4 Functions of a Working Horse Harness

How a Well-Fitting Harness Helps a Horse Pull a Carriage 

Horses have worked alongside humans to achieve many tasks throughout history, but most wouldn’t be possible without the use of a horse harness, which joins the horse with its load.

A harness is part of the tack that a horse will wear depending on the activity it is doing. In the case of carriage horses, the harness helps the horse to pull its load safely.

Draft horses are built to pull heavy items, in fact, the term draft horse comes from the old English word ‘Dragan’ meaning ‘to draw or haul’. A well-fitting harness helps to maximize the natural ability of a draft horse by allowing them to transfer all their energy into pulling their load.

Read on to find out what parts make up a harness, what the main functions of a working horse harness are and why a harness must be well fitted.

The Main Parts of a Horse Harness

A working horse harness is made up of over 30 parts, each of which has an important role to play in helping the horse safely and successfully pull a load. These include:

  • Collar – made from thick padded leather, the pressure of the horse against the collar is transmitted into the forward motion of the carriage.
  • Hames – connect in deep grooves in the collar and are held together, at the top and bottom, by hames straps.  Lines are guided through Terrets (aka ‘keepers’), found near the top of the hames, while Traces are connected to the lower end, enabling even distribution of the pull along the horse’s shoulder.
  • Traces – link the Hames to the vehicle or load they are pulling.
  • Saddle acts as the central harness anchor and includes shaft loops that support the shafts in a single carriage.
  • Girth/Bellyband & Overgirth – used to keep the saddle correctly placed on the horse’s back.
  • Breeching – a wide strap that passes around the hindquarters of a horse in harness.  It is part of the apparatus that allows the horse to stop or reverse an attached carriage.  The breeching is held in position by the hip straps, running over the rump.
  • Holdback Straps – run from the breeching to the shafts.  They are used to stop the forward motion of a carriage when the horse stops and allow for reversal when a horse backs up.
  • Blinders – ensure the horse cannot see behind him, focusing his attention forward. Part of the Bridle is a headpiece that helps the rider/driver communicate with the horse.
  • Lines/reins: A key communication tool that allows the driver to direct the horse gently. 

Tally-Ho staff and drivers all receive detailed training in the role of each part of a harness and how they work together. 

4 Key Functions of a Working Horse Harness

Harnesses have 4 key functions when used on carriage-pulling horses:

  • Allows the horse to pull the carriage (via the front part of the harness – collar and traces).
  • Provides a stabilizing mechanism (via the middle part of the harness – saddle, shaft loops and belly band).
  • Provides a braking mechanism (via the back part of the harness – breeching and holdbacks).
  • Provides a steering mechanism (via the bit, bridle and lines).

The Importance of a Well-Fitting Harness for Working Horses

Proper harness fitting is imperative to the horse’s comfort, soundness and mental well-being, as an ill-fitting or dirty harness may cause lameness, soreness and mental fatigue. 

Without the support of a complete and well-fitting harness, the effort required to pull a load would tire and possibly injure the horse and impact the driver’s ability to communicate with it effectively. 

How Should a Harness Fit on a Carriage Pulling Draft Horse?

At Tally-Ho, our staff are taught to fit a harness properly to our draft horses and how to recognize when the fit needs adjusting. A proper-fitting harness is vital not only for the well-being of the horse but also to ensure an effective draw /pull.

To work effectively and with no risk of injury to the horse, the harness must be fitted in a very specific way. For example, some of the things we focus on when fitting a collar are:

  • When under load, the pull on the collar should align with each horse’s physiology. For example:
    • The angle of the collar should parallel the horse’s natural body contour. 
    • The collar should sit against the muscle in front of the scapula and slightly ahead of the horse’s shoulder.
  • Collars that are too big (long) can rest on the suprascapular nerve, causing it to pinch, and can result in the traces being set too low on the horse’s body, making the load pull down on the horse unnecessarily.
  • Collars that are too small (short) can impact the horse’s windpipe and breathing.
  • The traces need the proper angle and line to the point of pull on the carriage.

Regular Harness Checks Can Prevent Rubs and Injury

At Tally-Ho, the comfort and safety of our horses is paramount. Each harness is custom fit for each horse and is labelled and stored for their use only.

Our team checks the fit of the harness every time a horse is driven, as the horse’s body can change shape and condition throughout the year. We make any adjustments that are required before we take a horse out to pull a carriage.

At day’s end, we remove, check and clean the harness and equipment.

Rubs can happen quickly and unexpectedly and can be both painful and debilitating for horses.  We take steps to prevent rubs by making sure:

  • The harness is clean. Dirt and grime are key culprits of rubs.
  • There are no sharp or rigid objects against the horse’s skin.
  • The harness is adjusted evenly on both sides of the horse (an uneven harness will not distribute the pulling weight evenly).
  • No parts of the harness are too tight and creating pinch-points.

Experience the True Power of a Work Horse on One of Our Carriage Tours

When you take a carriage tour with Tally-Ho, you will experience firsthand the amazing pulling power of our draft horses. With their custom-fitted horse harnesses in place, they can effortlessly pull a carriage and its passengers around beautiful Victoria, BC, using less than 17 percent of their actual physical capacity.

Your driver will be glad to tell you more about your horse guide, what equipment they are wearing and how it helps to support them while they work.

Whether you are looking for a short and sweet taster tour or one of our longer experiences, we will delight and entertain you as you sit back and enjoy the ride. We run tours year-round. Contact us today to book one of our city or farm tours.

Tally-Ho: We’re Part of Your Community!

Where to Meet the Tally-Ho Horses at Community Events Throughout the Year

Tally-Ho Carriage Tours has been serving the Victoria, BC, area since 1903 and is proud to be recognized as a key part of the culture of this beautiful city.

As a team, we are passionate about not only our horses but our community too, both in downtown Victoria and in our home community of Saanich where our Hidden Acres Farm is located.

As such, we are glad to take part in multiple events throughout the year that give members of our community the chance to come and meet our horses and experience the magic of a carriage ride.

In addition to participating in these community events, we support dozens of local fundraising events throughout the year and contribute to many charitable causes, including animal care, children’s causes, cancer research and heart and stroke research.

Read on to find out which community events you can find Tally-Ho at throughout the year.

Upcoming Holiday Events

Nothing evokes the nostalgia of Christmas past like the sight and sound of a horse-drawn carriage. At Tally-Ho, we enjoy being part of community holiday events such as:

1. Victoria Santa Parade

November 25

The 41st Annual Santa Parade, run by the Greater Victoria Festival Society, takes to the streets of downtown Victoria at the end of November. This year, we will be bringing a beautiful horse-drawn carriage to this parade to share the magic of Christmas with the crowd.

2. Saanichton Community Christmas

December 2, 2023

Tally-Ho enjoys being a part of this community event that raises funds for the Saanich Peninsula Lions food bank. We will have three horses and carriages at this event and reservations are required.  In addition, children have the chance to win one of our beautiful plush Clydesdale horses!

