As the Snow Falls…

Here in beautiful Victoria, BC, we see snow about once a year.  Being on the West Coast our snow is often heavy, wet, and becomes icy quickly. 

As snow falls, Hidden Acres Farm becomes a winter wonderland.  A gorgeous scene with snow-covered trees, Tally-Ho’s majestic draft horses munching happily on their hay, and dogs running wild while creating snow trails.  We keep this peacefulness in mind as we work around the clock to maintain the herd’s health in cold weather. 

While draft horses are able to withstand cold better than lighter breeds (they have a “lower relative body surface area per unit of weightʺ[1]), the majority of Tally-Ho’s horses are blanketed to provide a bit more energy conservation; and our older horses are set up to lounge in the shelter of the barn.  The above photo shows a few of our horses (Titan, Tony and Max) that are not outfitted in blankets.  Simply put: these boys love to shred blankets!  If a horse destroys every blanket we put on them, eventually our logical brains catch up and we realize this will become a daily game for them.  Instead, these horses naturally develop their own warm, woolly winter coats.  Our 30+ years of experience consistently shows that the horses will always choose their natural environment over our human-created methods, preferring to be with their herd-mates in the open air, despite cold weather.

On the farm, our amazing our team of people work in the freezing temperatures to ensure the horses are cared for!  It is important that the herd continue to have free-choice, high quality feed; receive their daily grain supplements; and have access to water.  The reality: pipes freeze, water troughs freeze over; machinery ices over; tree branches lean or fall on fence lines; etc.  It’s almost comical to watch us humans bumbling around the farm shuttling hundreds of buckets of water, losing our footing around as we put out grain, and creatively finding ways to de-ice, well, everything. 

During snowy conditions in Victoria we keep safety as a top priority and purposefully halt all downtown carriage operations.  Extreme cold can be hard on the horsesˊ lungs when they are working; and our roads become dangerous.  Not only do we not want to risk trucking the horses into town, we don’t want to risk their (or the public’s) safety around vehicles that could be slipping on our streets. 

As the snow falls, enjoy the serenity, and while you are out braving the elements to ensure your animals are safe and happy, remember…

“To love a great horse is to touch something beyond words.ʺ

-Samuel Riddle
(owner of the great Man o’ War and Triple Crown winner, War Admiral)


Tally Ho’s Horse Development Program – Part 3: Downtown

For a horse’s first day downtown, we pick a quiet evening when there is not much going on in town, and we go for a short drive through the James Bay residential area and/or Beacon Hill Park.  Over the next few days, we will bring the horse out for gradually longer periods of time, still sticking to the quieter parts of town, and avoiding busy intersections.  We start bringing the horse to the carriage stand on Menzies St., where he will see his buddies hanging out, and start to learn that that is “home base”.  He will start getting accustomed to seeing his buddies around town, and learn that at the end of the day, they all return home together again.

All of this work is done with two people on board the carriage – the driver, and a “footer”.  There will only be one driver of a new horse to ensure that a strong partnership develops: this ensures the driver can quickly identify changes in the horse’s behavior, and provides the horse maximum consistency in what is asked of him.  The footer’s job is to be ready to jump down and lead the horse if he gets confused or nervous, although most of the time, the footer just gets to come along for the ride!  If you happen to see us working with a new horse in town, you will likely notice the footer riding on the running board of the carriage, beside the passenger seats.  This position allows the footer to be able to step down very easily and get to the horse’s head if needed, and also allows the driver to take up the entire box seat, saving the footer from taking an accidental elbow to the ribs!

As the horse becomes comfortable with the routine in town, we will start taking guests on tours.  We still have two staff on the carriage, and now, the footer’s job is to give the guests the tour, so that the driver can focus entirely on the horse.  We continue in this way for a week or two, until the driver feels comfortable doing everything herself.  The time this takes is different for every horse, but as a driver, you know when the time is right.

At this point, the horse has passed the beginning stages of the training program and is considered a Novice carriage horse.  He remains restricted to working in select areas, and we will carefully schedule what days and times the horse works, according to what else is going on in town. The horse’s training continues both at the farm and in town, as we continue to build his confidence of new situations.

It’s all about building up confidence and setting the horse up for success.  Time and miles are the best teachers of all, and it is always a joy to watch new horses get the hang of things, and come to really enjoy their new career!

