How We Keep Our Draft Horses Emotionally and Physically Healthy
At Tally-To Carriage Tours, our herd of gorgeous horses are the heart of our success as a wholesome tourism company. Bred to work, our horses thrive on the company and interaction they receive, which is evident in their friendly, laid-back dispositions. The horses are viewed as partners and as members of our family, and everyone who works with them is committed to ensuring they’re in the best of health. This means they receive the best training, are mentally healthy and happy and are bonded with their drivers and trainers. We love our horses and they love us right back.
Breeds like Belgians, Clydesdales, Percherons and Shire horses are known as Draft (or Draught) Horses. Born and bred from a long lineage of working horses, these guys are docile, confident and they love to work. A draft horse can very easily pull vehicles that are six times their weight while only using about 20% of their full strength.
Originating from ancient warhorses, their reputation as gentle giants has made draft horses the top choice for providing transportation and doing farm work for centuries. This long partnership has also led to innate trust among horses and their people. It’s been found that Draft horses that do not have a purpose or a specific role to fulfill exhibit symptoms of depression and anxiety. These guys are social animals and they also love to have a dependable routine. At Tally-Ho, our herd of sixteen draft horses consists of Belgians, Clydesdales, Percherons, Shires and a Suffolk Punch: all happy, calm horses that thrive on having a job to do.
The Tally-Ho Horses at Work
At Tally-Ho, our trusted drivers and trainer provide our horse companions with the very best tools they need to be able to do their job safely and well. Every horse is given a frequent health check and watched closely for any sign of illness or fatigue. Just like humans, if a horse is not up to a shift of pulling carriages, they are not expected to work. The care team is trained to be able to easily tell if a horse is not feeling their best. This could be indicated by posture and signs of stress or agitation. All horses have easy access to food and water and are carefully monitored during inclement or hot weather.
At the beginning of every shift, our horses are fed and groomed before being transported to downtown Victoria. Both horse and carriage are thoroughly checked over with a pre-trip check to make sure the horse is in good spirits and mentally / physically ready for the shift. Taking this time to connect with our horses creates a bond that lasts throughout the shift. This bonding time also helps the horse to feel even more calm and sociable towards guests.
Communicating with the Horses
Because humans and draft horses have been working side by side for over 6,000 years, our drivers and horses feel at home with one another. Each horse knows his or her name and forms a special bond with their co-worker (driver) and can be easily guided by hearing their name followed by a standard command. For example, to go faster, the horse must hear their name, e.g. “Sarge” then the command, e.g. “step up” after a pause. This creates clear communication between horse and driver, maintaining a calm and relaxed environment. The same vocabulary is used for all the horses to prevent any confusion or misunderstanding.
Our horses trust their co-workers implicitly and can only be touched by guests when and if the horse is relaxed and open to the interaction. Because draft horses are so friendly, this is rarely an issue. Horses do get treats from the public from time to time. If the driver allows it and it’s safe for that particular horse to eat, they get to enjoy it for “dessert.”
To keep the job light and breezy, we also have the horses walk, rather than trot. Constant trotting can create a lot of wear and tear on a horses’ joints. The goal is to be as gentle and kind to our horses as we can be, both at work and at home.
The Horses at Home
Our happy horses have a short commute of 25 minutes to and from Hidden Acres Farm before and after every shift. There, they enjoy a lush pasture and complete privacy in their horse paddock with their herd of humans, cats, dogs, ponies and our retired carriage horses. The horses love to play and they are positively spoiled by their trainers and caregivers. At the end of their shift, they’re immediately brought home to their relaxed and private farm for treats, social time, and a well-deserved rest.
The Horse’s Diet and Nutrition
Draft horses weigh a ton (about 1800 pounds on average) and eat a ton too. In a single year, our herd of working horses eat 400 tons of a specially created high-quality feed. This consists of haylage crop plus 36,000 pounds of supplementary grains. The supplements are designed by feed specialists to be tailored to each horse’s individual nutritional needs. The supplements given to each horse varies by age, body weight, workload and physical condition. They’re also given gallons of clean water around the clock, to ensure proper hydration.
The Horses’ Veterinary Care and Hoof Care
The Tally-Ho horses receive personalized care that goes far beyond basic horse care. Our horses have an entire team of specialists tending to their every health need. They receive routine treatments like deworming and shots. A veterinarian closely monitors each horse’s individual requirements, body condition score and any weight loss or changes. Any specific needs are tended to immediately. The herd also receives specialized dental care, as well as adjustments by equine chiropractors and treatments by equine massage therapists. The horses sometimes like to snooze during these treatments, which are designed to ensure optimal muscle and joint health, but the horses regard it as more of a spa experience.
As any equestrian or horse owner knows, a horse’s hooves must be kept in tip-top shape. Farriers visit weekly and by appointment to provide pedicures to the herd, where each horse is carefully examined for hoof health. This includes providing custom-made shoes for each horse, checking for proper gait and balance to ensure long-lasting joint and muscle health. Above all, we work hard to ensure that the horses are happy and comfortable in their shoes.
The Horse’s Retirement
The Tally-Ho draft horses in our herd range from 9 to the mid-twenties (the normal lifespan for draft horses). Our horses retire generally between the ages of 19 and 25, depending on their physical and mental conditions. After retirement, our senior horses enjoy many happy years as beloved pets on Hidden Acres Farm, with many living well into their thirties due to the gentle nature of the work they perform and their overall care.
How You Can Help Take Care of the Tally-Ho Horses
The Covid-19 pandemic has had quite the effect on the tourism industry. Having to shut down and reduce tour hours has meant a dramatic decrease in funding for the care and keeping of our beautiful horses. To help ensure that the horses continue to get all the spa treatments and specialized diets they require to be happy and healthy, you can now sponsor a horse of your choice.
To sponsor a horse, just choose your favourite, choose a package and know that your generous contribution will go to ensuring that the Tally-Ho horses receive all the veterinarian care, shelter, food and tools they need.
Proper care and keeping of our horses is essential for providing the best experience with Tally-Ho Carriage Tours. After all, our equine friends are the stars of the show. Serving downtown Victoria for over 115 years, and now serving the Saanich Peninsula, we welcome you to join us for an old-fashioned horse and carriage tour.
This summer, we’re offering our exclusive Tally-Ho and Sea Cider Picnic experience, a beautiful countryside carriage tour through Central Saanich, complemented with a delectable picnic lunch, organic coffee and a tasting of award-winning, organic ciders. We have also created our new Tally-Ho Farm Tour, providing guests an exclusive opportunity to meet the horses up close and learn about their daily care. Reservations for all tours are recommended. Contact us by phone or email to book your tour today!