Horse Breeds – The Shire

Shire Horses – Facts, Origin & History

We hope you’ve been following along on our Tally-Ho horse breeds mini-series and enjoying getting to know the unique history and characteristics of some of the world’s most beloved draft horse breeds.  So far, we’ve featured the iconic Clydesdale, the majestic Percheron (the horse favoured by medieval knights) and the Belgian. Next up we have another special draft breed, the Shire.

The Origin of the Shire Horse

The Shire is a British breed of draft horse that was formally established in the mid-eighteenth century, although, like many of the draft breeds we’re profiling, the Shire’s origins are much older.

Like that of the Belgian draft horse, historians trace the Shire back to the destriers or the “Great Horse”.  More specifically, the Shire is linked to the time of Henry VIII when the increasing role of gunpowder diminished the use of heavy horses in battle.  Oliver Cromwell’s cavalry sought out lighter, faster mounts and the heavier drafts were relegated to draught work instead.

It was during the sixteenth century that Dutch engineers brought Friesian horses to England to drain the Fenlands – a coastal plain in the east.  It’s believed that the Friesian bloodlines were introduced to domestic draft breeds, influencing what would later become known as the Shire breed.

At the onset of the seventeenth century this medieval hybrid was called the Old English Black.  During this time, a man by the name of Robert Bakewell of Leicestershire, imported six Dutch (or Flanders) mares, resulting in the supposedly superior Bakewell Black horse.  Eventually two different types of black draft horses evolved: the Fen or Lincolnshire type (larger, with more bone and extra hair) and the Midlands or Leicester type (known for their endurance and finer appearance).

The term “Shire Horse” was first referenced in the middle of the seventeenth century with inconsistent records beginning to appear near the end of the eighteenth century.  The famous “Packington Blind Horse” from Leicestershire is commonly recognized as the foundation stallion of the modern-day Shire breed, standing at stud for 15 years – quite a feat in terms of equine life expectancy of that era.

During the nineteenth century, Shire horses were extensively used as cart horses, moving essential goods from the docks, through busy cities and further on to the countryside.  As a result, the English Cart Horse Society was formed in 1878, and only six years later was renamed the Shire Horse Society due to the prevalence of the Shire horses.  Between 1901 and 1914 approximately 5,000 Shire horses were registered each year with the society.

The Modern History of the Shire Horse

The first exported Shires horses reached America in 1853, with large numbers beginning to arrive in the 1880s.  In 1885 the American Shire Horse Association was established as a platform to register and promote the breed domestically.  Nearly 4,000 Shires were imported to the United States between 1900 and 1918 and approximately 6,700 Shires were registered with the association between 1909 and 1911 and the breed continued to flourish both in England and North America, for several years following.

At peak population, the Shire breed numbered over a million.  Around the time of the second world war, increased mechanization rendered draft breeds more and more obsolete.  This, combined with strict regulations on the purchase of livestock feed sadly led to the slaughter of thousands of Shire horses and the closure of several large breeding programs.  The breed fell to its lowest point during the 1950s and 1960s, with only 25 horses registered in the United States.  

In the 1970s, the breed began to be revived through increased public interest.  In Canada, the Shire had been extinct for more than 40 years prior to imports that saw its return in the 1980s.  Breed societies have been established in the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, France and Germany and the first World Shire Horse Congress was held in Peterborough in 1996.  The introduction of artificial insemination in 1997 further bolstered the breed.

To this day, however, the Rare Breeds Survival Trust lists the Shire as “at risk” with population numbers estimated to be under 1,500.  In the United States, the Livestock Conservancy lists the breed as “critical” and the Equus Survival Trust calls it “vulnerable”.   There are still reportedly fewer than 300 registered Shires in all of Canada.

Past and Present Uses of the Shire Horse

Like the Belgian Draft horse – and several other heavy breeds – the Shire originated as a war horse.  However, mechanization and the evolution of the breed, very early saw the Shire gain prevalence as a cart horse.

More notably, the Shire was the breed of choice for the delivery of ale from the brewer to the public houses – England’s equivalent to North America’s Budweiser Clydesdales.  A few breweries still maintain this tradition in the UK today, including Wadsworth Brewery in Wiltshire, the Hook Norton and Samuel Smith Breweries in Tadcaster and a handful of others.

The Shire’s superior hauling capacity also made it an excellent candidate for agriculture and logging.  In 1924, at a British exhibition, a pair of Shires was estimated to have pulled a starting load equal to 50 tonnes (or 110,231 lbs), although the exact weight was contested as their pull was said to have exceeded the maximum reading on the dynamometer.  The same pair of Shires returned to competition in a subsequent year and, in wet and slippery footing, still managed to pull a verified 18.5 tonnes (or 40,786 lbs).

In North America, the Shire horse is still used in farm work and private small-scale logging, as well as pleasure driving.  Shire-Thoroughbred crosses have also gained popularity as excellent sport horses under saddle.

Shire Horse Conformation and Colour

Shires are sometimes confused with Clydesdales due to the feathers on their lower legs, a feature that is equally characteristic to the Shire breed, though finer and less voluminous than the Clydesdale’s.  In terms of acceptable breed specifications with registering associations, Shire stallions may be black, bay, brown or grey, but cannot have large amounts of white marking or have coat colours that are roan.  And for UK-based breeding associations, stallions may not be chestnut. The above applies for US associations, except for chestnut stallions, which are acceptable. Mares and geldings, however, are permitted to be roan in both the UK and US. 

A taller draft breed than some, the Shire’s average height sits around 17 – 18 hands high, or 1.72-1.83 metres from the ground to their withers.  Depending on the bloodlines, the build of the Shire can vary in heaviness, ranging from 1,700 – 2,400 lbs.

Setting it apart from the Clydesdale, Percheron and Belgian Drafts that we featured previously, the Shire breed has a long, streamline head that is set on a slightly arched neck that is long in proportion to the body.  However, similar to other draft breeds, the shoulder and chest are deep and wide, the back muscular and short, and the hindquarters long and wide. 

The largest and heaviest horse ever recorded in history was a Shire aptly named Mammoth, but more commonly known as Sampson.  He measured an astounding 21.2 hands high (or 2.18 metres from the ground to the withers) and in his peak, weighed in at a colossal 3,360 lbs.   

Character Traits & Trainability of the Shire Horse

Like so many of the cold-blooded draft breeds, Shires are known for being calm, steadfast, and loyal, which make them exceptionally versatile work horses.  Shires do, however, have their limits and are not shy in communicating when those limits have been reached.

Shires seem to have a desire to understand the objective of what is being asked.  While they will often respond to commands with trusted handlers, without consistency and context, Shires are known to become very stubborn.

Unlike other, hotter horse breeds that may run, or rear or strike out if they feel insecure or disrespected, Shires simply leverage their impressive size and will refuse to move.  Where other training tactics may be used to coerce lighter breeds, Shires are often not phased by these methods and will stand their ground until handlers step up.  

The other side of this innate stubbornness is a level of dedication and loyalty that, when earned, never wains.  This relationship-centric work ethic makes the Shire a sought-after breed the world over.

Meet the Tally-Ho Shire Horses

Tally-Ho is honoured to play a small role in helping to preserve and promote this incredible (and vulnerable) draft breed.  We currently have five purebred Shires in our herd, Annie, Belle, Button and Maggie – and our newest, Trace.

If you’d like to learn more about our beloved Shires, or any members of our herd, you can choose to sponsor a horse or visit our website at www.tallyhotours.com to book a tour to experience these majestic horses in person. Can’t get enough of our gentle horses? Take your very own plush horse home to love. Available in 7.5″ or 12.5″ heights, “Clyde” and “Rimsky” are available in our online gift shop. They come complete with pulling harnesses and make a wonderful keepsake! 

Our Top Picks for Brunch in Victoria BC

Brunch and a Carriage Tour in Victoria’s Historic James Bay!

With everything going on in the world today, now more than ever, we need to make time to slow things down, reconnect with one another and nourish our bodies and souls.  What better way to honour this than with a weekend brunch and carriage tour?!  

At Tally-Ho, we know the healing powers of horses and the joy that comes when we spend time in their presence.  We’re lucky enough to be able to host our carriage tours in some of the most beautiful parts of Victoria’s Inner Harbour and the historical James Bay.  Not only are these picturesque areas in our city packed with beautiful gardens and parks, stunning waterfront scenery and wonderful Victorian-era architecture, but they are also a mecca for some of the best brunch spots in town.  Here are some of Tally-Ho’s top picks for brunch around Victoria’s Inner Harbour and James Bay communities.