We love that our traditional and decorative carriages add a touch of traditional holiday spirit to this event.

Victoria Day Parade 

This annual parade, held on Victoria Day each May, has been taking place in the British Columbia capital city for over 120 years. The event features over 100 decorated floats as well as marching bands, military vehicles and vintage cars. The parade lasts for 3 hours, making it one of the largest parades in Canada.

We are proud to have three of our draft horses pull the Victoria Fire Department’s old steam pump through the parade. It takes three months of preparation with the horses to get them into top shape, both physically and mentally, so they can calmly deal with the crowds, unusual sights and loud sounds.

The sight of these majestic horses pulling a vintage vehicle is not only a great show for the public, it’s an amazing experience for our horse and human team too.

Saanich Fair

The Saanich Fair, which takes place every September on Labour Day weekend, has been running since 1868 and offers visitors the chance to meet draft horses and watch demonstrations of their pulling power and other skills.

Tally-Ho attends this fair with our draft horses every year. Our team enjoys taking part in the displays and having the opportunity to educate visitors about our beloved draft horses.

Events at Hidden Acres Farm

As part of our commitment to educating the public about the role and value of draft horses, we make special efforts to engage with younger members of our community. We hope that by meeting and learning about draft horses, we can inspire the next generation to develop meaningful and caring relationships with all animals.

To share our love of our gentle draft horses with everyone, we have started offering open houses at Hidden Acres Farm throughout the year. These allow those who would otherwise not have a chance to visit us and meet our horses. Our open days are aimed at educating people about draft horses and explaining how we work to protect the at-risk breeds on our farm.

Do Tally-Ho Horses Enjoy Being Part of Community Events?

At Tally-Ho, we choose horses that are calm and confident to be part of our herd. However, regardless of how they come to us, all our horses are given extensive training to ensure they are comfortable and confident around noisy and unpredictable things – like humans and vehicles.

This training, which takes place before they start pulling guests in carriages, makes our horses more than prepared to be part of community events where they will meet lots of people in busy, noisy environments.

While our horses are naturally social and enjoy interacting with people, it is our role as their caretakers to ensure they don’t get tired or overwhelmed in any situation. We know our herd well, and what the limits for each horse are, so we can ensure we rest them frequently and only take them to events we know they will enjoy.

Tally-Ho – Experience Part of Victoria, BC’s History

As Victoria’s original stagecoach company, Tally-Ho has been part of the history of the city for 120 years and we are proud of our deeply routed connection to this community.

We are always glad to meet members of our community and visitors to the area, whether it’s on a carriage ride in downtown Victoria or a behind-the-scenes visit to our farm.

We look forward to meeting you at one of these community events or for your own horse-drawn sightseeing tour soon.  

Natural Horsemanship and How It Is Used with Tally-Ho Horses

Why Natural Horsemanship is the Key to Successful Horse–Human Relationships

At Tally-Ho, the relationships between our humans and our horses are very important. We believe mutual trust and respect is the key to good communication and safety, and that’s why we utilize the methods of natural horsemanship when training and caring for our herd.

Horsemanship is an overarching term for the care, handling and training of horses within various equine pursuits. There are many different methods and techniques for horsemanship that have been used throughout history. What makes the natural horsemanship technique different is that it prioritizes understanding a horse’s natural tendencies to learn and teaches with firm kindness rather than force.

Tally-Ho’s carriage horses need the confidence to manage a range of situations, sometimes unexpected ones, when working in Victoria, BC. Our horse development program, based on natural horsemanship principles, is designed to enhance the relationships between horses and humans to give our herd the confidence and skills they need to be safe when working.

Interested in learning more about natural horsemanship and how we use it to respectfully train our working horses? Read on!

What is Natural Horsemanship?

Natural horsemanship is the overarching term given to various styles of horse training that promote working in cooperation with a horse’s natural behaviours and oppose forceful or fear-led methods.

The main idea behind this approach is that a human-equine relationship built on mutual trust and positive reinforcement can result in a connection that is equally satisfactory for both the horse and its owner or rider.

There is evidence that less violent training methods have been used since as far back as 400 BC, however, more forceful, fear-led training became normalized as horse handlers looked for faster results.

The current natural horsemanship way of thinking is said to have originated in the Pacific Northwest in the early 1900s when brothers Tom and Bill Dorrance promoted gentler training methods that emphasized the responses of the horse.

Now, the most well-known advocate of natural horsemanship is considered to be Pat Parelli, who believes ‘horsemanship can be obtained naturally through communication, understanding and psychology.’ 

Parelli’s approaches to natural horsemanship have been used, built upon or adapted by many horse trainers. While this has led to multiple variations of the learning style, some consistent principles and training methods are usually seen. These include:

Principles of Natural Horsemanship

  • The connection between horse and human should be mutually rewarding.
  • Training and handling should be kind and gentle – fear and pain do not lead to a good equine-human relationship.
  • Trust happens when you listen to and communicate with your horse.
  • Understanding and working with your horse’s natural tendencies will get better results.
  • Consider the horse’s point of view first.
  • A confident and secure horse will respond positively to what is being asked of them.

Natural Horsemanship Training Methods

  • Pressure and release – using gentle pressure, such as pulling on a lead rope or a hand on the horse’s shoulder, to direct the horse into the required action. The pressure is released as soon as the horse carries out or attempts to act.
  • Positive reinforcement – letting the horse know when it has done something correctly.
  • Desensitization training – enabling the horse to cope with unexpected or challenging stimuli.
  • Hands-on foundational training such as walking in hand, long rope walking, obstacle avoidance and communication – to help build a bond and allow the rider to understand the natural preferences of the horse.
  • Fair but firm force is only used when the safety of the horse or rider is at risk.

Of course, each horse trainer may incorporate some or all of these principles and techniques into their teaching as appropriate.

Using Natural Horsemanship to Shape Our Horse Training at Tally-Ho

At Tally-Ho, we always put the well-being of our horses first, and as such, the principles of natural horsemanship are a perfect fit for how we want to train and work with our herd.

To support this, in 2016, we worked with experienced horse trainer and proponent of natural horsemanship Glenn Stewart, to create our horse development program based on the Parelli principles. We use this program to train skills and build mutually respectful partnerships with all of our horses from the first day they arrive with us.

Our horse development program takes all the principles of natural horsemanship into account, allowing our horses to bond with us and the other horses, develop confidence and trust, and eventually learn the skills required to pull carriages safely.

Tally-Ho’s Horse Development Program – An Overview

Our natural horsemanship-based training program is about building confidence and setting our horses up for success. We consider the horse’s point of view first, working with their natural tendencies and letting them go at their own pace. Gentle direction is given via communication or operant conditioning – which is positive reinforcement using pressure and release techniques.