Tally Ho’s Horse Development Program – Part 2: Foundational Skills

Our goal is to develop our equine partnerships so that the rewards from the connection are equal to both humans and horses.  When we consider the horse’s point of view first, we then know the best way to present our idea.  When are able to communicate within their world, we are able to build deeper, more meaningful and trusting relationships.  The better our horsemanship is, the deeper our communication becomes, and the more we honour our horses.  Our horse development program is grounded in this philosophy, and we work systematically through each stage, building upon each success.

Work in hand (walking beside the horse), allows us to get very picky about the horse’s posture and movement, ensuring that he is using his body correctly so that he is not at risk of injury down the road.  We will also guide the horse over and around many different obstacles such as poles on the ground and barrels; weave through cones; walk over tarps and plywood; etc.  This helps him to become very aware of where his feet are (they’re a long way from his head, after all!) and become very intentional in where he is stepping, become confident stepping on different surfaces, and further develop his balance and coordination.

Working on the lunge line has the horse on a much longer line, moving in a circle around us.  In this way, we are able to practice our voice commands to ensure that the horse understands the verbal cues that we will be using from the carriage.  We practice moving between the walk, trot, and halt, looking for good quality of movement in each gait, and clean transitions between gaits.  We want the horse to be extremely responsive to our voice, as this is the primary way in which we communicate from the carriage.  It is especially important that when we say “WHOA,” the horse comes to an immediate stop, and stays stopped until we ask him otherwise.  Brake check!

We also spend a lot of time handling the horse all over, making sure that he is comfortable being touched on all parts of his body, that he holds his feet up nicely for the farrier, and that he accepts things like baths and haircuts as part of his normal routine.

The other major part of our foundation work is desensitizing.  We introduce the horse to all kinds of sights, sounds, and sensations, to develop his confidence and trust and ensure that he is not likely to spook at some of the strange things he might encounter downtown.  This work includes touching his body with soft ropes, flags, and flapping tarps; exposing him to loud noises and sudden movements; and anything else we can come up with to convince him that humans are indeed strange creatures, who do very odd things on a regular basis, but mean him no harm!  This video shows Roy learning to navigate obstacles without Brianna’s assistance (he’s willingly following her).

Once we are satisfied that the horse has a solid foundation, then we begin to work him in harness.  We start by simply ground driving, where he is fully harnessed not hooked to anything, we just walk along behind him.  We repeat many of the same obstacles and such that we did in his earlier training, and ensure that he is responding to our voice commands correctly and walking confidently without being able to see us.  You can see Roy’s progress in this video.  Then we progress to hooking to different implements such as harrows or logs to practice our precision.  This is also where we start getting the horse more physically fit.

Next, we move to a 2-wheeled cart, and then the 4-wheeled carriage.  We start by driving the vehicle in the our working ring, and then we start to tour the neighbourhood.  We are fortunate to be situated in an ideal area for horse training, where we have some very quiet country roads around the farm that see very little traffic, but we are also close to a couple different communities where we can practice navigating through stop signs, traffic lights, and increasingly busy traffic.  We gradually move onto busier roads, allowing time for the horse to become accustomed to pedestrians, bicycles, buses, trucks, motorcycles, construction zones, and all the different sights and sounds that come with city life.  Ultimately, we work up to driving through the industrial park, always busy with big trucks, and make a left hand turn that has us in the centre lane with two lanes of traffic on either side of us.  When the horse can navigate this demand confidently, we know that he is ready to come downtown (discussed further in Part 3).


Tally Ho’s Horse Development Program – Part 1: New Horses to Love!

When you see our horses working downtown, you see horses that are relaxed, confident, and know their job so well they could probably complete the route in their sleep.  Have you ever wondered where they came from, or how they learned to do their job so well?

Our horses come to us from all over Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest.  They come from varied backgrounds, but all of them are experienced driving horses.  Many come from a farming background, particularly from Northern BC and Alberta, where draft horses are still heavily relied on to get work done around the farm.  Some have been show horses, competing at local fairs and larger exhibitions such as the PNE and the Calgary Stampede.  Some have done some commercial work already, working in smaller towns or doing private events and parades.

When a new horse arrives on our farm, it will be at least a couple months, and in some cases up to a year before they actually come downtown.  No matter where they have come from, they enter into our industry-leading horse development program, where they must successfully pass several levels of training to ensure that they have all of the skills and knowledge necessary to work downtown with ease, confidence, and enjoyment.

Despite their previous experience, when we begin working with a new horse, we assume that they know nothing and start from the very beginning: this allows us to carefully assess what they do know, and fill in any and all gaps along the way.  It also ensures that they have a very solid foundation, and also allows us to develop a trusting relationship with them which is a key factor for success downtown.