Don’t Overlook Hotel Dining!

Tally-Ho has a great relationship with the many hotels and accommodation providers in Downtown Victoria and our team frequents their in-house restaurants on the regular.  While there was a time, in years passed, when hotel restaurants were limited to less-than-appetizing, greasy-spoon dining that was more about convenience and economy than culinary excellence, those days are long gone.  All you need to do is check out the reviews on Trip Advisor to know that Victoria’s hotel restaurants are holding their own on the culinary front.

Some of our favourites include The Q at Victoria’s historic Fairmont Empress, the Blue Crab Seafood House at the Coast Victoria Hotel & Marina, the Aura Waterfront Restaurant + Patio at the Inn at Laurel Point, and the Pacific Restaurant at the Hotel Grand Pacific offer  all of which offer exceptional dining experiences featuring the best of West Coast cuisine and paired with world-class service.  

That said, if you’re looking for an opportunity to get “out in the community” to experience some of downtown’s unique local hotspots, here are our favourite brunch spots in Victoria BC.

Floyd’s Diner, 332 Menzies Street, Victoria, BC

If you’re looking for a vibrant yet casual brunch spot, Floyd’s Diner may be right up your alley.  

Established in 2004, this iconic Victoria landmark has a fun, family-friendly atmosphere for all to enjoy.  With its bright pink, 50s-inspired look and feel, Floyd’s has become such a local favourite over the years, that they now have three locations in the Greater Victoria Region.

Floyd’s does brunch right with generous portions of deliciously prepared and humorously named menu items that always tick the comfort food box.  Floyd’s menu has all those hearty breakfast and brunch classics you crave, but don’t be fooled into thinking they’re boring.  For all you adventurous Foodie Rebels out there, Floyd’s offers “The Mahoney”.  Simply tell your waiter or waitress “Bring me The Mahoney!” and Floyd’s savvy cooks will serve up a scrumptiously creative dish of their choosing.  Want to up the ante even more?  Ask for The Mahoney for “double or nothing” and let a coin toss decide if you pay double or if your meal is on the house!

We’d be remiss if we left you thinking Floyd’s is only about fun, flair and good food.  They also care a whole lot about their community and are one of only fifteen local restaurants that participate in Mealshare.  This program helps feed local kids in need and to date, Mealshare has served well over 2.3 million meals.  So if you’re dining at Floyd’s and want to do a little something to support this initiative, just let your server know you’d like to “Buy one and give one for the Mealshare program”.  

Bubby Rose’s Café & Bakery, 225 Menzies Street, Victoria BC

We appreciate that not everyone has an appetite for big, robust brunch meals.  Sometimes, a steaming cup of artisan roasted, freshly brewed coffee and baked goods straight from the oven is exactly what the doctor ordered.  If this sounds like your speed, then allow us to recommend Bubby Rose’s Café & Bakery.  

Born in 2002 from a passion to use ethically sourced ingredients, Bubby Rose’s proudly serves delectable food and baked goods to Victoria’s diverse communities.  Their homemade goodies include a range of vegan and gluten-free options for those with dietary preferences or sensitivities.

Grab an award-winning cinnamon roll paired with a cup of their delicious coffee, lovingly roasted in-house in small batches, while you enjoy the bustling mosaic that is the James Bay Village.  Oh, and if you find yourself a little peckish later in the afternoon, rumour has it, Bubby Rose’s has some of the best hand-made, woodfired pizza in town!

Heron Rock Bistro, 4-435 Simcoe Street, Victoria BC

Tucked away on the street level of a multi-use commercial residential complex, the Heron Rock Bistro might be easy to overlook, but you’d be missing out if you did!

Founded in 2005 by Owner/Operator Andrew Moffatt and Owner/Head Chef Ben Peterson, the Heron Rock Bistro has been serving delicious food made with quality ingredients for nearly 17 years and has earned its place as a long-standing local favourite. 

Their breakfast and lunch menus, served daily until 3:00 pm, are extensive with something to satisfy everyone’s tastes.  Particularly notable for the brunch connoisseurs who are fond of hollandaise, is the unique and mouth-watering eggs benedicts featured on their breakfast menu.  There’s the Stilton, Bacon & Mushroom Benny or the Chorizo & Guacamole Benny for example.  How about going West Coast with their Smoked Salmon Benny with lemon horseradish cream cheese and capers?  Or, if you’re feeling adventurous and up for a flavourful surprise, go for the Chef’s Choice Triple Benny – sounds intriguing, yes?!

Breakwater Bistro & Bar, 199 Dallas Road, Victoria BC

Take in the expansive views of the Juan de Fuca Strait and the Salish Sea from the Breakwater Bistro & Bar at Ogden Point.  A hive of activity, Ogden Point is a main port for the many Cruise Liners that travel BC’s coastline and is also a favourite among locals providing a fantastic sea wall leading out to a landmark lighthouse – great for a weekend stroll.

In the summer months, especially, you’ll find this location a hive of activity with artisan markets, live music and events and opportunities to partake in ocean-going activities like kayaking and scuba diving.  

The Bistro itself has a mouth-watering array of casual pre-made goods as well as prepared to order dishes providing diners with the option to take their treats with them while they walk the seawall or take in the sights from one of the restaurant’s window seats.  Either way, you’ll leave with all of your senses satisfied and your belly delightfully full.

And last but certainly not least on our top-pick downtown brunch spots is….. 

Nourish Kitchen & Café, 225 Quebec Street, Victoria BC

We can’t talk about nourishing food, spending time with friends and family and Victorian architecture without recommending Nourish Kitchen & Café. This unique eatery and community treasure is the epitome of the West Coast, feel-good, foodie experience.

Guided by holistic philosophies, ancient techniques, and the boundless inspiration of nature, the goal of Nourish is to enhance lives through love in the kitchen. 

Established in 2010, Nourish lives in an 1888 heritage house turned community hub. The lower level of the family-run home offers a casual restaurant and cafe, and a culinary market dedicated to providing nourishing treats and kitchen staples. On the upper level, Nourish offers a nurturing communal space for creativity, education, and celebrations, focused on a shared respect for the natural world.

Their diverse and naturally sourced menu focuses on whole foods and features both quality meat and vegan dishes. Nourish aspires to create soul-touching, health-giving recipes to share with the community, and with their simple but perfectly suited tagline “Eat With People You Love” how could you go wrong?!

Tally Ho Carriage Tours Pair Wonderfully with Brunch in Victoria BC

We’re confident that the brunch locations listed in this blog will not fail to impress, but the best part… all of them are located along Tally-Ho’s carriage tour routes!  To book your carriage tour experience, you can email us at tours@tallyhotours.com or contact us by phone locally at 250-514-9257 or toll free at 1-866-383-5067.  We look forward to hosting you!  

Horse Breeds – The Belgian Draft

Belgian Draft Horses – Facts, Origin & History

Next up in our Tally-Ho horse breeds mini-series is the Belgian draft horse. While Belgian drafts share some similarities with our two previously featured breeds, the iconic Clydesdale and the majestic Percheron, they have a unique history and characteristics that are all their own. 

The Origin of the Belgian Draft Horse

As the name suggests, the Belgian draft Horse originates from Belgium.  Among many breed historians, the Belgian is believed to be descendant from the Flemish “destriers” of the Middle Ages.  The word destrier does not refer to a specific breed of horse, but rather a type of horse.  The destrier, also referred to by contemporary sources as The Great Horse, was highly prized by medieval knights and men-at-arms and was coveted as the finest and strongest of the era’s warhorses. 

The foundation stock for the Belgian was originally known as the Brabant, named after the specific region within Belgium from which the breed originates.  Historically, the breed has gone by several names including Cheval de trait Belge, Brabançon, Trait Belge and Belgisch Trekpaard.

The large, well-muscled Belgian quickly gained notoriety as one of the strongest of the heavy draft breeds.  Export across Europe, and exposure in district show circuits which culminated in the National Show in Brussels, established the Belgian breed as a fixture in Belgium’s national heritage.  By 1891, Belgian draft horses taking up residents in government stables in Russia, Italy, Germany, France and the old Austria-Hungary Empire.

The Modern History of the Belgian Draft Horse

It wasn’t until 1866 that the first Belgian was exported to the United States and though the breed was accepted by draft horse enthusiasts, at the time it was not nearly so popular as the Percheron.  Over the next two decades the Belgian gained favour, and in 1887 three residents of Wabash, Indiana – Harmon Wolf, Abraham Status and Nathan Meyer – founded The American Association of Importers and Breeders of Belgian Draft Horses, which was more efficiently renamed the Belgian Draft Horse Corporation of America.