Every Tally-Ho horse and human staff member will go through our development program, which covers the following phases:

  • Development Program Phase 1  – When a new horse arrives with us, we start working with them to build basic skills and the good foundations of a trusting relationship. This involves lots of observation of the horse and building successful communication methods.
  • Development Program Phase 2 – We continue to work closely with our horses, teaching required skills with behavioural training methods, including walking in hand, obstacle awareness, voice commands and desensitization.  Once the horse is ready, we introduce them to the harnesses and carriages they will eventually work with and pair them with their full-time driver. Together, the horse and driver begin carriage training in our farming community of Central Saanich.
  • Development Program Phase 3 – Only when we are confident that a strong partnership has developed between the horse and its driver we begin on-site training in downtown Victoria. The strong bond and mutual trust built up between human and horse during our program allows the driver to quickly notice when a horse’s behaviour or action needs gentle correction.

This program allows us to provide our horses with the skills necessary to be safe, successful and happy in their work.

Putting the Horses First at Tally Ho

At Tally-Ho Carriage Tours, we always put the needs, safety and health of our horses first. This includes ensuring they are confident and have a good relationship with their driver before they take customers on a carriage ride.

Our herd of draft horses live out their days with their equine and human family members at our Hidden Acres Farm in Central Saanich. To find out more about how we work with our horses and the top-notch care we provide for them, check out our ‘Behind the Scenes’ experiences. 

We hope to see you soon at Hidden Acres or on a sightseeing carriage tour in downtown Victoria. Contact us to book a tour today.

A History of the Domestication of Horses

How the Mutually Beneficial Coexistence of Horses and Humans Prevented Extinction

Horses have been a constant companion to mankind for over six thousand years, although, over the years, the nature of the relationship has changed. From originally being seen as primarily a source of food, the domestication of horses saved them from extinction and contributed to the development of civilization.

Today, horses are mostly considered to be a companion for leisure pursuits or sporting activities. They are bred for specific purposes, such as the carriage-pulling horses at Tally-Ho, and live more peaceful lives, using only a fraction of their power and receiving top-notch care.

There is no doubt the horse-human relationship has been mutually beneficial over time. Human history would look significantly different if horses hadn’t been used to further agriculture and food production, travel large distances to promote settlement, help us build railroads and cities, and perform a crucial role in warfare.  As for horses, they may not even exist anymore if it were not for domestication.

Horses have been around, in some form, for 55 million years, so when did things change from them being wild animals roaming the same plains as buffalo to being the gentle, willing partners we know today?

Read on for a horse domestication timeline and more information about how the domestication of horses not only benefitted humans but kept horses alive when other species became extinct.

A Horse Domestication Timeline

To understand what led to the domestication of wild horses, it is useful to start with a quick overview of the evolution and migration of horses across the globe. 

55 Million Years Ago

The first equids roamed the forests of North America over 55 million years ago. Due to limited food, they were the size of a small dog. Over the next 35 million years, the species evolved along with the changing climate and living conditions: they became larger, which enabled them to increase their speed and more successfully outrun their predators; their jaw shape and teeth changed to allow them to take advantage of increasing grasslands for grazing; and they developed the ability to lock their knees while standing which reduced the amount of energy it took for them to stand.

4 Million Years Ago

The family tree of the Equus genus (which includes horses, donkeys and zebras) was vast, but by four million years ago, many of the species had died off. The ancestors of what we know as the ‘horse’ can be traced back to this time period in North America. Equus eventually spread from North America into Asia and Eastern Europe, moving back and forth via the Bering Land Bridge (the frozen land linking what is now the Arctic Ocean and the Bering Sea).

11,500 Years Ago

At the end of the last ice age, horses went extinct in North America, alongside other species, such as the Mammoth, thanks to a combination of extreme weather, lack of forage and overhunting from humans. They would not return until 1494, on Christopher Columbus’ second voyage to the Americas.

However, wild horse populations survived in Asia and Eastern Europe and although some evidence of human-horse relationships has been found from up to 12,000 years ago, likely, horses were likely primarily viewed as food.

Earliest Evidence of Horse Domestication

By nature, the horse was an ideal species to become domesticated: they could survive on various food, reproduce easily and enjoy social interaction.  Stephen Budiansky, in his book “The Nature of Horses” (page 11), states that “It was animals who discovered the mutual compatibility of our species, and it was they who chose to act upon this discovery… [it was] a long, slow process of mutual adaptation, of “coevolution,” in which those animals that began to hang around the first permanent human settlements gained more than they lost.  Some were killed and eaten, but for every cow or sheep or horse killed, many more flourished on the crops they robbed from our fields and the incidental protection they gained from other predators in the proximity of human habitations.”

6,000 Years Ago

The first sign that horses were considered to be something other than food was 6,000 years ago in what is now Kazakhstan. Archaeological evidence gathered from this area shows that although wild horses were primarily kept and bred as food, some were tamed to be ridden, allowing the Botai people access to wider hunting grounds. 

A research paper published in 2021 by Ludevic Orlando and colleagues used ancient horse genomes to determine that herders in the Vogla and Don regions (of what is now Russia) were the first to begin breeding horses to encourage specific traits, such as stronger backs and a more docile personality, both of which made them ideal for riding.

It would take another 2,000 years for these horses, the Equus Ferus Caballus, to spread across Europe and Asia, replacing other horse species and becoming the direct ascendant of all modern breeds of horses.

Impact of Domestication

The domestication and breeding of horses marks a huge change in human history, as it allowed us to:

  • Travel further and expand settlement;
  • Herd livestock and promote agriculture;
  • Develop communications across vast expanses of land;
  • Trade goods and services and develop economies; and
  • Influence a country’s borders through raids and wars.

Working horses also helped to transform many industries. Read our blog “A history of how work horses have helped humans over the ages” for more information.

Socially, the horse was seen as a symbol of nobility and power, was often depicted as a heroic warrior next to his human companion, and to this day, is still revered for his god-like beauty and grace.

Did Domestication Keep Horses Alive?

If horses had not migrated to Eastern Europe before the end of the last ice age, where they were eventually domesticated, it’s unlikely horses would exist today at all, as there are NO true wild horse species alive today. 

  • One of the last wild horse species, the Tapan, died out in the late 19th century.
  • The Prezewalski’s species still exist in very small numbers, but only after they were re-introduced from captive-bred horses after the wild population died out.
  • American Mustangs, while considered wild, are all descendants of domesticated horses that were likely escaped or released centuries ago.

It is fair to deduce that the selective breeding of horses for optimum features and health, combined with a mutually beneficial relationship with their human carers, kept domesticated horses alive while their wild counterparts succumbed.

How Domestication of Horses is Beneficial to our Equine Friends

Domestication, while beneficial to humans in so many ways, has also meant that modern horses have come to rely on humans for not just their survival as a species but also their day-to-day comfort.

Dr. Sid Gustafson says that “horses require friends, forage and locomotion … for their best health, learning and performance”. This means horses need:

  • Space and freedom to move around which is vital for their digestive and respiratory systems as well as joint, muscle and hoof health.
  • Appropriate, plentiful and high-quality food and water.
  • The company of other horses and human companions.

Modern domesticated horses are reliant on humans to supply all of these things. However, a horse that is comfortable, secure and healthy will be a willing learner and able to adopt required traits – whether it is speed, accuracy, or the ability to pull carriages.

