Horse Brasses: How to Identify Them and What They Mean

The History and Present Use of Horse Brasses

If you have ever watched a parade of horses, you’ve likely seen horse brasses on the leather straps that attach the horses to the carriage they are pulling.

Brasses are most commonly seen in use on draft and cart horses. 

A Brief History of Horse Brasses

Unless you know a thing or two about horse tack, chances are you haven’t given much thought to them serving any purpose beyond making the horse look pretty. 

Decking horses out with brasses is a practice that’s been around since before the Romans, although the metal used then was not actually brass but rather bronze. It is thought that horse brasses in pre-Roman times were amulets used to ward off evil spirits. While this may have been true, horse brasses on leather straps were more widely used as status symbols for the wealthy.

The development and use of brass in horse tack did not occur until the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1st (1559-1603) in England. Even with the introduction of brass, a brass-like alloy of copper and zinc known as “latten” was commonly used until at least 1830. 

The English town of Walsall, already established as a prominent place for the manufacture of horse tack from 1830 on, became a sort of landmark for the production of—and growing interest in—horse brasses.

From large producers down to solitary craftspeople, the manufacture of horse brasses grew from that point until some 2000 designs had come into existence.

These days, horse brasses can be found decorating the saddlery of working horses regardless of the social class of the horse’s owner or handler. Brasses have also been made as commemorative pieces for horse clubs, corporations or event coordinators and are often used as decorations in pubs and restaurants. 

As jewellery, horse brasses have even crossed the species barrier to become a popular motif for necklaces and earrings. 

To this day, all additional uses aside, brasses are still used in horse finery.

Common Motifs on Horse Brasses

Although there are over 2,000 horse brass designs in existence, there are some designs and motifs that are commonly found, such as: 

  • The crescent moon was considered to be lucky by the ancient Greeks and Romans.
  • Apollo’s lyre is a motif that comes from Greek mythology.
  • Trees and barnyard animal motifs were popular with farmers.
  • Family crests and heraldic motifs were used by the titled gentry.
  • Trade-related motifs, such as brewery barrels, were used by people associated with those trades.
  • Hearts, moons, stars and so on have Romany origins.

Manufacturing Methods for Horse Brasses

There were two traditional ways of manufacturing horse brasses: casting and stamping.

The casting method is the oldest way of manufacturing these horse decorations. The patterns were first created in lead, which was then pressed into tightly packed sand-filled boxes, with up to 10 to a box. Small channels were made in the sand, connecting each pattern indentation so that molten metal could pass from one indentation to the next. After the metal cooled, the patterns would be separated from each other and then sanded and polished smooth. This finishing process used to be done by hand, but it is now done with machinery.

The stamping method came along around 1880. It involved using a fly press to stamp a pattern onto sheets of metal, one punch at a time. In later years, machines were developed that could stamp out an entire design at one time. 

After WWI, the demand for heavy horse harness furnishings died down considerably, and the stamping method of production suffered as a result. It was through the work of small-time manufacturers specializing in casting that horse brasses lived on and eventually enjoyed a renewed interest. 

Horse Brass Use Today

Where horse brasses used to be status symbols for the wealthy and then tack furnishings for draft and carriage horses, they are now largely used in parades or other events where a horse’s finery is expected to be displayed. For example, a carriage driver that has been hired for a wedding may deck their horses out in brasses to fit the elegance of the occasion. 

In addition to their traditional use on horses, brasses are also used in several other ways, including:

  • As decorations in homes, pubs, country clubs, restaurants and many other social spots. 
  • As jewellery.
  • As commemorative art for important events, such as royal coronations.
  • As advertising.
  • As souvenirs for places and social events.

While horse brasses are not among the most financially valuable collector’s items, they do enjoy immense popularity. In this way, they have a kind of value that money simply cannot buy. Theirs is the value of history, culture and charm.

Are Horse Brasses Lucky?

Things that are considered to bring good luck are generally items that are steeped in history and superstition, such as the horseshoe, the lucky rabbit’s foot, or the 4-leaf clover.