In 1903, the government of Belgium sent an exhibit of their finest Belgian drafts to the St. Louis World’s Fair and the International Livestock Exposition in Chicago, Illinois.  This further solidified the breed’s following in the States and although exports from Belgium experienced significant downturns at the onset of both the first and second world wars, breeding programs in America ensured the Belgian gained in numbers.  

Prior to the 1940s the Belgian and the Brabant were essentially interchangeable.  Following World War II, however, the Brabant in Europe was selectively bred to have thicker, heavier bodies and notably crested necks.  Meanwhile, in the USA, breeding programs sought to develop a Belgian draft with somewhat lighter, more agile bodies with taller frames.

In the 1960s a man named Albert Stankiewicz, disappointed in the changes he was seeing in the American-bred Belgians, sought to return the breed to its original pre-war heavy working draft, breeding his imported stallions to old-style domestic Belgian mares. That traditional breed line became known as the American Brabant and its preservation is championed by the American Brabant Association, which was formed in 1999.

Today in the United States, Belgians (together with American Brabant horses) out number all other heavy draft breeds combined.    

Belgian Draft Horses in Canada

The Belgian Government produced a National Stud Book in 1886 and the first imported Belgian arrived in Canada in 1902, landing in Quebec.  The Canadian Belgian Draft Breeder’s Association was incorporated in 1907, and since then, there have been over 37,000 registrations. As was the case in America, registrations hit an extreme low during the second world war, but rebounded thanks in large part to Amish and Mennonite communities that remain heavily dependent on draft breeds for farm use.

Past and Present Uses of the Belgian Draft Horse

While many historians claim its original role was that of a mighty medieval war horse, the Belgian breed as we know it today, was founded in heavy agricultural work, logging and hauling.  In exhibition environments, Belgian horses have been reported pulling weights over three times their own body weight. 

Developments to the domestic Belgian and Brabant bloodlines have led to an extraordinarily versatile horse.  While Belgian Drafts are still used as working horses, these draft horses often compete in the show ring in halter, hitch and riding classes, and are enjoyed in a vast number of recreational equine activities.

Belgian Draft Conformation and Colour

The Belgian is widely considered to be one of (if not, the) strongest and heaviest of the draft breeds.  Early Belgians imported from Europe were seen in a variety of coat colours including, bay, black, chestnut and roan.  Modern-day, North American-bred Belgians have seen a surge in sorrel-coloured horses (chestnut bodies with flaxen manes and tails).  

While domestic Belgians have been bred to be taller and slightly finer than their European counterparts, they stand slightly shorter and heavier bodied than the average Clydesdale.  Belgians measure at an average height of 16-17 hands (1.62 to 1.72 metres from the ground to their wither) and typically weigh between 2,100 and 2,300 lbs.  By comparison, the iconic Clydesdale horse can measure 18 hands and still be approximately 200 lbs lighter!

While they may not be known as the tallest of the heavy draft breeds, the world’s largest Belgian Draft horse named Big Jake, was recorded as standing 20.3 hands (2.06 metres) and weighed in at an astonishing 2,600 lbs.

Character Traits & Trainability of the Belgian Draft Horse

Due to their superb temperament, Belgian horses are gaining popularity as schooling horses and therapy horses in riding programs.  Known as gentle giants, they are quiet and docile in hand and under saddle and yet exceptionally willing to please, especially when they are confident in their understanding of the task at hand.  Belgian enthusiasts will tell you they are exceptionally intelligent and perceptive animals capable of developing strong working bonds with their human handlers.

Meet the Tally Ho Belgian Draft Horses

Tally Ho is honoured to play a small role in preserving this incredible draft breed.  We currently have two purebred Belgians, Remy & Delilah, as well as a pair of Belgian-Percheron cross geldings (Timber and Tucker) whose Percheron origins are detailed in our last horse breed blog.   

If you’d like to learn more about our beloved Belgians, or any members of our herd, you can choose to sponsor a horse or visit our website at www.tallyhotours.com to book a tour to experience these majestic horses in person. Can’t get enough of our gentle horses? Take your very own plush horse home to love. Available in 7.5″ or 12.5″ heights, “Clyde” and “Rimsky” are available in our online gift shop. They come complete with pulling harnesses and make a wonderful keepsake!  

Horse Breeds – The Suffolk Punch

Suffolk Punch Horses – Facts, Origin & History

We hope you’ve been following along on our Tally-Ho horse breeds mini-series and enjoying getting to know the unique history and characteristics of some of the worlds most beloved draft horse breeds.  So far, we’ve featured four of our five breeds: the iconic Clydesdale; the majestic Percheron; knightly Belgian Draft and the impressive Shire.  Last, but certainly not least, of our series is the very special, and comparatively rare, Suffolk Punch.

The Origin of the Suffolk Punch

Like the Shire, the Suffolk Punch (also known as the Suffolk Horse or Suffolk Sorrel) is a draft breed that is English in origin.  This first part of the name is in reference to the County of Suffolk, which is located in East Anglia.

The breed was developed in the early 16th century and the Suffolk Punch registry is the oldest English breed society.  William Camden’s Britannia, published in 1586 is said to contain the first reference to the Suffolk Punch, with a description of the eastern counties horse that leaves little question as to its identity as the recognizable breed.

An in-depth genetic study of the Suffolk Punch revealed it is closely grouped with both the European Haflinger and the British Fell and Dales ponies.  Developed in (then) isolated counties of Suffolk and Norfolk for farm work, the breed had tremendous longevity and were rarely sold, which helped to keep the bloodlines largely unchanged.

This relative isolation, however, lead to a succession challenge in the 1760s when many of the male breeding lines died off, resulting in a genetic bottleneck – a challenge that bore its head again in the late 18th century.

In the late 1700s and early 1800s, Norfolk Trotter, Norfolk Cob and Thoroughbred bloodlines were strategically introduced to the Suffolk breed as a means of addressing the genetic bottlenecks.  Additional breeds were introduced in an effort to increase the overall size and stature of the Suffolk Punch, but these efforts had negligible long-term impact on the breed, which remains much as it was prior to the introduction of crossbreeding.  

The Modern History of the Suffolk Punch

The first official exports of the Suffolks to Canada took place in 1865.  The Suffolk Horse Society of Britain published its first stud book in 1880, which saw the immediate export of Suffolks to the United States. Subsequent breeding programs saw the breed rise in numbers across North America.  By 1908, Suffolk Punch exportation from Britain, included Spain, France, Germany, Austria, Russia, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina, and various parts of Africa, amongst other countries.

With the dawn of the Second World War, the Suffolk sadly went the way of many other heavy draft breeds when increased mechanization and a shortage of both livestock and human food sources resulted in thousands of horses being sent to slaughter. 

In 1966, only nine foals were registered with the Suffolk Horse Society. A revival of the breed began in the 1960s and numbers began to rise although the breed did remain rare. Even as recently as 1998, only 80 breeding mares were accounted for in Britain and their offspring were a mere 40 annually.

Following WWII, the American Suffolk Horse Association remained inactive for approximately 15 years and only became reinvigorated in 1961 with a resurgence of the draft horse market.  To further support the breed’s revival and prevent inbreeding, the American registry permitted selective crossbreeding with the Belgian Draft in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  

Similarities between Belgian breed conformation and colouring, helped preserve the integrity of the Suffolk Punch breed.  Furthermore, only fillies from these crosses were eligible for registration with the US association.  Despite best efforts of their American counterpart, Suffolks with this new American bloodline, were not allowed to be registered with the British Association. 

Although the Suffolk Punch population has come a long way since their lowest point in the early 1960s, both the Rare Breeds Survival Trust of the UK and the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy list the Suffolk Punch as “critical”.  Between 2001 and 2006 history was made when, for the first time, American breeding stock (one stallion and three mares) were exported to the United Kingdom.

As of 2011, there were reported to be less than 1,350 Suffolks registered in the UK and North America combined, approximately 1,200 of those from Canada and the USA under the auspices of the American Suffolk Horse Association.  The Suffolk Punch is still considered the rarest of draft breeds in the United Kingdom. 

Past and Present Uses of the Suffolk Punch

The Suffolk Punch is one of the few heavy draft breeds that was purposefully bred for farm work.  While they were utilized to pull heavy artillery during wartimes, their foundation was in agriculture.  Suffolks are still used today in commercial forestry operations and for other draught work and have also found a place in tourism and pleasure driving.  They have been popular for crossbreeding to produce sport horses for use in the Hunter and Show Jumping rings, passing on their dense bone structure, physical strength, expressive gait and exceptional hoof conformation.