Tally-Ho Respects and Nurtures our Equine Partners

We at Tally-Ho Carriage Tours are glad that thanks to the domestication of horses thousands of years ago, this incredible species is still around to live and work alongside us today.

We are very aware of our responsibility to care for our horses, who, without us, wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild.

We give our horses companionship, forage and locomotion, as well as health care and all the other things they need to feel happy and satisfied. Our on-site training ensures new skills are taught with patience and compassion, and nothing is ever forced upon our equine friends.

We love our horses – we enjoy talking about them, and we’d love you to meet them. Join us for one of our ‘Behind the Scenes Experiences,’ where you get to meet our horses face to face.

Contact us for more information about these and our other available tours.

Carriage Horse Retirement – What Happens to a Tally-Ho Horse When It Retires?

Retired Horses Can Live a Long, Happy and Healthy Life

Our carriage horses are part of our family at Tally-Ho Carriage Tours, and that doesn’t stop when they get too old to work. Our retired horses continue to live out their lives with the family they know and love, both equine and human, at our Hidden Acres farm in Saanich, BC.

Of course, just like humans, when working horses retire, their lifestyle and needs change, and we pride ourselves in ensuring our older horses get the right care to keep them healthy in their golden years.

At Tally-Ho, we guarantee our horses a happy and healthy retirement by offering them the care and lifestyle they need. Read on to find out more about our retired draft horses, the special needs of a retired horse and how our retired horses live out their days.

When Do Tally-Ho Horses Retire?

Retirement age is different for every horse and depends on several factors, including their health and their physical and mental condition. Generally, our horses are retired at between 19 and 25 years of age.

We currently have four retired horses in our pack:

  • Delilah, Suffolk Punch / Belgian mare – Age 23 (born 2000). 
  • Kashe, Clydesdale gelding – Age 21 (born 2002). 
  • King, Percheron gelding – Age 24 (born 1999). 
  • Sarge, Clydesdale gelding – Age 21 (born 2002). 

While draft horses usually have an expected life span of up to 25 years, our Tally-Ho horses often live into their mid-30s thanks to their healthy working lifestyle, so we could be looking after them for anything up to 15 years of retirement. 

It is important to us that those well-earned years of rest are happy, healthy and stimulating for our equine family members.

What Does Horse Retirement Look Like at Tally-Ho?

The daily life of a retired horse on our Hidden Acres farm is one of relaxation and choice. Our horses have the option to wander the fields alongside their equine family members, seek shelter in our open barn or interact with their human friends.

Every day a team member checks in on each horse and gives them some company and mental stimulation with a game or a gentle walk.  

Our retired horses continue to contribute to life on the farm by helping to train our new staff via our training and development program. They also help to welcome new horses into our family, taking them under their wing and showing them the ropes of life at Hidden Acre farm.

Do Retired Horses Need Special Care?

At Tally-Ho, we offer our horses the best care and living conditions throughout their life with us. However, the needs of a retired horse are a little different from a working horse, so we ensure we provide personalized care depending on each horse’s requirements.

The needs of a retired carriage horse include:

Social interaction: Horses are very social creatures. A working horse is in a stimulating environment every day, seeing new sights and sounds and interacting with people and other animals. For that to suddenly stop when a horse retires could lead to depression.

At Tally-Ho, our retired horses are still part of the pack, they are free to interact with other horses all day, and they get lots of time with their human family members too. Retired Tally-Ho horses also get to be the stars of the show at our Farm Tours, where they love to meet new people.

Movement: Although they are no longer pulling carriages, it’s important that retired horses continue to get frequent light exercise to retain muscle tone, bone strength and heart health. Movement also helps them regulate body temperature, especially in colder weather. Our horses are free to walk or trot around the paddock all day, current and retired carriage drivers come to the farm to walk and interact with their favourite horses, and we also integrate light trail rides.

Balanced nutrition: Older horses need to eat more frequently than younger ones to regulate their digestive system, and while they may not need quite as much food as their younger working counterparts, they do still require good quality, nutritious food. We ensure our retired horses are offered high-quality feed and plenty of water throughout the day. Most importantly, we ensure they have the time and space to eat, as they might take a little more time to eat as they age.

Mental stimulation: Our retired horses still need to stimulate their curious minds. With plenty of activity, toys and space to enjoy, a retired horse can remain happy and stimulated into older age.

Healthcare: Like humans, getting older can bring new health changes and challenges, but with consistent and appropriate health care, we can keep our horses healthy to live a longer-than-expected lifespan. At Tally-Ho, our retired horses get:

  • Regular veterinary checkups – to ensure health changes are caught quickly.
  • Dental checkups – older horses are more susceptible to dental issues, which, if left unattended, can impact their ability to eat.
  • Preventative care and vaccinations – to protect from illness and disease.
  • Hoof care – to enable them to continue appropriate levels of activity.

A Happy, Healthy Retirement for Tally-Ho Horses

After their working years are done, we think our draft horses deserve a long, happy and healthy retirement. Thanks to a healthy lifestyle and steady, low-impact exercise during their carriage-pulling careers, our draft horses enter retirement with healthy bodies and minds.

At Tally-Ho Carriage Tours, we respect and love our horses and we make it our life’s work to lead by example in the way working carriage horses live their lives and experience retirement.

Come and see for yourself how we care for our horses at Hidden Acres farm on one of our Behind the Scenes tours. Choose from our farm tour, where you find out all about life on our farm, or opt for the ‘Grass Roots Experience’, where you get to meet and interact with some of our retired horses in a hands-on tour.

Please contact us if you’d like to know more about our tours, opportunities for private bookings or if you have any questions. The human team at Tally-Ho loves to talk about our horse family and what we do, and we’re happy to tell you more!


Managing Carriage Horses in Extreme Weather

How Tally-Ho Cares for Our Horses When it is Very Cold, Hot or Smoky

At Tally-Ho, the care and well-being of our horses always come first, and that includes looking after them properly when we experience extreme weather conditions.

On the west coast of Canada, our extremes tend to be in terms of rainfall. However, we do occasionally experience cold snaps, and, more frequently, we are having summer heat waves combined with smoky skies due to forest fires.

Horses have a high natural capability to adjust to changes in temperature, especially gradual changes that occur seasonally. They can also adjust to more extreme temperature changes, but not immediately, which is why we ensure to offer them the care, facilities and nourishment they need while they adapt.

Tally-Ho staff are all well-trained in the key elements of horse care and signs of discomfort or distress, and we follow the advice of our Equine Specialist Veterinarian during any extreme weather conditions. 

Read on for more information about how we care for our horses during extreme heat, when the air is smoky and in wintery conditions.

Keeping our Horses Cool When the Temperature Heats Up

Victoria, BC’s low humidity ratio and cooling offshore breezes are ideal for working horses as they prevent overheating. However, we do get occasional extreme spikes that push up our usually manageable temperatures.