The foundation work is all done from the ground, and includes a number of different activities, each intended to develop certain skills.  We then move into driving, and gradually introduce the horse to the different sights and sounds he will encounter downtown.  Developing the horse’s foundational skills is discussed in Part 2.

Tally-Ho: Your Romance Specialists!

Whether you’re in a brand new relationship, decades into marriage, or celebrating the love of close friends, it’s important to slow down to just be with each other and remember why you’re together.  How are you going to celebrate the people in your life?

Enter Tally-Ho Carriage Tours, your local Romance Specialists!  A horse-drawn carriage ride is a quintessential nod to the past, filled with charm, relaxation and romance.  Snuggle up with your sweetheart, enjoy each other’s company, and fall in love all over again!

At Tally-Ho, we are date night experts.  We offer the most romantic excursions in town and are highly experienced at masterminding the perfect evening in Victoria with your loved one.  We will recommend where to go for exquisite cocktails, an elegant dinner, or premier accommodations, and can pick up or drop off at many of the hotels and restaurants around Victoria’s inner harbor for the ultimate romantic surprise.

Thinking of popping “The Question”?   We will customize our services to your specific requests, setting the mood just right for one of the most significant moments of your life.

Our Romance Specialists are always honored to help you orchestrate the perfect romantic night out!

Success Story! Hoof Care

When I took over the company in September 2015, I was overwhelmed with what I didn’t know.  Although I had been part of the business for almost 25 years, horse care fell fully to my late husband.  In November of that year, I contracted the services of Glenn Stewart, an internationally recognized natural horsemanship trainer and certified farrier.  I brought him to my farm where he initially spent three days with us going through our entire operation, encompassing everything from farm to town.

One of his observations was that  some of our horses were not being balanced properly in their bodies, via their feet.  While I was open to the idea of a change in our shoeing program, I wanted to do so with careful thought and consideration.  At that time, we were using rubber shoes with a steel core.  We’d been using these shoes for years with the idea that while they could not be adjusted much to treat specific joint or hoof issues, they provided traction and cushion for the horse.

I consulted further with Glenn and other experts: my learning grew and I started to explore options.  Over the next six months Tally-Ho tried three different alternatives with no real success.  In May 2016 we met Will Clinging, a well-respected certified journeyman farrier.  Under Will’s lead, we decided to try two of our horses in steel shoes with borium for traction.  He, and his team, custom made each shoe according to the individual horse’s need, ensuring his gait and body posture was correct (much like orthotics for humans).

These horses were then closely monitored for both positive and negative changes in their biomechanics and gait.  Both horses started moving better throughout their entire body, especially in their footfall placement which is key to maintaining healthy joints and muscles.  To our surprise, they also showed improvements in their overall coordination and self-awareness.  We were thrilled with the results (as were they)!

Today, Will and his team provide regular hoof care to our entire herd, ensuring their feet are trimmed and shoes re-fit to give them support, protection and traction when working downtown.  The formalized shoeing schedule ranges between 4 to 7 weeks, depending on seasonal conditions and if the horse has any special requirements that need to be addressed on an individual and frequent basis to prevent and treat lameness and unsoundness.  In the winter months we only keep a handful of horses shod and the rest go barefoot while they are not working.

We are thrilled to have Will as a key member of the Tally-Ho team.  He has reached a level of excellence within his profession that is clearly being recognized by his peers! “I am endorsed by the American Farriers Association (AFA) as a Certified Journeyman Farrier (CJF)[1].  I am an approved and updated AFA tester.  I am also the Vice President of the Western Canadian Farriers Association.  I take my trade very seriously!”


“I have been 23 years in the livestock industry, as a working cowboy, a horse trainer and a farrier.  I have even shod horses for our Honorable Lt. Gov. Judith Guichon when I lived in Merritt BC.  I have met and worked on thousands of horses in those combined capacities.  I have worked on backyard horses, ranch horses and show horses in multi-million dollar barns and I have met very few horses that are as well kept and as happy as the horses that work on the streets of Victoria!  This City should be proud to have two world class companies operating as allies on the same streets bringing smiles to most people that see them and a sense of satisfaction and pride to me when I see and hear them walk.”

– Will Clinging


Contributor:  Donna Friedlander


[1] “Farriers sitting for this level of certification are expected to display in-depth knowledge and highly developed performance skills evidencing a level of professional artistry. The process requires successful completion of written and practical testing, as well as the forging of a specific bar shoe within a prescribed time limit.” (American Farriers Association)

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 assess 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!


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!




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!