What it Takes to Drive a Horse and Carriage
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.