Suffolk Punch Horse Conformation and Colour

Despite selective crossbreeding throughout the ages, the Suffolk Punch has remained remarkably (and unusually) close in phenotype to its founding stock.  They typically stand between 16.1 and 17.2 hands high (or 1.64 to 1.75 metres) tall and weigh, on average, between 2,000 to 2,200 lbs.

Unlike other draft breeds that vary in coat colour, Suffolks are always chestnut (or sorrel), many with flaxen manes and tails.  Equestrian author, Marguerite Henry has been quoted as saying “His colour is bright chestnut – like a tongue of fire against black field furrows, against green corn blades, against yellow wheat, against blue horizons.  Never is he any other colour.”  Surprisingly, however, Suffolks feature a variety of shades within the chestnut pallet, ranging from dark liver chestnut, dull dark, red, bright red and light sorrel.  White markings are rare and are typically limited to the face or present as a lightening on the lower, unfeathered legs.

As is a hallmark with many draft breeds, the Suffolk Punch has a powerful arching neck, well-muscled sloping shoulders, a short and wide back, and a wide and muscular croup.  Legs are shorter than some with dense bone and broad joints.

In the past, the Suffolk was notoriously criticized for poor hoof quality, having feet that were thought to be too small to support the massive weight and structure of its body.  The introduction of major shows and registries in which hoof structure and conformation was graded – a uniquely innovative practice among horse breeds – resulted in such positive impact that the Suffolk Punch is now considered to have some of the most desired hoof conformation, relative to their bodies, out of many heavy and light breeds.

Character Traits & Trainability of the Suffolk Punch Horse

While there is some variation between draft breeds and there will certainly always be exceptions from horse to horse, Suffolks live up to the calm, intelligent and hard-working characteristics shared by most heavy drafts.

One added benefit to the Suffolk Punch breed, is that they tend to mature earlier and be long-lived, and are also known as “easy keepers”, that typically require less feed than other horses of similar type and stature.  

Tally-Ho and the Suffolk Punch Horse

While Tally-Ho doesn’t have any Suffolk Punch horses currently in rotation for our carriage tours, we’ve been privileged to work with this special breed of draft horse over the years.  Delilah is our happily retired Suffolk Punch who is currently living the dream with her other draft horse friends on the farm. We hope to one day reintegrate another Suffolk Punch into our herd again.

If you’d like to learn more about members of our herd, you can choose to sponsor a horse or visit our tours page to book a tour to experience these majestic horses in person. Can’t get enough of our gentle horses? Take your very own plush horse home to love. Available in 7.5″ or 12.5″ heights, “Clyde” and “Rimsky” are available in our online gift shop. They come complete with pulling harnesses and make a wonderful keepsake!  

Tips for a Memorable Babymoon in Victoria, BC

For a Romantic Getaway or Fun Trip with Friends, Tally-Ho Can Help Create an Unforgettable Babymoon

Whether you’re expecting your first child or adding another kiddo to your family, expecting a new baby is an exciting time! But, as most parents will tell you, life changes drastically – in ways big and small – when a new little life enters the picture. More and more, expectant parents are taking time before the birth to enjoy a babymoon.  

At Tally-Ho, our priority is caring for our wonderful herd of draft horses and creating memorable carriage tours for our guests. Many of our guests are celebrating important occasions and milestones like graduations, birthdays, weddings, engagements and of course, the newly popular babymoon. 

Victoria has so much to offer and we’re very proud to live and operate in one of the most beautiful and vibrant cities in the world. Here are a few of our recommendations for a restful, rejuvenating and uniquely Victoria babymoon vacation– carriage tours included, of course! 

Enjoy a High Tea and Spa Experience Combined with a Tally-Ho Carriage Ride

Add opulence to your Babymoon with a hotel, high-tea & spa experience at the historic Fairmont Empress. Victoria has some of the highest-rated, luxurious hotels you’ll find on Vancouver Island.  Perhaps the most iconic of these is the Fairmont Empress.  

This chateau-style building was opened in January of 1908 and is considered one of Canada’s grand railway hotels. The Empress underwent two main expansions, the first from 1910-1912 and the second in 1928 and it was officially designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1981.  

In more recent times, this grand hotel underwent a significant restoration costing in excess of $60M.  Restoration of the exterior involved the removal of ancient ivy vines which had taken over nearly the entire frontal façade of the hotel, obscuring the impressive structure with its elements of French Renaissance architecture.  

Today, the Fairmont Empress boasts 464 well-appointed, air-conditioned guest rooms and suites. All rooms and suites have been tastefully designed to honour the distinction and opulence of its history while providing the best of modern luxury and amenities, including a full fitness centre with indoor heated pool. With spectacular views of Victoria’s Inner Harbour, equally iconic Parliament Buildings and the surrounding City Gardens, nearly every room has a beautiful view as well.

Recognized by Conde Nast as a Top Resort Spa in Canada and Top 100 Spas of the Americas, the award-winning Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Empress is Victoria’s luxury spa and features signature, West Coast inspired treatments. Feel like royalty with the Empress for the Day package, or enjoy a soothing simple Mom to Be prenatal massage designed to soothe swelling and achy muscles.

After you’re blissfully rejuvenated from your spa treatment, we highly recommend indulging in one of the Hotel’s most noted culinary experiences – High Tea. Seasonally, High Tea at the Empress can be served on their well-appointed terraces with sweeping views of the harbour and in cooler months tea is served in their grand and picturesque Lobby with its turn-of-the-century elegance.  

Delicately tiered platters and royal china serve up a delectable selection of flakey, freshly baked scones with house-made strawberry preserves and cream, fluffy pastries with honey from the hotel’s hives, a variety of exquisite finger sandwiches and an exclusive selection of premium loose-leaf teas gifted to the Empress by Her Majesty in 1939.  

Indulge in a Little Retail Therapy on Your Babymoon in Victoria’s Picturesque Downtown

A Babymoon is not solely reserved for couples.  Many mothers-to-be are enjoying mother/daughter quality time or one last hurrah (at least for a while!) with their closest group of girlfriends.  If you are planning a girls-only Babymoon in Victoria, we would be remiss if we didn’t tempt you with a little retail therapy. 

From artisan jewelers to high-fashion clothiers, from West Coast crafts to First Nations artwork and from novelty gifts to practical mum-and-baby goods, Victoria’s downtown core has some of the most robust and satisfying shopping in the region – all of it easily walkable and charmingly picturesque. You’re sure to find the perfect Babymoon souvenir here.

Victoria’s Culinary Scene Will Satisfy all of Your Cravings

Some pretty specific food cravings can happen during pregnancy. Victoria’s Downtown offers an almost overwhelmingly wide variety of restaurants and eateries for adventurous and discriminating foodies alike. Go ahead and indulge!

From West Coast fresh-caught seafood restaurants to food markets or even just one-of-a-kind food trucks, you’ll be spoiled with the selection on offer.  Looking for gluten-free or vegan? No problem!  Many restaurants in Victoria offer delicious menu selections for those with special dietary requirements and there are a number of great vegetarian and vegan eateries that are favourites to many Victorian locals. Whether you want breakfast, brunch, or a quick bite late at night, our guides can help you discover the perfect spot to dine.

Get off Your Weary Feet and Explore the City by Horse and Carriage on your Babymoon

We’ve arguably saved the best for last (not that we’re biased) with our memorable Tally-Ho carriage tours! Continuing with the historic city theme, you’ll be whisked back in time with a sightseeing experience like no other.  Step aboard one of our cozy, old-style carriages, rest your weary, perhaps puffy (?) feet and slow things down with one of our popular city tours. It’s a quintessential centerpiece to your weekend getaway. Come in the spring and take in the award-winning gardens and cherry blossoms in full bloom.

Wind your way through Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park and gardens, breathe in the salt air on our ocean-site routes or capture the hustle and bustle of the city sites with one of our Inner Harbour tours.  Whether you select one of our set tours or have us create a special custom Babymoon Victoria package, there’s nothing quite like sightseeing to the sound of horse hooves.

Our professional, uniformed guides are passionate about their work and keep the horses’ and your safety as a top priority.  Well-versed in the history and significance of many of Victoria’s landmarks, our guides can enthrall you with stories or, if you’d prefer, leave you to enjoy the sights on your own terms. Our elegant carriages feature convertible roofs and warm faux-fur blankets to keep you cozy in all weather and they can seat up to six guests. 