Horses have natural, built-in heat reduction capabilities, including evaporative cooling and convection. As their body temperature rises, sweat glands produce a highly concentrated salt solution that coats the hair and pulls moisture and heat off the horse as the air flows over them. Then, blood vessels near the skin will dilate to allow the transfer of heat from the blood into the air. Lastly, they can reduce their body temperature by 15% by changing the way they breathe. 

In extreme heat, horses do need our help to stay cool and prevent symptoms of heat stress. Our staff are fully trained to care for horses in hot weather and know how to recognize and deal with early signs of overheating.

Do our horses work when it is very hot outside?

Our horses can work in the heat, but we take great care to ensure our horses are safe when it is hot.  

For example, when temperatures are warmer, our working horses are provided:

  • Lots of water
  • Electrolytes (added to the water)
  • Soaked (damp) feed
  • Natural and man-made shade options

In addition, they are cold-hosed to help keep them cool; we monitor their internal body temperatures before, during and after work to ensure they remain within the normal range; and Tally-Ho’s sightseeing stand is ideally located next to Victoria’s inner harbour, where the breezes can reach us, and where the horses are provided shade from boulevard trees.  

Tally-Ho also follows the guidance of the commonly-used Horse Heat Index, which uses environmental temperatures and relative humidity to determine when the horse may need additional assistance to maintain a healthy internal body temperature. 

Tally-Ho uses all these measures to monitor and manage the horses’ health in summer heat waves.  During periods of abnormally high temperatures and/or humidity that could have an adverse health impact on the horses, tours are immediately cancelled, and horses remain at home on the farm. 

How Does Smoky Air Affect Horses?

It is becoming increasingly common to experience smoky skies during the summer months, even when wildfires are many miles away. Poor air quality due to smoke can affect a horse’s respiratory health in similar ways to how humans are affected, for example:

  • Eye irritation
  • Respiratory tract irritation
  • Cough
  • Nasal discharge
  • Laboured breathing 

Of course, while we can go inside to escape and use masks and air filters, these are not options for horses, so how do we help our herd cope when the sky is smoky? We:

  • Provide plenty of water to help keep the respiratory tract moist.
  • Allow our horses to move around to find a location where there is a breeze or the smoke is not as thick.
  • Limit or restrict their exercise – including carriage pulling work. At Tally Ho, we use the British Columbia Air Quality Health Index rating to guide our decisions. We will halt carriage rides if the air quality risk is high or above. 
  • Dampen the feed – soaking hay helps to reduce extra dust in the air.
  • Know the signs of horse respiratory distress and get additional help if required.

During periods of poor air quality, we follow the advice and direction of our Equine Specialist veterinarian as to if it is safe working conditions for the horses.

How do Horses Stay Warm in Cold and Snowy Conditions?

We might not get a lot of snow in Victoria, but what we get is heavy and can turn into slippery ice quickly. However, horses still love to be outside in nature, even when everything is white and frigid.

Horses naturally cope with cold weather through the creation and conservation of heat. They conserve heat through huddling, seeking shelter and growing longer,  thicker body hair. 

A horse can also generate energy from the food it eats. The right food in the right amounts can enable it to regulate even extreme temperatures. However, without enough high-quality food, a horse will start to lose weight and get sick.

During extremely cold weather spells, we help our horses adjust to the temperature change by ensuring they have:

  • 24-7 access to hay and plenty of vitamin and mineral grains and supplements that help boost weight gain and energy production
  • Lots of clean water (our automatic waterers are heat-taped to ensure they do not freeze over in cold conditions)
  • Blankets (every horse is provided a winter-weight blanket)
  • The option of covered shelter (although they rarely choose to use the shelters – instead opting for the ‘huddle’ – if you build it, it doesn’t mean they’ll use it!)

We continue to gently exercise and work our horses in cold weather, as using their muscles can help increase body heat. Our carriage-pulling horses always get plenty of rest, food, water and, if needed, blankets in between rides.

Our staff are trained to spot early signs of distress caused by cold weather and we will always cancel tours and keep the horses home if the weather does not provide appropriate working conditions.

Do Our Horses Pull Carriages in the Snow?

The safety of our horses is always paramount in our decision-making, as is that of our customers and staff. So, on the rare occasions there is snow on the ground in downtown Victoria we will not run carriage tours.

Snow and ice are risky for our horses as they do not wear shoes that would provide them traction (thereby increasing the chance of a slip and/or fall), and the risk of being struck by an out-of-control vehicle rises significantly. Not only are the risks of heading out on the roads too high but in the coldest conditions, horses do best when they reserve energy and eat lots of food. We’re happy to keep them safe, warm and well-fed on the farm until the snow melts.

What About Rain? 

Rain, as we west coasters know, can happen all year round. Horses’ hair acts as a natural rain protection as the oils encourage water to run off, keeping their core warm and dry. 

As with all weather conditions, the horses on our farm are free to seek natural (treed) or manmade shelter as they need it. During periods of continuous rain, the horses are blanketed.  

During the rainy season, our carriage drivers dress in layers and wear good quality rain gear, the carriages have roofs to help keep our guests dry, and the horses are provided rain blankets between tours to ensure their body temperatures don’t fluctuate too much.  In extremely wet conditions, we will cancel our tours as it’s simply no fun for the horses, carriage drivers or guests when they are cold and wet!  

Check Out Our Happy Horses for Yourself

Come see for yourself how our horses enjoy their life at Hidden Acres Farm on one of our Behind-the-Scenes tours. These guided tours allow you to meet our horses and hear from our staff about how we care for them in all conditions.

In addition to our farm tours, Tally-Ho Carriage Tours offers a variety of sightseeing tours that depart from Menzies Street just off Victoria’s inner harbour. Whether it’s a special occasion or you just want to see the city from a different perspective, we have a tour to suit your needs. For more information, contact us today.


Top 15 Things to Do in Victoria

What to Do, What to Eat and Where to Stay in Victoria

Victoria, Canada, is one of the most beautiful places in the world. With its stunning landscapes and incredible attractions, it’s no wonder that so many people are drawn to this charming city on Vancouver Island.

If you’re planning a visit, here’s a list of the top 15 things to do in Victoria that you won’t want to miss! From historic sites and outdoor activities to culinary delights and cultural experiences, there’s something for everyone.

So come explore all of what this amazing destination has to offer – you won’t regret it!

Things to Do in Victoria BC

Victoria is a city with an abundance of activities and attractions to suit all interests. From historic landmarks to outdoor adventures, here are five top things to do when visiting Victoria.

1: Visit the Butchart Gardens. This 55-acre botanical garden is one of Victoria’s most famous attractions, featuring a stunning collection of flowers, trees and shrubs, along with fountains, ponds and sculptures.

2: Take a Horse-Drawn Carriage Tour with Tally-Ho Tours. Experience the charm of Victoria’s historic downtown in style with a guided tour by horse-drawn carriage. Tally Ho Tours offers a variety of carriage tours to suit every taste, including a Sea Cider picnic and holiday-themed tours.

3: Explore the Royal BC Museum. This museum is dedicated to preserving and sharing the history and culture of British Columbia, with a wide range of exhibits on topics ranging from First Nations history to natural history and modern pop culture.