  • In the case of the horseshoe, hanging a horseshoe—open end up—over a doorway is said to accumulate luck for the household. 
  • As for the rabbit’s foot, the animal itself was considered to be sacred by many early civilizations, so it was thought that having a rabbit’s foot as a talisman would bring one good fortune. 
  • Finding a 4-leaf clover was such a rarity that the Irish felt the extra leaf brought good luck to those who found one or had it on their person.

The horse brass is, likewise, steeped in history and superstition. If you consider that horse brasses used to be thought of as amulets to protect a horse (and thus its handler) by warding off evil spirits, then they sit alongside the best of the best as a good luck charm. 

At Tally Ho Tours, we treat our draft horses as if they are the luckiest of good luck charms: with love and respect. 

Stop by our tour location in downtown Victoria, BC, to meet some of our horses and drivers face to face, or book one of our carriage tours to make memories that will last a lifetime. 

 

A Day in the Life of a Horse Carriage Driver

What it Takes to Drive a Horse and Carriage

Maybe you’ve passed by a horse-drawn carriage on the busy streets of downtown Victoria, BC, or maybe you’ve watched a pair of horses with a fancy Landau, carrying a newly married bride and groom

Perhaps you’ve looked at the person perched at the front of the horse carriage and wondered what it takes to become a horse and carriage driver for a company like Tally Ho Carriage Tours.

Humans and horses have been working closely together since 6,000 BCE, so it’s no surprise that we’ve developed tried and true methods to communicate with our equine friends. A big part of becoming a carriage driver is learning these communication methods and learning mutual trust.

Keep reading to find out more about the role and duties of a horse-drawn carriage driver, the breeds of horses that usually pull carriages and the types of carriages that can be pulled.

How to Become a Horse Carriage Driver

When a new carriage driver joins the team at Tally Ho, they receive rigorous training to learn gentle communication skills as well as how to look after the carriage horses while they are working.

Aside from an obvious interest and experience with horses, you will need to have the following skills to become a successful horse carriage driver:

  • Excellent communication skills. A large part of the job involves talking with the public and your passengers.
  • The ability to follow the local laws governing horse carriage driving. Each municipality will have carriage-specific laws you will need to be familiar with.
  • The ability to handle a horse that is operating in a highly stimulating environment. Busy streets require a high degree of environmental and situational awareness. You need to be able to anticipate issues and support your horse if they become uncertain.
  • The ability to provide care for the horse during and after their shift. Your horse will require grooming, feeding and watering during their work hours. Tally Ho horses work short shifts after which they return to Hidden Acres Farm to relax and recover.
  • The ability to educate and inform people. Rarely does the general public have knowledge of how a carriage company operates. Acting as an ambassador, you will be expected to pass along the history of the company, how it develops the horse-human connections, its horse care practices and its ethics, values and culture.
  • Knowledge of the local tourist highlights and traffic concerns. This kind of local knowledge will not only improve your passengers’ experience but it will also help you navigate the streets easier.
  • The ability to pass a criminal record check. Not all carriage tour companies require this but being able to pass a criminal record check will go a long way toward helping you get hired.

A Day in the Life of a Tally Ho Carriage Driver

A typical shift for a carriage driver working for Tally Ho Tours in Victoria, BC may include:

  • Starting your shift by greeting, grooming and preparing the horse(s) and carriage for the day. This will include ensuring the horses have appropriate food and water while working; ensuring they are both physically and mentally fit for their workday; and checking all carriage driving equipment is in good condition and proper working order.
  • Guiding passengers on a variety of tours ranging from short city tours around the downtown core to longer tours that take in the beauty of Beacon Hill Park. Carriage drivers learn interesting anecdotes about the areas they tour around to share with guests.
  • Sometimes our drivers are lucky enough to be part of someone’s special day such as a babymoon, engagement or wedding celebration. 
  • Throughout any tour, drivers are alert to everything going on around them and continuously communicate with the horse(s) through words and the use of the lines and bit.
  • After tours, drivers ensure the horse receives water and food, and checks on all the tack to ensure the horse remains comfortable.

