WANTED: Loving family and career!

Horses, like humans, need a few basic elements to be happy: appropriate food and water; shelter; health care; and social and mental stimulation.  Tally-Ho has been providing amazing horses a fantastic home for 115 years.  We’ve lost count as to how many horses have been part of our family, but could easily put it into the tens of thousands.  Years ago, Tally-Ho had upwards of 60 horses in the herd (when heavy wagons were pulled by four horses).  Today, we keep an average of 20 horses in our herd that work individually pulling light carriages.

We are always looking for more horses as it’s important that we have enough horses in the rotation to meet the ever-increasing demand for our services; while ensuring that no horse is working if it’s not physically and mentally fit to do so.  Ideally, as one horse enters semi-retirement, we’re starting a new horse who will take his place.

Tally-Ho only uses heavy, or draft, horses such as Clydesdales, Belgians and Percherons.  We tend to look for horses in the pacific northwest (BC, Alberta, Washington) for the simple reason that trucking a horse home to Victoria from anywhere further than this is not only harder on the horse, but it can become cost prohibitive.

On average, we welcome home one or two new horses each year.  All the horses we buy are broke to harness, meaning they are comfortable being hooked to various pulling apparatuses.  Many of the horses have worked on ranches doing various physically intensive activities such as plowing; some have worked in the logging field; and some have been part of spectacular show hitches.  Their backgrounds are varied, but they have one thing in common: they love to work.

Prior to purchasing new horses, we will meet them and access their personality for carriage work.  Then, the horse will have a veterinary inspection to ensure he is healthy and sound; and a blood test to ensure that he does not have Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA) which is a virus that can cause fevers, anemia (low red blood cell count), edema (stocking up), or weight loss/muscle wasting.  Finally, we will have a certified farrier access the horse’s foot health (poor feet can lead to muscle strains, posture/alignment issues, etc.).

It is becoming increasingly difficult to find new horses, and prices are at an all time high due to meat buyers reducing available supply.  Large numbers of heavy horses are shipped live, to Japan, where the meat is sought after for basashi (horse sashimi), and the oils are used in beauty products.  Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada reports that “between 2012 and 2014, upwards of $40 million Canadian dollars were seen from the export of more than 14,000 horses.”[1]

Due to this challenge, we are increasingly happy to welcome home new horses, knowing the long, fulfilling life that lays ahead for them!

[1] https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/zmegw4/tracking-canadas-horse-slaughtering-trade-from-alberta-to-japan

Draft Horses: Friendly Giants!

Draft horses are the gentle giants of the horse kingdom.  Also called heavy horses and workhorses, these are horses whose primary purpose is to pull heavy loads.  There are many dozens of draft horse breeds throughout the world.  The most common in North America are the Belgian, Clydesdale, Percheron, and Shire.  The Clydesdale is likely the most well known now, thanks to Budweiser, however all draft breeds are celebrated for their calm, friendly temperaments, strength and patience.[1]  They make great work partners.

Draft horses weigh a ton – literally!  Most drafts tip the scales at close to 2,000 pounds or more, and will eat 40-50 pounds of hay a day.  Built for power and stamina, they can pull several times their own weight (our carriage horses only use about 25% of that capacity), and will happily do so all day long.

Draft horses LOVE to work!  They thrive when provided with a regular, fulfilling job to do day after day in partnership with their favourite human.  It is not uncommon for drafts to show signs of boredom, frustration, and even depression when lacking regular work.  When given a meaningful job and attentive care, most draft horses will be found waiting at their gate every morning, and would likely harness themselves if they had opposable thumbs!

The ancestors of our modern-day draft horses date back at least as far as the time of the Roman Empire, when the likes of Julius Caesar rode big black horses into battle.  Noted for their size, strength, and bravery, these ancient warhorses proved reliable in the farm fields as well, and have been carefully bred over the centuries to produce many different outstanding draft horse breeds.

Draft horses built our civilization as we know it.  From plowing fields to building roads to transporting construction materials, these horses played an invaluable role in the development of our country.  Nowadays, draft horses have many different jobs around the world.  In North America, they are most commonly seen doing farm work, logging, and giving carriage, wagon, and sleigh rides, as well as showing off in parades, fairs, and pulling contests.  Next time you hear of draft horses making an appearance in your community, be sure to take the opportunity to meet them up close.  The size, power, and grace of these gentle giants will amaze you!


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draft_horse


Contributor: Christine Beattie

Sleigh Bells Ring!

These days, the sound of jingle bells is a sure sign of Christmastime, but have you ever wondered where that tradition came from?