4: Wander Through the Historic District of Old Town. Stroll along the cobblestone streets of Victoria’s oldest neighbourhood and admire the beautifully preserved Victorian-era architecture, quaint shops and charming cafes.

5: Go Whale Watching. Experience the thrill of seeing majestic whales up close in their natural habitat on a whale-watching tour. There are a number of companies offering tours right from Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Keep your eyes peeled when you’re on the water – you may also spot other marine wildlife, such as dolphins, seals and sea lions, along the way.

Where to Eat in Victoria

Victoria is known for its thriving culinary scene, with a wide variety of restaurants, cafes and food trucks offering delicious fare. Here are five must-try foods to sample when exploring the city’s vibrant food culture.

6: Try the seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf. This charming floating village is home to several seafood vendors serving up fresh seafood dishes, including fish and chips, crab cakes and seafood chowder.

7: Indulge in afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress. Experience a quintessential Victoria tradition with a luxurious afternoon tea service at the iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel, featuring a selection of teas, finger sandwiches, scones and pastries.

8: Savour the artisanal cheeses at the Victoria Public Market. This bustling indoor market is home to several local cheese vendors, offering a wide selection of artisanal cheeses, charcuterie and other gourmet goodies.

9: Enjoy Victoria’s best ice cream. Stop at the Beacon Drive-In Restaurant for locals’ favourite cold treat, paired perfectly with a stroll through nearby Beacon Hill Park. 

10: Sample the craft beer at Phillips Brewing & Malting Co. This local brewery is known for its innovative and flavorful craft beers, including a variety of IPAs, stouts and seasonal brews, all made with locally sourced ingredients.

Where to Stay in Victoria

Victoria offers a range of accommodations to suit every budget and preference, from charming bed and breakfasts to luxurious hotels. Here are five top places to stay when visiting Victoria for a comfortable and enjoyable experience.

11: The Fairmont Empress. This iconic hotel is a Victoria landmark, known for its luxurious rooms, impeccable service and stunning waterfront location.

12: The Hotel Grand Pacific. This impressive hotel offers a captivating blend of refined luxury, breathtaking harbour views, and unparalleled hospitality, creating an unforgettable stay that exceeds expectations.

13: The Oswego Hotel. This chic and modern hotel is located in the historic James Bay neighbourhood, just steps from Victoria’s Inner Harbour and downtown attractions.

14: The Inn at Laurel Point. This waterfront hotel features stunning views of the Inner Harbour, along with spacious rooms, a full-service spa and an award-winning restaurant.

15: The Parkside Hotel & Spa. This modern hotel is located just a few blocks from the harbour, offering spacious suites with full kitchens, a rooftop patio with a hot tub and a full-service spa.

Tally-Ho Tours – A “Must-Do” Activity!

Victoria, BC, is a city full of charm, culture and natural beauty, with something to offer for every type of traveller. One unforgettable way to explore Victoria is through a Tally-Ho carriage tour. With our charming horse-drawn carriages and knowledgeable guides, Tally-Ho Tours offers a glimpse into the city’s history and culture in a truly unique way. 

The tours are led by guides who share fascinating stories and interesting facts about Victoria’s past and present. You’ll learn about the city’s rich history, its famous residents and its hidden gems that might otherwise go unnoticed. The carriage ride itself is a delight, with the sound of the horse’s hooves providing a soothing rhythm as you glide through the streets.

Experience More Than Carriage Tours

Our goal is to educate and immerse the public in our incredible horses’ lives. 

Our “Grass Roots Horse Experience” tour at Tally-Ho offers an exceptional opportunity to experience much more than just carriage rides. Launched in Victoria as part of our 120th-anniversary celebrations, this experience focuses on the stars of our show, the horses!

This tour provides a rare glimpse into the daily lives of our horses, allowing visitors to interact with them up close and personal. Guests can also enjoy the serene and picturesque surroundings while learning about the history and heritage of these magnificent creatures. 

So, when planning your visit to Victoria, or if you already live here and want to try something truly spectacular and unique, book a Tally-Ho tour – you won’t regret it!


Tally-Ho Horse Care 101

How We Make Outstanding Horse Care Our Top Priority

A big part of horse care, no matter what they do or where they live, lies in having access to a good equine vet and a caring family. 

Whether down on the farm or pulling carriages on city streets, caring for a horse’s health is just one important part of the whole picture. 

To care for even a single horse, never mind a whole herd, you must ensure their Five Freedoms and work to create a solid human/horse relationship. 

Tally Ho Carriage Tours is passionate about providing the highest quality care for our horses. Read on to learn how we do it.

The Human and Horse Partnership

Since their domestication over 6,000 years ago, horses and humans have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship that involves companionship, care and help when needed.

The connection between humans and horses can bring out the best in both sides, but it’s the responsibility of the human half of the partnership to provide quality care and be fair in what they ask of the horse.

This deep connection plays a big part in what keeps our horses happy at Tally-Ho. To build that connection, we partnered with a top expert in the field of horsemanship to develop a training program that benefits both our horses and human staff.

Our carriage horses need training on the job too. Horses that are new to carriage driving are placed with highly experienced drivers who can help them adapt to the job with confident guidance. Our ultimate goal is to help the horses become calmer, braver, smarter and more athletic on a daily basis, which makes them more comfortable in all of their surroundings.

A Horse’s Five Freedoms

No matter the breed, where they live, or what they do, anyone keeping horses must ensure they meet The Five Freedoms for good physical and mental health. 

  1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst – we give our horses access 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to high-quality haylage and supplement their diets with additional vitamins and minerals.
  2. Freedom from Discomfort – we go to great lengths to provide a healthy, quality living environment on Hidden Acres Farm. Our paddocks are kept mud-free, the horses always have access to clean drinking water and shelter and they are blanketed as necessary in all weather conditions.
  3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease – our horses receive top-notch health care through the work of our equine specialist veterinarian, farriers and health practitioners that provide physical treatments. More on this below. 
  4. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour – all our horses are kept in mini-herds, ranging from 5 – 12 animals per paddock. Each horse is matched to the paddock that they best fit based on temperament to create and maintain friendships with one another. 
  5. Freedom from Fear and Distress – horses are naturally scared of their environments without proper training. For this reason, we highly emphasize our horse development program and horsemanship

Tally Ho Horse Care 101

Tally Ho’s staff and owners are as passionate about horse care as they are about providing a quality service in the heart of Victoria. After all, there would be no service without the horses. 