Common Types of Horse-Drawn Carriages

As a horse carriage driver, you may be asked to guide your horse(s) to pull a variety of carriages ranging from small 2-person carriages to ones that hold larger groups. The most common passenger-carrying horse carriages in use are:

The Landau. The Landau is a type of 4-wheeled luxury carriage, featuring a folded roof that can be raised or lowered as needed. This type can seat up to 6 passengers, with a low shell design that allows for easy entry and for the occupants to show off their finery.

The Phaeton. The Phaeton is essentially a lighter version of the Landau. It can be pulled by one or two horses and is designed to seat 2 passengers. Featuring 4 large wheels and a lightly sprung body, this faster carriage became popular among royalty during the Regency Era.

The Buggy. The buggy is a light, 2-wheeled carriage designed to carry up to 2 passengers. It features a foldable roof that can be raised or lowered as needed and was a popular mode of transportation from the 18th to the 20th centuries. 

The Stagecoach. Commonly seen now in western and other period movies, the stagecoach provides transport for up to 6 passengers in a closed cab that protects them from the elements. Stagecoaches are typically pulled by a team of 6 horses or more because of their heavy weight.

The Hackney Coach. The Hackney Coach is one of the oldest 4-wheeled designs. It is lighter than the stagecoach, yet still able to seat up to 6 passengers. The Hackney used to function in the same way as the modern taxicab, in that it was hired to transport people from one place to another.

The Best Horse Breeds for Horse-Drawn Carriages

Many different horse breeds have been bred expressly to pull carriages over the centuries. Draft horse breeds are ideal for pulling carriages because they were all bred to pull heavy weights. 

Draft horses can easily pull a wheeled vehicle that is 6 times its weight and most carriage horses are only expending less than 20% of their energy when pulling a wagon on a tour. 

At Tally Ho, we use draft horse breeds to pull our carriages including:

Tip: Find out more about how we train and care for our horses here.

A Carriage Driving Career with Tally Ho Tours

Do you have a lifelong passion for horses that you’d like to turn into a career? Tally Ho Tours is always on the lookout for people with a passion for horses and customer service to join the team. 

We provide extensive training to help our drivers learn to drive draft horses safely as well as develop a trust-based partnership with our horses. 

If you have experience with horses and would like to expand your skills, please email us your resume and a brief synopsis of your equine skills.

All About Tack: Why Horses Wear What They Do

What Tack is Used When Riding Vs Pulling a Carriage?

Whenever you see a horse with a rider or pulling a carriage, you will notice that it is wearing various straps and harnesses, known collectively as tack. Horse tack is used to help the rider or driver communicate with the horse and ensures both are safe and comfortable.

Depending on the horse’s task, different tack may be required. In this article, we’re going to focus on the type of tack needed when riding a horse and pulling a carriage.

What is Tack And What Is It For?

Horse tack is all the equipment and gear required to handle, ride or harness a horse. Tack is not just one item but a range of things needed for different activities with a horse.

Some of the most commonly seen and used horse tack includes:

  • Bridle
  • Bit
  • Reins
  • Harness
  • Collar
  • Halter
  • Saddle / saddle pad
  • Cinch/Girth
  • Stirrups
  • Lead rope

Why Does Different Tack Need To Be Used Sometimes?

Depending on the horse’s activity, the tack required will be a bit different. Although a few core items will remain constant, some tack items may differ slightly, or you may need some unique equipment.

*Think about how a horse moves when pulling a cart vs doing show jumping, for example, and you can understand why tack needs to be adapted to the activity.

What Tack Is Needed When Riding A Horse?

When riding a horse, there is different tack required than when a horse is pulling something. As such, riding requires equipment to keep the rider in place.

Both rider and horse need to be comfortable, and the tack needs to allow for gentle but precise communication between them so the horse understands what the rider is asking it to do. 