Horse bells date back some 3,000 years, and have served a few different functions throughout history.  Medieval war horses were often adorned with a single bell on their rump, which was believed to bring good luck and protect against injury, disease, and evil.  These bells carried deep significance: they would be intricately engraved with the family coat of arms, inscriptions, or symbols, they might be plated in gold or silver, and they implied much about the family’s affluence and status.

Horse bells saw their real heyday in the 1800s when the horse and carriage ruled the roads, both in Europe and in North America.  They served a dual purpose of communication and safety.  The sound of bells warned others in the area that a horse-drawn vehicle was approaching.  A horse pulling a sleigh through the snow makes very little sound, and could be very difficult to see approaching – impossible in a blizzard or a thick fog.  Many regions therefore came to require by law the use of bells on sleighs in order to prevent accidents and reduce chaos and confusion.

As sleighing became a popular recreational activity and winter sport, in addition to a prevalent mode of transportation, great care was taken in the turnout of the hitch.  The horses were meticulously groomed; the harness spotlessly polished and adorned in lavish decorations, including carefully chosen bells of different shapes and sizes.  Bells were an important part of a family’s identity.  Every family’s bells sounded different, so you could easily recognize who was coming by their jingle.

Bells served a very similar purpose on wheeled vehicles in the towns.  Aristocrats could register their bell tones; others would recognize the tone and know to pull aside for them.  Horse-drawn vendors were easily recognized by their customers as they made their way through town – much like hearing the ice cream truck today.  In busy logging yards, the yardmen credited logs to the correct teamster according to the chime of his horses’ bells.

As horse-drawn transportation has been replaced by the motorcar, horse bells have disappeared.  Their significance mostly forgotten, the tradition of sleigh bells is now memorialized in a few famous songs, and widely romanticized as part of the Christmas spirit.


Contributor:  Christine Beattie

Live like someone left the gate open!

Wide open space. Rolling hills. Amazing sunsets. Tranquility. This is the setting for 7 of our horses over the winter. They’ve been turned out in central British Columbia, where they are free to run, roam, play and relax.  Follow their adventures on our Facebook page!

Natural Horsemanship

All horses that we work with at Tally-Ho have the correct disposition for what we ask of them. Not every horse has the ‘right stuff’ to be a carriage horse; but the ones that are successful and working in downtown Victoria, absolutely love it!

In 2016 we partnered with Glenn Stewart (www.thehorseranch.com), a leading expert on horse behavior who educates humans on how to develop trust-based partnerships with our horses.

In Glenn’s words “Horsemanship is what keeps you and the horse safe and gives both parties enjoyment. The more you understand the horse and work with their natural tendencies the more extraordinary the results can be. It is natural if you cause and allow learning to happen rather than make. Considering the horse’s point of view first and then the best way to present your idea can all be learnt. If you get it right, everything else will be too! If you understand what is important to them, have the ability to read each as an individual and know the why, the how and the when to responding, the possibilities for what horse and human can achieve in a partnership are limitless.”
The Tally-Ho horses are asked to manage a wide variety of situations in downtown Victoria, and is incumbent upon us to ensure that we provide them all the tools necessary for them to be safe, happy and successful in their jobs. To do this, it is essential that we build their confidence to be able to manage unforeseen situations presented to them, respect for their humans and herd-mates, and understanding of what is being asked of them in any circumstance.

We are excited to introduce our new Horse Development program, designed to increase our horses’ confidence, and enhance the human-equine partnerships that our team cherishes. Stay tuned for updates on our journey!

Do the horses love this job? YES!

We are often asked how we know that the horses love their jobs at Tally-Ho.  Horses have similar reactions to their environment as we (humans) do – if we are scared or nervous our eyes may get wide, we may start to shrink away from something, and/or we may stubbornly say “forget that idea!”.  In humans and horses, body language and attitude are the key indicators.

Signs of a relaxed horse:

  • head is held low (not up high)
  • eyes are soft and relaxed (not bugging out of his head)
  • ears are forward or to the side (not flicking around frantically, or pinned backwards)
  • one foot may be bent (as he ‘takes a load off’)
  • mouth may be slack or droopy

At Tally-Ho we practice natural horsemanship, which means that we view our relationship as a partnership – whatever we ask of the horse should be met with a willing response.  It’s up to us to figure out how to ask nicely, so that the horse cooperates of his own freewill (see Roy following Brianna around an obstacle course – not because he has to, but because he’s having fun!).

So how do we know the horses like their jobs?  They show us every day that they are willing partners – here’s a few examples:

  • they come to the gate when called – see our video of Kashe!
  • they walk easily into the horse trailer for their ride into town
  • they stand calmly while being harnessed and hooked to the carriage.  Check out this hilarious video of Sarge who is literally chomping at the bit and can’t wait to get on with his day!
  • they will actually sleep on the job (at the carriage stand when not out on a tour)