These are some of the main ways we take care of our family of horses:

  • A quiet home. The horses of Tally Ho Carriage Tours live at Hidden Acres Farm, a quiet place to relax, run around and play with their herd mates a mere 25 minutes from Victoria. 
  • Limited work. We carefully monitor how much each horse works and adjust according to their individual needs to ensure their physical and mental fitness. On average, each horse works less than 3 months throughout the year.
  • Feeding and watering. Our horses have abundant access to feed and fresh water both at home and while working. Their diet is specially formulated by an equine nutritionist and adjusted for each horse’s individual needs to ensure they maintain a healthy body condition.
  • Hoof health. Tally Ho’s certified farriers are at the farm twice a week to maintain the hoof health of our herd and fit them with shoes specially designed for walking on pavement. 
  • Harnessing. A harness is specially ordered to ensure proper fit and comfort for our working horses. It is cleaned and adjusted regularly, as a poorly fitted harness can cause discomfort to the horse, leading to unsafe behaviour.
  • Emergency medical care. Each carriage, point of sale, staging area and the barn is equipped with an equine emergency kit and our staff are all trained in emergency horse care. Additionally, the details of any horse requiring or receiving medical treatment are displayed in our barn to allow for consistent daily application and monitoring.
  • Veterinary care. A specialist equine vet provides medical care as needed and is always consulted when potential problems arise.
  • Therapeutic massage and chiropractic care. Tally Ho uses chiropractic medicine and Deep Oscillation Therapy to relieve soreness and strains, ensuring maximum comfort and health for our horses.
  • Easy retirement. When our horses reach the end of their working life, they are free to live out the rest of their lives at Hidden Acres Farm, where they can be with their herd and their loving human family.

A Four-Legged Family

At Tally Ho, every horse in our herd is a part of the family. So, we treat them with as much love, care and respect as we treat each other to ensure they are happy and healthy at work and home. After all, a healthy horse is a happy horse.

When you see our carriage horses around downtown Victoria or rural Saanichton, you see them doing what they love: pulling carriages and spending time with their human partners. 

Contact us today to book a carriage tour around beautiful Victoria, BC, or see our horses at their home on one of our farm tours

A History of How Work Horses Have Helped Humans Over the Ages

A History of Horses Timeline 

For many animal lovers, work horses are revered as the world’s most majestic creatures. In fact, the working horse has often been referred to as the most indispensable gentle giant in the history of human development. 

Throughout history, whether these work horses pulled armoured centurions around a battle arena or transported food to market, they did it with beauty and power.

Carriage horses are valued members of the team at Tally-Ho Carriage Tours. With many draft breeds facing extinction, Tally-Ho is committed to caring for and maintaining these work horse breeds. We treat them with the utmost care and comfort, and as a result, our horses live up to ten years longer than the average life expectancy of these breeds.

Read on to learn about the origin of horses and how “horse power” has transformed the way humans work and live together in so many incredible ways. 

History of Horses Timeline

As the Pleistocene (last ice age) period approached, massive glaciers isolated many horses. Over millions of years, these horses evolved distinct character traits that allowed them to survive in their environments.

Early horse migration occurred across the Bering Land Bridge, which allowed horses to spread from the Americas into Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The first heavy horse, the Black Horse of Flanders (considered the father of all modern draft horses), settled in Northern France and Belgium.

14th Century 

Working horses date back to the 14th century. The Middle Ages were when excelling in knighthood went hand in hand with horsemanship. When lightweight armour designed to protect knights and their brave steeds in battles and jousting tournaments became heavier, so did the horse required to carry it all. Historians claim many modern horses are descendants of the Destrier.

15th Century

The ancient wild horses that once populated the Americas drifted to extinction and were reintroduced by European colonists during the 15th and 16th centuries. Initially, small horses were imported due to shipping constraints. But eventually, draft horses also made the perilous journey across the open water.

16th Century

In the Ancient Near East, 16th century-advancements in the chariot and harness designs led to increased chariot warfare. During this period, the invention of the stirrup, horse collar and saddle revolutionized horsemanship, and soon mounted cavalry replaced the chariot.

17th Century

Although the Hackney was bred as a riding horse in England as early as the 14th century, it wasn’t until 1729 that it was coupled with an Arabian to produce the first heavy-built Norfolk Roadster. With the improvement of roads, the modern Hackney’s value rose as a high-stepping harness horse. But, by 1883, the breed’s decline began with the advent of the railroad.

18th Century

Battle cavalry was crucial for victory during the Napoleonic wars of the 18th century. Similarly, Indigenous people were trained in mounted warfare tactics in the Americas. As a result, they became part of highly mobile horse regiments essential in the American Civil War.

The Conestoga Horse and the Vermont Drafter were bred outside of the war in North America. These draft horses replaced oxen as farm machinery revolutionized. The smaller equipment size made horses more suitable than oxen. Heavy draft horses were also better suited to frozen winter roads and fields.

The use of draft horses peaked during America’s westward expansion and with agricultural technology improvements. It wasn’t uncommon to see giant combines pulled by teams of forty-plus draft horses. The average Midwestern wheat farm during this period had ten horses. It was also during the 1800s that improvements were made to the breeding, care and feeding of horses.

In 1849 gold fever swept through the United States. Local ponies from Indigenous people were initially used to carry supplies and haul gold and other minerals to the railway depots. As the gold rush progressed, ponies were replaced by draft horses. Massive quantities of charcoal were required for smelting, and draft horses hauled the logs to fuel the process.

Draft horse-powered mass transit allowed cities to expand. By the late 1800s, over 100,000 horses and mules operated as horse-car lines. During this time, businesses began advertising with decorated wagons powered by teams of draft horses that averaged 2000 pounds each. This was the beginning of the show era.

19th Century

Throughout the 19th century, westward migration exploded, fuelled by the promise of free land. In addition, virgin soil that required tilling increased the demand for draft horses that powered farm equipment. Over 27,000 Clydesdales, Suffolks, Shires, Percherons and Belgians were present in America at this time. 

Heavy horses were also instrumental in building railways. They carried ties, rails, supplies, and the ore and soil excavated from mountain tunnels. 

By the end of the 19th century, stagecoach lines with teams of six draft horses carried mail and passengers over rough and dangerous roads.

20th Century

In the 20th century, the role of horses in warfare changed. While scouts used horses for surveillance and draft horses were used to transport troops and supplies, cavalry horses were no longer needed for trench warfare.

Additionally, improvements in gasoline and electric-powered engines led to a swift decline in horse use. Horse-drawn hearses were one of the last modes of transportation to be modernized.

As the 1950s approached, many breeders went out of business, and the number of Shires and Suffolks dropped so low that by 1985 that they were listed as rare.

21st Century

Today the role of work horses in the military looks much different. Horses are mainly used for historical re-enactments, law enforcement and equestrian competitions. However, small mounted units may still patrol or provide reconnaissance.

Modern draft horses are making a comeback as pleasure animals. With registrations steadily rising, they can be found in show rings and competitions across North America.

The forestry service, therapeutic riding programs, sustainable agriculture, tourism and lessons are all industries where you might find heavy work horses used in the 21st century.

Tally-Ho Carriage Tours – Committed to The Horse!

See first-hand how Tally Ho’s working horse team is cared for on a behind-the-scenes tour experience at Hidden Acre Farms. Enjoy hands-on time with these rare large breeds and learn about their care, comfort, specialized equipment, training and human partnerships.