Common types of tack required for riding include:

  • Bridle – horses’ headgear, usually made up of a halter (sometimes called a headstall), a bit and reins. 
  • Halter – a piece of equipment, usually made of leather, that wraps around the horse’s head to which a bit, reins, or a lead rope can be attached.
  • Bit – a piece of metal that sits in the horse’s mouth and attaches to the bridle and reins. When the reins are pulled, the bit puts gentle pressure on the side of the horse’s mouth, causing it to change direction. A bit is a crucial communication tool between the rider and horse. Read more about how Tally Ho Carriage Tours train horses to work with bits here.
  • Reins – a leather or rope strap attached to the bit and held by the rider to control movement.
  • Saddle – this is a leather seat for the rider. Different styles are available depending on the type or style of riding you prefer, such as western saddles or racing saddles.
  • Cinch /Girth – a strap that holds the saddle firmly but comfortably against the horse’s body.
  • Stirrups (optional) – foot holders attached to the saddle that make the rider more comfortable and secure

What Tack do Horses Wear to Pull Carriages?

Pulling a carriage or cart requires different tack from riding. The primary purposes of the tack for a carriage pulling horse are:

  • To secure the horse and the carriage together in a way that allows the horse to use their entire body strength to easily move and stop the carriage without risk of discomfort or injury.
  • To ensure the driver can communicate clearly with the horse. This is important when horses are working in unpredictable environments like city streets.

The tack used on a working horse that is pulling a carriage is similar to tack used when riding a horse: bridle, bit, and reins. There are, however, some other vital pieces of horse tack required for this job, including:

  • Harness – a set of straps and devices that attach the horse to the item it is pulling
  • Collar – part of the harness, a pair of curved wooden or metal pieces (called Hames) that help distribute the weight around the horse’s shoulders
  • Traces – leather or chain straps linking the collar to the load
  • Breeching (Britching) strap – a strap that ties behind the horse’s haunches and enables it to slow or stop the item it is pulling

Did You Know? The horses that pull carriages for Tally Ho are all draft horses – breeds with the strength to pull at least 6 times their body weight. Pulling a carriage uses only 20% of this capacity.

Why is Clean and Well-Fitting Tack Important?

Clean and well-fitting tack is essential for the well-being and comfort of the horse (and rider when there is one). Conversely, poorly fitting tack can result in:

  • Saddle slippage – can result in injury or a fall for the rider and rubbing/discomfort for the horse.
  • Sore mouth – if a bit is too large or tight, it will put excess pressure on the horse’s mouth resulting in damage to the soft mouth tissue. As a result, the horse can suffer pain, infection, and inability to respond correctly to commands.

Failure to keep tack clean and sanitary could put the horse at risk of infection and damage the equipment over time, leading to loss. So follow in the footsteps of the team at Tally Ho Carriage Tours and make cleaning of tack your priority after an outing on your horse.

At Tally Ho, our entire team is dedicated to the well-being of our horses and to the safety of our staff and customers. Thanks to our extensive training with our horses, they are all very responsive, which means drivers only need to use minimal pressure when giving instructions. In addition, as you can see in this video, our horses are comfortable in their tack and happy to wear it.

Experience The Strength of Draft Horses on a Carriage Tour with Tally-Ho

Meet our delightful draft horses in person when you take a scenic carriage ride with Tally Ho Carriage Tours. Enjoy a historical tour through the streets of downtown Victoria, BC, a relaxing ride through the country on the Sea Cider Picnic Experience, or one of our special seasonal tours. Contact us today to book your tour.

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”.  

Getting to Tally Ho Carriage Tours from Floyd’s


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!

Getting to Tally Ho Carriage Tours from Bubby’s

 

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?!

Getting to Tally Ho Carriage Tours from Heron Rock

 

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….. 

Getting to Tally Ho Carriage Tours from Breakwater Bistro

 

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?!

Getting to Tally Ho Carriage Tours from Nourish Kitchen

 

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