|Lizzie, Brittany, Jackson and me|
I just came back from a trip to Charleston, South Carolina. While I was there I got to visit one of my customers, Classic Carriage Works, or rather many customers - Elwood, Carson, Jackson, Berry, Larry, Bud, Dakota, Franklin and Gerald.
There has been so much press around the carriage industry lately. I’m not an activist for, nor am I against the carriage industry. I’m simply a horse crazy girl. So from a horse lovers perspective, I write this article, this customer focus, about nine lovely black Percheron horses who help show downtown Charleston to folks from a different perspective.
Brittany, the barn manager at Classic, was kind enough to let me spend a good portion of two days with the horses. During my stay, I was also taken around to see the other 4 carriage companies that serve Charleston. Each barn had a different personality, even different kinds of horses - for example, Charleston Carriage Works has a fleet of beautiful chestnut Belgian Drafts, and Palmetto Carriage Works is the only company in town who drives pairs of mules.
|Carson on his way out of the barn|
All the horses seemed happy and in good condition; I was allowed to go around and greet horses at every company. The barns were clean, the atmosphere peaceful, the tack clean. Again, these are just general horse crazy girl observations. I didn’t see anything alarming or not right, anything that I wouldn’t see at any regular boarding barn with private clients.
|Jackson and his adorable droopy lip|
But let's get back to my Percheron friends and Classic Carriage Works. Classic has been an active barn longer than any other in Charleston. It has stalls for six horses. In combination with the city stable, the horses are rotated in and out of town to a lovely farm so that they all get some down time.
Many of Classic’s horses came from less than ideal circumstances. In fact, the majority of horses in the carriage industry were bound for the slaughter house. To put it in a not so nice way, there is a lot of meat on an 18hh draft horse. Brittany showed me the scars on Jackson from his previous life. Jackson is one of their newer horses, and I’m glad to say some of our Simple Equine products are helping to heal him. Given the tough life he came from, it was amazing to me that he could be so sweet and gentle. Brittany said it’s taken him a little while to warm up, but he’s only been with them for a short time and I was amazed at his calm demeanor and friendliness towards me. Not only that, but when he was hanging with me he had the most adorable and droopiest lip you’ve ever seen - a sure sign of a happy and relaxed horse in my books.
|Giant 18hh+ Carson|
|Carson taking me on my tour|
Carson is a large 18hh Percheron, very handsome, and I think he actually believes he is hot stuff. I went on a historical carriage ride with Carson all over downtown Charleston. I’m not at all experienced with driving, but there were definitely similarities to riding. The main differences to me were the importance of verbal communication with the horse and also making sure you swing far and wide so as not to hit any parked cars! I could see Carson’s right ear turned back, listening to his driver, as we would make a left or right or pull to the side of the road to let cars pass by.
Back at the barn, Brittany decided I should see what it’s like to pull a carriage. Yes, me, little 100 something pound person, pull the same carriage as my 2000+ pound friend Carson. To my surprise, it wasn’t very hard, and trust me I am not a very strong human being. She also showed me what their special cushy shoes are like. I’ve never seen special shoes like these- a thick piece of shock absorbing material with a little bit of extra grip on the bottom. This shock absorber goes on after the regular metal shoe, and gets changed out frequently. It’s one of the thing that gets monitored by the City of Charleston.
And talk about monitoring. Brittany showed me their book of rules and regulations. Seriously, if all horses in the world were monitored like these gentle giants, the horse world would be a better place. They can’t work if their shock absorbers are less than 1.5inches thick. They can’t work if their internal temperature gets too high. If it gets above 95 degrees or a heat index of 110 degrees no carriage rides are allowed. There is a limit on the number of carriage rides each horse can do in a day. They have to have a certain amount of rest time between carriage rides. And the list goes on and on. It’s not to say all horse owners need strict guidelines, there are plenty of well loved and well taken care of horses out there in the world, but there are also those who could use some governance. I think it’s pretty cool that there is a governing body to ensure the horses are treated well. And beyond that governing body, you have real horse loving folks working at Classic, and they go far above and beyond the rules.
|A horse girl in horse heaven with giant Elwood|
The fondness all of the employees at Classic, and for that matter all the carriage companies I visited, have for the horses is quite evident. Everyone of course has their favorite. The employees know the horses’ personalities, their likes, dislikes, what makes them happy, what they are scared of, even what might catch them off guard. I’ll use Berry as an example. Berry, I was told, takes his job very seriously. He’s all business. In fact, as Berry was about to head out on his final tour of the day, Dave, the head driver/trainer, did not want to switch up the tour guide so that Berry would not be too confused. “It’s not that he can’t do it,” said Dave, “Of course he can. But Berry thrives on routine and I don’t want to throw him off or cause him unnecessary stress.” I really love how in tune each and every person seemed to be with the horses. I have seen many riding programs and other horse programs over the years where people wouldn’t be nearly that thoughtful.
What do the horses of Classic Carriage Works like of the Simple Equine? They all use the Warm Weather Comfort Spray (fly spray), pretty much year round. Charleston is warm enough that the flies never completely disappear. All of the new horses they get in show up with docked tails, so the Nourishing Avocado Tail Treatment is also a huge hit, and Brittany reports great growth in both tails and manes. They also use the Healing Calendula Salve and Soothing Chickweed Cream on various boo boos and irritations, especially on the new horses as they often have lots of skin injuries. The handsome Carson is a big fan of our Illuminating Sea Salt Polish, especially after he returns from a break - the bugs out in the pasture bother him.
Whether or not you believe horses should have a job or pull a carriage or have a rider on top of them, I really do believe these beautiful draft horses are treated with love and respect, and genuinely like what they do. It’s almost as if they know they’ve been given a second, better chance at life and they are happy with and thankful for the cards they have been dealt. It seems a shame that folks don’t put their efforts to other parts of the horse industry, like rescuing horses from slaughter and trying to re-home them, just as many horse sanctuaries, and the carriage industry (in general) are doing. There are thousands of horses in dire need. Sure, the world isn’t perfect and not every carriage company is good, but in Charleston they all seemed pretty darn decent to this horse loving gal.
If you are interested in visiting Charleston and taking a tour with Classic Carriage Works, please visit their Website: https://www.classiccarriage.
com/ Thank you Classic for pampering your horses with Simple Equine products!
This post is based on experience, learning and opinion. You may or may not agree with what is written, but we hope that you will be left with information to consider, mull over, laugh at, or even agree to disagree about. Thank you for reading.