were often mentioned as closing and retiring. I think I heard this rumour for 5 or so years.
Then, Scrolling through gumtree, I saw some of his carriages listed. Now, we were still doing our one step forward three steps back dance, so financially we were not in a position to buy any carriages. However curiosity got the better of me and I made contact about purchasing one, mostly so I could go and suss it out, and see if they were actually still ‘competition’.
Reality is so much better than imagination
You know when you build up these big stories of how things are going to play out in your head? Yeah, well I was way off the mark. Far from my expectations of Leon from Meander Carriages being defensive that I was trying to run him out of town (what can I say, I have a good imagination) he was welcoming, lovely, and very excited to see I was serious about building my carriage offerings. The carriage was well built, he offered us delayed payment, so we bought it.
It was then that Leon asked if we knew anyone that would buy his horses. We chuckled, said we would love to but couldn’t possibly take on more horses but would let him know if we heard of anyone. Away we went, back to work the following day where the car we were working on was just not co-operating. I candidly mention to Brendan ‘if we buy the horses, we can start doing more carriage work, and fix cars less’, to which he replied ‘yes, I was thinking the same thing’.
Sometimes, I believe things are just meant to happen. We purchased the beautiful Nibbles and Tabby, their harness and another project carriage. The ironic thing about the timing, is Nibbles and Tabby joined our herd right when my Clydesdales were commencing their pairs work. Having never driven an experienced pair before, I was really unfamiliar with it. With help from SA Working Draught Horse, we had started them in pairs, but then along came an extremely experienced pair to completely show me the ropes and build up my confidence. It also meant we could test run our newly finished carriage with an experienced pair.
A big gamble!
We took the plunge to move our workshop 70 kms from where it was (even before we had power connected to our shed) to our backyard, and started looking at marketing options, building a new website, various opportunities to promote. It really looked like we were on track for our gambles to pay off.
Then, along came Covid-19. With wedding industry and tourism hit hard, we were incredibly fortunate to have the workshop steady. What this did however, was give us the time to acquaint ourselves with Nibbles and Tabby better. It gave us another year to do low pressure, exposure runs with the clydies with out the pressure of rushing them to have them ready for things. It showed the opportunity to Introduce our ‘no frills’ rides, which offer people the chance to get up close and personal with the horses and see behind the scenes.
While things might not always pan out exactly as planned, for us it seems that following our instincts generally leads us in the right direction.