We’re happy to help you make the most of your Babymoon in Victoria BC by providing contact details for any hotel, spa or restaurant – just tell us the experience you’d like to have. Contact us by phone or email to let us know what you have in mind for your Babymoon.

Horse Breeds – The Percheron

Percheron Horses – Facts, Origin & History

In November we introduced a blog mini-series featuring the five draft horse breeds that make up the Tally-Ho working herd.  Our first article featured the iconic Clydesdale horse, explaining that the origin, history and many wonderful traits of the Clydesdale goes far beyond its association with the popular branding by Budweiser. In this entry we’ll dive into the backstory of the majestic Percheron horse, of which we have two full bred and two half Percheron half Belgian bred (another draft breed we’ll learn about in the coming weeks). 

A History of the Percheron Horse

Early ancestors of the breed were first noted in Western France, more specifically, the Huisne River Valley in the former Perche Province from which the Percheron claims its name. 

While the exact origin of the Percheron horse is a matter of some mystery and much debate, one theory speculates that foundation stock came from a small number of mares captured by Clovis the First King of the Franks from the Bretons sometime after 496 AD.  Another theory suggests that some of the first Percheron foals were sired by Andalusian cavalry stallions brought over from Spain by the Moors, then confiscated by warriors of Perche upon the Moors’ defeat at the Battle Poitiers (Battle of Tours) in 732 AD.  A third theory is that the Percheron and the Boulonnais breed— brought to Brittany as reinforcements for Caesar’s legions— are closely related.  

Between 1789 and the early 1800s, the Percheron was in danger of extinction due to a suppression of horse breeding during the French Revolution. It was shortly after this time, in the late 18th century and early 19th century, that two gray Arabian stallions from Le Pin were said to have been introduced to the bloodline. This is contested by modern day breed historians who maintain there were still enough Percheron breeding stock without the introduction of additional breeds. Today, all Percherons are able to trace their ancestry back to a 1823 foundation stallion named Jean le Blanc, who’s progeny saw the breed become larger.

In 1893 the first Percheron stud book was created in France, which was followed by the first exported Percherons to the United States.  The first exportations of Percherons were less than successful with several animals perishing during or shortly after the lengthy and turbulent journey across the seas.  However, one stallion aptly named Diligence was credited with siring nearly 400 foals in the USA.  

The Modern History of the Percheron

Over the next 75 years, the export of Percherons to the United States saw dramatic fluctuations in numbers until 1906 when 13,000 arrived in the USA in the one year alone.  By the 1930s, Percherons accounted for over 70 percent of the purebred draft horses in the United States, with a 1930 census of horses accounting for over 33,000 Percherons in the country.  

The story went similarly in Canada.  By 1930, the Percheron was so popular that a Canadian census showed that there were three times as many Percherons registered as there were of the other four main draft breeds combined.  

But the Percheron boom was not long lived.  The end of World War II and a subsequent increase in mechanization led to a dramatic decline in the population.  By 1954 only 85 Percherons were registered in the US, a record low, and the subsequent two decades the breed did not fare much better.

Percheron Horses in Canada

In Canada, however, the Percheron continued to be a mainstay in Amish communities.  At one point, the highest concentration of Percherons in the world was said to be in Alberta, in a 50 mile radius of Calgary, and was referred to as the “Percheron Mafia”.  Pete Thumond of Sage Hill Percherons is quoted as saying that 90 percent of Percherons in the US today can be traced back to Alberta stock.

In the 1970s Canadian’s Bill and Opal Lucas imported the last known French Percheron to Canada.  The impressive grey stallion named Farman, was the first import from France since the 1930s and would become pivotal to domestic bloodlines.  Another prominent Canadian Percheron stallion was Justamere Showtime out of Saskatchewan.  By 1983, approximately 300 of the 512 registered Percherons could trace their lineage back to Justamere Showtime.   

The late 90s and early 2000s saw a resurgence of the Percheron breed in the United States (and Canada) with 2,500 new horses being registered with the Percheron Horse Association of America annually by 2009.  The Percheron horse is now listed as “recovering” by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. 

Past and Present Uses of the Percheron Horse

Originally bred for use as war horses, Percherons were later used for pulling large stagecoaches and, later still, for work in agriculture and for hauling heavy goods.  The Percheron is the most notable and populous of all the French draft breeds in the world today.  They have been favoured over the centuries for cross breeding to improve bloodlines in Ardennes and Vladimir Heavy Drafts (among many others) and were also crossed with Andalusian horses to create the Spanish-Norman breed.    

Percherons are still used around the world today in parades and sleigh or hay rides, and are used to pull large carriages in cities. The most extensive team of working Percherons in Europe is found at Disneyland Paris, making up 30 percent of the horses in the park.

In Canada, Percherons are still the draft horse of choice for those lucky enough to win private sustainable logging contracts.  On Prince Edward Island, Percherons are still used for the harvest of a type of seaweed called Irish Moss, navigating rocky shores and bringing approximately $1M annually to the region.

In Great Britain, the Percheron is favoured among horse breeds for advertising and publicity due to their commanding stature and presence.  They are also still actively used in forestry and agricultural work.  

Percherons are also exceptional riding horses, particularly for heavier riders and more demanding riding disciplines.  Some purebred Percherons have proven useful at show jumping, though it is more common to see Percherons crossed with Thoroughbreds and Warmbloods for the show ring.  In Australia, Thoroughbred-Percheron crosses are also used as mounted police horses. 

Percheron Conformation and Colour

Though the conformation – or physical make-up of the breed – has evolved over the years, modern breed standard describes a horse that is anywhere from 15-19 hands high (or 60 to 76 inches from the ground to the top of their wither).  Their weight ranges from 1,600 lbs in the shorter or more refined builds, to an imposing 2,400 lbs on the larger end of the scale.  

Percherons have striking, broadheads with alert and forward ears and bright, prominent eyes that communicate intelligence and spirit.  The neck is longer than some draft breeds and considerably arched, flowing into a long sloping shoulder that typically sits at a 45 degree angle to support free, forward movement and naturally expressive carriage.

A well-bred Percheron should have a deep, wide chest to accommodate a strong heart and a big lung capacity.  Other characteristics of the breed include well-defined withers, a short back, a deep girth, a longer level croup, a large and well-rounded hip and powerfully defined muscling in the lower thigh.  Percherons may appear slightly “cow hocked” in the hind end – or stand with their hocks fairly close together.  While this may not be a particularly desirable trait in, say, a dressage horse, for the Percheron it provides power and action for hauling or pulling heavy loads.  Unlike the Clydesdale with its iconic feathered lower limbs, the Percheron has very little feathering.   

They are most commonly grey or black in colour, but sorrel (or chestnut) and bay Percherons appear on occasion and are still accepted by most Percheron Registries.  

Character Traits & Trainability of the Percheron Horse

Like the Clydesdale, Percherons are referred to as “cold blooded”, which means that they tend to be very level headed and measured in their interactions with people and their environments, as opposed to other breeds that can be more flighty, reactive or “hot”.  

Those who work with Percherons will tell you that they quickly earn their handlers’ allegiance.  Extremely willing, Percherons will tackle any job set before them with power, grace and determination.  They are also a very intelligent breed that learn new tasks with ease and have a soft, yet commanding presence. 

Meet the Tally-Ho Herd of Horses

Tally-Ho is honoured to play a small role in preserving this incredible draft breed.  We currently have two purebred Percherons (Jinx and King) as well as a pair of Percheron-Belgian cross geldings (Timber and Tucker) who were formerly a logging duo.   

If you’d like to learn more about our beloved Percherons, or any members of our herd, you can choose to sponsor a horse or visit our website at www.tallyhotours.com to book a tour to experience these majestic horses in person. Can’t get enough of our gentle horses? Take your very own plush horse home to love. Available in 7.5″ or 12.5″ heights, “Clyde” and “Rimsky” are available in our online gift shop. They come complete with pulling harnesses and make a wonderful keepsake!  

Tally-Ho’s Trio of Holiday Carriage Tours

Help Raise Funds for the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation

With everything going on in the world, we could all use a little extra magic and holiday cheer.  Nothing quite captures the spirit of the Christmas season like the sound of horse hooves and jingle bells – at least in our humble opinion. Another way to capture the spirit of the holiday season is giving back to the community. It is in this very spirit that we are thrilled to offer a trio of holiday carriage rides. This years’ tours are sure to delight people of all ages while making a difference for children in need.  