Our dedication to work horses, enthusiasm for people, service excellence and high safety standards date back to 1903 when Tally-Ho was established as Victoria’s first horse-drawn tourism service. 

We offer a variety of carriage tours throughout Victoria, BC and can even help you craft the custom horse-drawn experience of your dreams. Contact us for more information or to book a tour today.




A Day in the Life of a Tally-Ho Working Horse

How Work Horses Enjoy Daily Living 

There’s something magical about seeing majestic heavy draft horses in action. These historical working horse breeds have done many important jobs over the years and are still active to this day, although you are more likely to see them pulling a cart of sightseers than working the land.

If you’ve visited Victoria, BC, you may have seen Tally Ho Carriage’s draft horses pulling sightseeing carriages around the city, but have you ever wondered how they spend the rest of their day? 

At Tally-Ho, the care of our horses is taken seriously, and every equine partner is treated as family. Our horses’ health and well-being are paramount and reflected in how they spend their day. Mind, body and soul are nurtured on our acreage in Saanichton, ensuring the highest quality of life. 

Read on to learn what a typical day looks like for one of our equine team from horse grooming to how they get their horse rest. 

What is a Working Horse?

Does the image of a cowboy in a cowboy hat rustling cattle come to mind?  Well, work horses actually date back to the 14th century, and it is believed that many modern horses are descendants of the Destrier, a war horse from the middle-ages.

Horses have played significant roles beyond cattle rustling throughout history, for example, acting as police horses and companion animals. Before the invention of vehicles, horses were essential in some industries, such as driving plows or transporting goods or people.

Clydesdale, Suffolk, Shires, Percheron and Belgians are some of the most common breeds of heavy-working horses. At Tally-Ho, we consider our role in maintaining these breeds, many of which are threatened by extinction, an honour and a privilege.

What a Day in The Life of a Tally-Ho Working Horse Looks Like

When they are not working, our equine friends spend their time living the good life on our Hidden Acres Farm in Saanich. BC.  A typical day in the life of our working horses will involve:

Breakfast Time 

Not surprisingly, like their caretakers, horses start their day with breakfast. At Tally-Ho, a specially formulated haylage crop is the primary horse food. In addition, they receive supplementary grains formulated by equine nutritionists and customized based on their unique needs and body types.

Tally-Ho’s team of twenty-one working horses consume a staggering 400 round bales annually and over 36,000 pounds of supplements. 

Health and Hygiene

An essential part of maintaining horse health at Hidden Acres Farm is ensuring clean stalls and paddocks. 

Our entire team of professionals is devoted to caring for the horses, and their needs are always tended to immediately. Specialized dental and foot care, chiropractic adjustments and deep tissue oscillation therapy are just some treatments beyond basic horse care that we use at Tally Ho.

Grooming Before Work 

Caring for our working horse’s coat and feet are as critical as food and water. In addition, regular grooming decreases health conditions such as thrush and skin diseases. 

Consistent grooming establishes a positive, trusting relationship between the horse and the groomer. A list of the tools specific to grooming includes:

  • Dandy – horse brush
  • Body – horse brush
  • Hoof Picker
  • Cloth Sponge
  • Curry Comb
  • Water – horse brush
  • Wisp
  • Sweat Scraper
  • Shedding Blade


If our horses work that day, they are harnessed and outfitted as required. Behind the scenes, staff ensure the beautiful carriage horse tack is polished, clean, well-fitted and in top working order. 


A “pre-trip” inspection is done for each horse twice daily: once at the barn as the horse is taken from his paddock and again before the horse is hooked to a carriage. This key safety measure and horse health check is a trademark of Tally Ho’s commitment to the horse that sets them above and beyond other carriage companies.

Pre-trip involves:

  • A full body inspection of the horse to assess for any new scrapes or cuts
  • A soundness check
  • An emotional fitness check to ensure the horse is mentally ready for his day

If any of these checks fail, they treat the issue, reassess and determine if the horse is fit to work. He will remain on the farm if he’s not mentally and physically fit that day. 

Warm Up 

Before any work is started for the day, each horse is thoroughly warmed up and walked off. Exercise is part of our working horse’s typical day, even if it’s their day off. 

On the Job

Our horses are trucked from Hidden Acres Farm to downtown Victoria on working days. Two shifts per day operate during peak season with up to six carriages per shift. 

Pulling a carriage is a low-impact activity for our draft horses. They can easily pull a wheeled vehicle six times their weight, and because their health is monitored so diligently, our horses often live ten years longer than average.

As for any job, training is required for our heavy draft horses and their drivers. Taly-Ho’s horsemanship program, developed in partnership with leading industry experts, builds relationships based on trust between each horse and driver.

 Grooming After Work

After each shift, the horses are immediately unharnessed and groomed. This forms part of the “post-trip” inspection, where each horse is checked to ensure they are well after their day of work. Horses are also stretched out and provided time to cool down before being trucked home to enjoy well-earned rest. 

A good grooming routine brings many health benefits, such as increased circulation. A typical grooming routine includes: 

  1. Clean hooves 
  2. Dry the horse
  3. Sponge bath
  4. Hand rub
  5. Brush
  6. Curry comb to remove sweat and dirt
  7. Use a wisp to massage and relax muscles
  8. Polish with rubber
  9. Clean ears, eyes, nose and dock


At Tally-Ho, certified farriers visit weekly to provide pedicures, watch for changes in horse hooves and create special shoes that optimize support. The work of farriers is a significant component of the horses’ overall health at the farm. 

Dinner Time 

Balanced nutrition is vital; a large part of our horse’s diet consists of water. Draft horses drink a lot of water. Some require up to 91 litres daily. A fresh, clean and plentiful water supply is provided daily, both at the farm and while working.

Feeding the large team of carriage horses with body weights upwards of 1800 pounds takes up a large part of Tally-Ho’s operating budget.


To ensure each horse is comfortable while sleeping, adequate bedding, forage and a serene environment are provided. If it’s cold, our horses are rugged, confirming the blanket fits correctly and is comfortable and temperature specific.

Have you ever wondered how horses sleep? Read on for some interesting facts:

  1. Horses sleep standing up.
  2. Horses have an average sleep time of 3 hours per day.
  3. Horses may also sleep lying down; however, they can become stuck, requiring careful handling.
  4. When space is limited to lie down, horses higher in the hierarchy will assert their privilege.
  5. Insecure horses may need a companion to sleep.
  6. Horses dream.

What Character Traits Do Tally-Ho Horses Have in Common?

Tally-Ho’s carriage horses enjoy their work. They are chosen for their calm behaviour, ability to trust people and adaptability to new situations. We would never force a horse to work if it wasn’t happy.

You can meet the horses that make up our family at Hidden Acres Farms in Victoria, BC. 

Tally-Ho Carriage Tours – Uniquely Charming and Famously Fun

From weddings to city tours to corporate events, let Tally-Ho, Victoria’s original transportation company, make your occasion one to be remembered.

With outstanding service dating back to 1850, Tally-Ho Carriage Tours will help you craft the custom horse-drawn experience of your dreams. Contact us today for a quote.