Tally-Ho’s Festival of Trees Tour in Support of BC Children’s Hospital

The Festival of Trees has been a cherished community tradition in Victoria for the past 30 years. Once again, the halls of the Bay Centre will be transformed into a lush forest of beautifully decorated trees to raise funds for the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, all thanks to sponsors, local businesses, organizations and individuals like you. 

At Tally-Ho Carriage Tours, we’re passionate about bringing the magic of our horses to children of all ages and watching their eyes light up with wonder. We’re also passionate about helping to ensure that all children get to live their lives with as much joy and wonder as possible. BC Children’s is the only hospital in the province devoted exclusively to the care of children.

The Festival of Trees is a key fundraiser for BC Children’s, and we are proud to once again participate in this event with our Festival of Trees Carriage Tour Experience!  

Begin your adventure at our harbourside location in Victoria, BC where you will meet your magnificent sleigh horse and their trusted driver.  Your sleigh will be fully decorated for the holidays with garlands and soft lights. Classic holiday favourites will be playing softly in the background to really set the mood for Christmas cheer.

You’ll travel a short distance to the Festival of Trees at the Bay Centre where you’ll get to spend a full hour enjoying the many beautifully decorated trees. While this event is all about the kids, there is a little bit of friendly competition for best-tree bragging rights for the local businesses and private supporters. Everyone who has created a tree has worked hard to create awe-inspiring holiday art! 

While visiting the Festival of Trees, guests are encouraged to vote for their favorite tree, with all proceeds going towards the Centre For Mindfulness through BC Children’s Hospital. These tiny patients and their families cope with a mountain of health and psychological challenges. As a result, the Centre for Mindfulness has been developed to help treat the whole child, mind and body. 

Our horse-themed tree, (complete with photos of our herd and a stunning 3 ft Clydesdale wood-carving by master carver  Ryan Cook!) will once again be displayed at the Bay Centre.  (Psst… the Tally-Ho tree won the coveted Kids’ Choice award – and associated bragging rights – in 2019!) Please, please consider donating through the Tally-Ho Fundraising Page and help us reach our goal in support of the BC Children’s Hospital!

After your time at the Festival, your horse-drawn carriage will return to the Bay Centre to pick you up and whisk you away for a 45-50 minute tour around the holiday wonderland of Victoria’s Inner Harbor and surrounding area. Sing your favorite holiday carols as you meander through the pedestrian-only zone of Old Towne Government Street. Enjoy the sparkling holiday light displays on the boats in the harbour, the Empress Hotel, Legislative Buildings and other historic landmarks.

Tally-Ho’s One-Of-A-Kind Sleigh Rides

With our west coast climate, we can’t guarantee you’ll be “dashing through the snow”, but we can provide you with the one-horse open sleigh, complete with jingling bells and gorgeous seasonal decor.

Join us for a magical sleigh ride in our luxurious, one-of-a-kind horse-drawn sleigh. As your horse clip-clops through Victoria’s charming heritage district of James Bay, you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported back in time. 

Sink into luxurious and plush velvet seats as the magical sounds of sleigh bells and the gentle footfalls of a majestic horse create the ultimate fun holiday experience. 

Feel like singing? We fully encourage you to warm up your vocal cords and delight onlookers with renditions of your favourite Yuletide carols.

Caroling in the Country with Tally-Ho

Our 35-minute Caroling in the Country tours will take you through the Christmas light-lined streets of Saanichton.  Your Tally-Ho horse and carriage, decorated in full holiday splendour, will meet you at Fresh Cup Café where you’ll have a few moments to take some photos, squeeze in some horse snuggles (a prerequisite) and get yourself a complimentary coffee, tea or hot chocolate.

Beverage in hand, we’ll get you cozied up in the carriage – we encourage you to bring a snuggly blanket – and set off on our way.  Our route is a hidden gem of beautifully decorated houses and some of the very best holiday light displays in Victoria.  You can sit back and enjoy the sights and the jingle jangle of the sleigh bells. If you’re feeling particularly festive, we invite you to sing along to your favourite holiday songs and delight residents with some caroling!

Tally-Ho’s Caroling in the Country tours are suitable for all ages.  Carriages are all equipped with convertible roofs that will provide additional comfort in the event of wet weather. All carriages can seat four adults comfortably or groups of up to six, including children. 

Start a New Holiday Tradition with Tally-Ho!

We hope you’ll consider joining us for one – or several – of our three festive Christmas carriage tours.  Not only are our tours a magical way to share the holiday spirit with family, friends and loved-ones, but you’ll be helping to support local and raise funds for the BC Children’s Hospital. You can also help to support Tally-Ho’s horses by purchasing gifts and stocking stuffers for the horse lover in your life through our online gift shop

We’ve been providing memorable Christmas sleigh rides for a number of years now and Tally-Ho as a business goes all the way back to the Victorian era. Every year, we love to bring a bit of the old-fashioned Christmas feel to our guests. Step back into a quieter time and let your inner child back out as you ooh and ahh over the spectacular decorations all throughout our different tour routes. For more information – including dates, rates, tour details and online bookings – click the links below. 

Festival of Trees Tours

Sleigh Rides in James’ Bay

Caroling in the Country Tours  

Horse Breeds – the Clydesdale

Clydesdale Horse: Facts, Origin & History

In today’s urban landscape, few sounds can elicit the wonder and excitement of the clip-clopping of a horse’s feet down a city street.  If you live or work in downtown Victoria or have had the privilege to visit our historic waterfront city, you’ve undoubtedly heard this sound and seen some of the colourful horses from the Tally-Ho herd.  

Aside from their different coat colours and markings, you might think they are the same kind of horse. However, there are several unique draft breeds across the world that range in size from light to heavy types.  

Over our next series of blog posts, we’re going to take you through the unique history and features of five of these breeds – including the Clydesdale, Percheron, Belgian, Shire and Suffolk Punch – that make up the Tally-Ho herd. First up, is the iconic Clydesdale horse. 

A Brief History of the Clydesdale Horse

These days, Clydesdale horses are often synonymous with the Budweiser brand.  We’ve all seen, and likely gushed over the heartwarming Budweiser Clydesdale ads that debut each year as part of a popular sporting event in the USA, which for trademark purposes, shall remain unnamed in this blog.  But the Clydesdale horse has a rich and lengthy history that extends much further back than the brewery’s ownership, which began in the 1930s at the end of prohibition.  

The Clydesdale is a mid-18th century Scottish breed named after the valley of the River Clyde.  Brabant and Belgian Drafts, and later Flemish Stallions, were imported and bred to local mares resulting in a new crop of foals that were significantly larger than traditional local stock.  A black unnamed stallion imported from England by John Paterson of Lochlyloch was particularly pivotal to the breed and is said to be the sire of an 1806 born filly known as “Lampits Mare”.  Lampits Mare and her progeny, Glancer (also known as Thompson’s Black Horse) can be traced in the ancestry of the vast majority of Clydesdales still living today.

For years the Clydesdale horse could only be found throughout Scotland and into Northern England.  However, following the formation of the American Clydesdale Association (later renamed the Clydesdale Breeders of the USA), the breed began to earn favour in the United States and Canada.  In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, large numbers of Clydesdale horses were exported from Scotland, with a recorded 1,617 breeding stallions leaving the country in a single year.  Over the course of approximately 60 years, export certificates were issued for over 20,000 Clydesdales, which made their way to North America, but also South America, Russia, and continental Europe as well.  Clydesdale horses also became popular in New Zealand and Australia and have even been called “the breed that built Australia”.

During the First World War, thousands of Clydesdale horses were conscripted, as was the case (though in more limited numbers) for the Second World War.  Between the two wars and in subsequent years, Clydesdale horses began to decline in numbers as farms and other traditionally horse-powered industries became more mechanized.  By 1975 the Rare Breeds Survival Trust considered them “vulnerable to extinction”.  In the years since, this iconic breed’s status has fluctuated to “at risk” and recently back to “vulnerable”, with less than 5,000 Clydesdale horses currently worldwide.  

Past and Present Uses of the Clydesdale Horse

Like many draft horses, Clydesdales were originally used for agricultural work and, in their home county of Lanarkshire in Scotland, they were specifically bred to haul coal from local mines.  As the breed became popular in regions across the world, they were also used for logging and driving, and many are still used as heavy working horses to this day.

In more recent times, Clydesdales have become riding horses and even found their way into the show ring.  With carriage services, and for festivals, they have become a favourite partly because of their show-stopping looks and white, feathery legs.

Clydesdales are also used by the British Household Cavalry as drum horses, leading parades on ceremonial and state occasions, carrying the Musical Ride Officer and two silver drums weighing 123 lbs each.    

Clydesdale Conformation and Colour

In general, draft horses (spelled ‘draught’ in the UK and derived from the Old English word dragan, meaning “to draw or haul”) are easily identifiable by their imposing stature and strong, muscular builds, and the modern-day Clydesdale is no different.  But the conformation – or physicality – of the breed has evolved significantly throughout history.  

In earlier years, the Clydesdale was a compact horse that was smaller than several other draft breeds including Belgians, Shires and Percherons.  In later years, selective breeding resulted in larger horses that were believed to be even better suited for heavy hauling and would appear more impressive in shows and parades.  Today’s Clydesdales are rarely under 17 hands high (or 68 inches from the ground to the top of their wither) and can weigh in excess of 2,000 lbs.

Typical Clydesdales have either straight or slightly convex facial profiles with broad muzzles and foreheads.  They tend to have a thick and arched medium-set neck, higher wither profiles and big sloped shoulders.  Clydesdales are often noted to have an expressive, high-stepping gait. 

As previously mentioned, Clydesdales are among the most famous of draft breeds due to their association with Budweiser Brewery.  Budweiser’s breeding program has influenced the look of the breed in North America to such a degree that many people believe Clydesdales only come in Bay colour (reddish-brown body with black mane and tail) and white markings.  However, the breed can also come in black, grey and chestnut and can sometimes come with subtle roaning (white flecked coat variation) or a more overt Sabino pattern, which is said to be a genetic colour mutation.  While breed associations support all these colours, Bay and Black Clydesdales with four white legs and facial markings are the most sought after and therefore, most plentiful.

Character Traits & Trainability of the Clydesdale Horse

Clydesdales – and most heavy draft breeds – are often referred to as “coldblooded”.   Unlike the reptilian association to the term, in the equestrian world this means that they tend to be very calm, collected and gentle in their interactions with people and their environments.  By contrast, high-flight, high-spirited thoroughbreds that have been bred for racing, would be considered “hotblooded”.

However, being coldblooded doesn’t also mean that the Clydesdale is lacking in spirit or personality.  They are known to be highly intelligent and keen to work (sometimes bordering on competitive), and they are also known to exert a not-too-subtle degree of stubbornness if they feel their trainer or handler is not setting clear and fair expectations.  Some avid Clydesdale enthusiasts will go as far as to say they have big expressive personalities that are matched only by their physicality.  

While there may be individual exceptions, the breed is very level-headed and adaptable to new environments and activities.  This, coupled with their aforementioned intelligence and eagerness to work, make them a highly trainable breed.  

Meet the Tally-Ho Clydesdale Horses

In earlier years, Scotland alone was said to have approximately 140,000 Clydesdales in towns, cities and working farms.  By 1975, their numbers in the UK had plummeted to between 500-900 animals and the breed was listed as “vulnerable to extinction”.  Thankfully, due to export to other countries, including Canada, numbers have been very slowly climbing.  However, with only 5,000 currently living worldwide, Clydesdales are still considered a threatened breed.  

Tally-Ho is honoured to play a small role in preserving this incredible draft breed.  We currently have 6 incredible Clydesdales (Clay, Jerry, Kashe, Major, Sarge and Spot) who are members of our working carriage team and serve as tremendous educational ambassadors for their breed.  If you’d like to learn more about our beloved Clydesdales, or any members of our herd, you can visit our website to sponsor a horse or book a tour to experience these majestic horses in person.

The History of the Horse and Buggy

A Timeline of the Horse and Carriage

At Tally-Ho Carriage Tours, we love being able to provide the experience of an era gone by, when life moved slower and horses were central to everything people did. We offer a step back in time while showing our guests the unique history right here in Victoria, BC.

From the homely, covered wagon to the ornate Coronation Coach, the horse-drawn carriage has a long and storied past. This mode of transportation is still used today in many Mennonite and Amish communities, has seen a resurgence in the farming community and of course, is always a fun and unique tourism experience.

The Very First Horse and Buggy

The domestication of horses began over 6,000 years ago, when man started to work alongside horses to accomplish farming activities; trusted in the horse’s courage and power to carry him through battle; and drew on the horse’s stamina to provide transportation. In return, the horse found himself no longer searching for food, shelter and care. 

The horse and buggy we know today has a fascinating history dating all the way back to ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest form of a buggy was the chariot which is thought to be the first wheeled transportation, and was designed for use in battle. It was rudimentary, with little more than a floor, short sides and a basic seat (basin) for two people to sit in. It was pulled by no more than two horses and rolled along on two wheels. Most commonly it required its passengers to stand through the bumps and was viewed as a way to get around quickly during Egyptian warfare.

Tally Ho Carriage Tours circa 1905

The Horse and Buggy Throughout the Ages

As the popularity of horses grew the breadth and depth of their service also grew, and with each new service, man created new equipment. An array of buggies were built to suit the intended purpose, including speed, stability, long-distance travels, transportation of goods, etc.; and finishes ranged from rough cut boards to ornate pieces of art. 

Owning a nice buggy was often for the upper-class as it went along with the need to upkeep one or more horses. The wealthy typically had a carriage with four wheels and double seats; farmers made do with wagons on which to transport their goods; and poorer travellers would often go with others by stagecoach. In cities such as London, two-wheeled carriages that resembled the early Mesopotamian buggies provided taxi services.

Types of Horse-Drawn Buggies

Stagecoach – The stagecoach was a main form of public transport dating back to the 13th century, and was still widely used until the 1900s when the automobile started to become more popular. Stages could cover long distances, often carrying 20 or more passengers; and were pulled by four to eight horses. Like today’s buses, the stagecoach ran on a schedule with specified stops. At each stop or “stage”, horses were switched out for a fresh team. 

Conestoga Wagon – Introduced to North America by German immigrants in the early 1700s, the Conestoga Wagon was used until the late 1800s to transport goods across rough terrain. It was built to haul major loads (up to 12,000 pounds) and was pulled by up to eight horses, or a dozen oxen, which would travel up to 24 kilometres per day. The seams of the wagon were tarred to enable it to travel through rivers, and it was covered by stretched canvas. The teamster would walk beside the wagon as it was an extremely rough ride and many men could not withstand it for long.

Part of the reason we drive on the right side of the road here in Canada is thanks to the Conestoga wagon.

Buckboard Wagon – Designed in America in the early 19th century, the Buckboard was a basic wagon often used by farmers. It differed from a carriage in that the body of the vehicle had no suspension; instead it included leaf springs under the driver’s seat to help provide some shock absorption. It was so named for the front boards that were used as a footrest by the driver to help stabilize the bumpy ride, and as an added layer of protection from bucking horses’ hooves.

Barouche (or Calèche) Carriage – Of German design, the Barouche was introduced to England in the 1760s. It is a lightweight, four-wheeled, open carriage, where the passengers sit vis-à-vis (face to face). As a fancier carriage, there was a hood over the back which could be closed during inclement weather. They were originally pulled by four or more horses and were largely used by the wealthy.

The Barouche carriage has a special place in history as it was the type of carriage that Abraham Lincoln rode in on the night he was assassinated. 

Hansom Cab – One of the most popular forms of carriage was the Hansom – named after the designer Joseph Hansom, who patented this type of carriage in 1834 in England. The Hansom Cab was the predecessor to today’s taxis. It was a two-wheeled, two-seater that was light and agile, and only required one horse to pull it; the driver sat behind the cab. In its heyday, there were over 7,500 cabs operating in London alone.

Coronation Coach – Of course, the most gilded and ornamental coaches were nicer to view than they were to actually ride in. The Coronation Coach in Britain was built in 1762, weighs four tons and is covered in gold leaf. It’s so heavy that it requires eight horses and can still only be pulled at a walking pace. According to King William IV (who was a former Naval officer), riding in the Coronation Coach was like being “tossed in a rough sea.”

When Did the Horse and Buggy Era Decline?

Most experts believe the horse and buggy days started to fade out around 1910 when the horse and buggy was replaced by the automobile. Once the railway and personal automobile became readily available to the middle class, the horse and buggy fell out of favour as a mode of transport. Because the automobile could travel further distances and iron steam engine trains could haul many more travellers and cargo, there was much more freedom of mobility. Rather than being dependent on the horse, families could travel at a moment’s notice, without needing to stop to switch out teams.

Despite the decline in travel via horse-drawn buggy, the social nature of horses has seen them remain a constant companion to man.

4 horse hitch circa 1951

Get to Know Our Team of Working Horses

At Tally-Ho, we rely on our team of gorgeous Percheron, Belgian, Clydesdale and Shire horses to carry our guests throughout old towne Victoria, quaint country roads, or along custom-created routes for weddings and other special occasions. These breeds are known as draft horses and they are naturally able to pull Tally-Ho’s vis-a-vis carriages with ease, using only 20 percent of their actual capacity. They live just 25 minutes from downtown Victoria at Hidden Acres Farm where they live happily with their caregivers and other four-legged family members, including Tally-Ho’s retired horses.

The horse and buggy provide a truly special and intimate experience for any occasion. Tally-Ho Carriage Tours is Victoria’s original public transportation company, with services starting in the Gold Rush era of the 1850s, making this iconic company the longest-running, historical attraction in the city. It is recognized for its commitment to the ethical treatment and care of the magnificent, world-renowned draft horses. Allow their professional, fun-loving guides to delight you with the surrounding history, local folklore, and exclusive insights into their horses and operation. 

Now you can book your historic tour through the streets of downtown Victoria; a relaxing ride through the country on the Sea Cider Picnic Experience; an up-close experience with the horses on a Farm Tour; or seasonal offering such as the Haunted Halloween Tour, Caroling in the Country, or the Valentine’s Day Ho & Throw. Reservations are recommended and can be made online or by phone at (250) 514- 9257, or email at tallyho@tallyhotours.com. Tally-Ho! Uniquely Charming. Famously Fun.

Why Do Horses Wear Shoes? And Other Strange Horse Facts

Learn all About Horses and What Makes Them So Unique

Have you heard of the expression “no hoof, no horse”?

Horses hooves are a key element to their overall health and lifespan. They are made of keratin, which is the same protein as human hair and fingernails. Horses also have a spongy pad inside each hoof called the “frog” which helps with circulation and shock absorption.

As each foot must be able to individually bear the full weight of the horse, hoof health is extremely important. Professional farriers (horse shoers) are experts in hand-forging steel shoes for horses that provide additional support to muscles and bones, and balance the horses body. 

At Tally-Ho Carriage Tours our Certified Journeyman Farrier customizes a new shoe for each of the horses’ hooves every 5 to 7 weeks.

10 Quick Facts About Horses

  1. The tallest horse recorded in the Guinness World Records book (2011) was a Belgian gelding named Big Jake.  He stood 20 hands 2.75 in (210.19 cm, 82.75 in) and lived at Smokey Hollow Farm in Poynette, Wisconsin, USA.
  2. Horses produce approximately 10 gallons of saliva a day. Yuck!
  3. The record of “longest jump over water by a horse” was done by “Something” who jumped 27 feet, 6 ¾ inches in 1975 Johannesburg, South Africa. Yes, that was actually the horse’s name.
  4. Horses with pink skin can get sunburned, however horses with white or dark skin typically don’t. At Tally-Ho we apply sunscreen in the summer to the soft pink noses of our Clydesdales.
  5. When foals are born, their hooves are covered in a soft tissue to protect the mother’s birth canal and uterus. The most notable nickname for this protective covering is “fairy slippers”.
  6. Horses are very smart animals. They are beyond proficient at learning, and can solve advanced spatial or social cognitive challenges. 
  7. The long, silky hairs that cover the lower half of draft horses’ legs are called feathers. Clydesdales and Shires have the heaviest feathering.
  8. Horses are measured in “hands”, or four–inch increments, a measurement that originated in ancient Egypt. For example, a horse that measures 58 inches from the ground up to the top of the withers is 14.2 hands high (hh). Any horse shorter than 14.2 hh (58 inches) is considered a pony, and any horse shorter than 8.2 hh (34 inches) is a miniature horse.
  9. Kazakh horse herders will milk the mares and ferment the milk to make “koumiss”, a mildly alcoholic drink.
  10. The record for “highest jump by a horse” was done by “Huaso” who jumped 8 feet, 1-¼ inches in 1949 Vina del Mar, Chile.

Horse History

About 50 million years ago, the original “horse” may have looked like a small goat, or deer: This creature was called “Hyracotherium”, which is also known as the “eohippus”, which translates to “The Dawn Horse”. 

Horses went extinct in North America approximately 8,000-10,000 years ago, but in the early 1500’s European settlers reintroduced them. In fact, horses that would be regarded as “wild” aren’t wild at all. They’re actually feral horses whose ancestors escaped captivity. The only true “wild” horses preside in Mongolia and they’re called “Przewalski’s horse” (pronounced pshuh-vahl-skeez). Now that’s a mouthful!

We Are Family

While it’s common knowledge that zebras, asses (wild donkeys), and donkeys are all related to the horse, rhinoceroses and tapirs are the closest living relatives outside the horse family.

A Body Built to Last

The average horse has about 205 bones in their body, which makes that 1 less than a human. Horses can live to be more than 30 years old, and the longest living horse was recorded in the 19th century. His name was “Old Billy” and he lived to the ripe old age of 62 years. You can actually estimate the age of a horse by its teeth, so if a horse is looking long in the tooth, you know they’re getting old!

Are Horses Colour Blind?

Horses have bigger eyes than any other land mammal. They were thought to be colorblind, but their monocular and binocular vision can see yellows and greens better than purples and violets. Because their eyes are on the side of their heads, they are capable of seeing nearly 360 degrees (except for the small blind spots in the front and back of them). Although they can see better at night than a human, it takes them much longer to adjust their pupils.

Horses Can Hear You Really Well

While a human has 3 muscles in their ears, horses have a whopping 10! This allows them to rotate each ear individually 180 degrees. Although horses have similar hearing to humans, they can hear a wider range of frequencies than we do. 

Did You Know Horses Can’t Throw Up? 

They aren’t able to burp or even breathe through their mouths due to the strong muscles and ligaments around their neck. They are only able to breathe through their nostrils. It’s a good thing they have such strong necks as they have no collarbone, and their head consists of about 5% of their entire body weight.

What Do Horses Eat?

Horses are herbivores, and the average 1,000-1,800 lb horse needs a total of about 20lbs of food a day. They prefer sweet flavors, and avoid bitter or sour tasting foods. Our 2,000 lb draft horses at Tally Ho eat about 50 lbs of food per day, consisting of a specially formulated haylage crop, plus supplementary grains (as recommended by a feed specialist); and drink over 50 gallons of water. Horses have the smallest stomach relative to their body size compared to any other domesticated animal. That means they require small, frequent meals throughout the day for optimal digestion and health.

Let’s Get Social

Horses are extremely social animals, and they will get lonely without companionship. They will also mourn the passing of a friend! Wild horses gather in groups of 3-20 animals, and without human training they adhere to a strict social structure. Typically, a mare (female horse) will decide where the herd moves while one or two stallions (male horses) will stay with the herd. Fillies (young female horses) and other mares will stay with the herd, while colts (young male horses) are typically cast out at 2 years of age by the stallion. Don’t worry, the colt will go find his own filly! 

The Tally-Ho horses are kept in herds of up to 10 horses per field (or paddock) to enable them to exercise their natural social habits.

Is That Horse Laughing?

Horses use their ears, eyes and nostrils to communicate. They use facial expressions, and vocalizations, which are called “whinnying” and “neighing” to communicate as well. Have you ever seen a horse look like it’s laughing? While that may look like it, they’re actually engaging in a special nose-enhancing technique called “flehman” to determine whether or not a smell is good or bad. So they probably didn’t think your joke was that funny….

Horse and Equestrian Culture Today

With approximately 400 breeds, and over 60 million horses around the world today, what are they all up to?

Most domesticated horses are still used to ride, do farm work, or ranch work. The horses mainly used for farm work are known as draft horses. These are a special breed that thrive on hard work and have no problem pulling a carriage or plow.  At Tally Ho, we have a very special bond with our herd of 16 wonderful draft horses. 

Some horse breeds are still bred for racing, and others compete in rodeos or horse shows. Some are specially trained for dancing or acrobatics. In many places around the world, horses are still used for ceremonies and historical re-enactments.horses have moustaches

Some horses are simply kept as pets, for companionship, or used for equestrian rehabilitation and therapeutic purposes. “Equine assisted therapy” is a growing field where horses help people with a wide variety of mental issues. These majestic creatures can help build trust, respect, compassion, communication, and self-confidence. 

One More Quick Fact:  Some horses have moustaches! All of our Clydesdales have excellent moustaches, with half brothers Jerry and Clay sporting the best ones. 

Come enjoy a carriage ride in Victoria and we’ll be happy to tell you more about the history, care and passion that drives Tally Ho Carriage Tours. You’ll never look at horses the same way again once you meet our gentle giants! For more information or to book a tour, please contact us by email or by phone.