Tag Archives: Horse Drawn Carriage

Tentative Times

I hang my head in shame over the long stretch since the last post. My only defense: I’ve spent a glorious year sitting in the carriage box.

Slide82But once again, the carriage biz finds itself back on shaky ground, with the situation in New York City looking dire. Check out carriageon.com to keep up with the latest as well as how you can help.


And here on the home front, we’re not doing so well either. After many long years gracing Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood with an historic elegance, the old Noble Horse Theater, which houses two of Chicago’s three carriage companies, has been sold for residential development.

The smaller company looks to be on track for their new home by the end of March. But the larger company remains potentially homeless. Finding a space big enough to house at least 12 horses and as many carriages, along with harness, hay, bedding, and the vast entourage of barn equipment required to maintain everything, has been frustratingly elusive. Complicating the search? Stables need to be within 4 miles of the downtown operating area to be viable, and in terms of affordable monthly rent, we’re apparently searching for UN-real estate.

I cannot say what will happen. Drivers are holding their breath while unhappily dusting off their resumes. We all have our fingers crossed, quietly hoping our employer good luck.

Anyone have a strategically located warehouse they’re not using?


Revelations in Winter

6862252-winter-backgroundsThe long dreary winter days are upon us. ‘Tis the season for carriage horses and drivers to take it easy, working occasionally to stave off cabin fever, bankruptcy, and the extra pounds from last night’s oversize carb-fest.

During the slow season, much of what we do at the carriage stand involves people watching, interacting with our horses, and chatting with pedestrians. I’ve recently had two excellent encounters with passersby concerned about my horses’ welfare.

FullSizeRender (2)One night last week, with temperatures dipping into the low 30’s, a well dressed gentleman approached me.  He asked me how cold it needed to be before I put a blanket on my horse. Though he seemed interested in my response, his manner indicated a readiness to trounce me with his opinion.


Without missing a beat, I replied “Never.”


“Nope, never.”

“Not even if it gets really cold?”

“Not even then.”

“Why not? I have a horse farm and I know what I’m talking about.”

I rattled off a quick summary of my own equestrian resume and said, “I know what I’m talking about, as well.”

I removed my glove and ran my hand backwards along Reebok’s thick coat and fat-covered ribs. “See this? There’s no blanket out there better than this. Mother Nature has provided far superior protection than I ever could. This is a work horse who lives his life outside. If he’s resting at the farm, he’s outside. If he’s working in the city, he’s outside. A blanket would only make him miserable and hot.”

“So you’d never ever put a blanket on this horse?” The man seemed incredulous.

“Not this horse. He’s not a show horse. He’s not unhealthy. He’s been growing this coat since last fall, and if I put a blanket over him, I’d only compromise what he’s able to do for himself.”

After a 20 minute discussion, the gentleman walked away with a better understanding of the industry, and at ease with the excellent (if pudgy) condition of Reebok. Politesse won the day, and both parties felt good about the result.

Say-Something-StupidTwo nights ago brought a different experience. A girl walked into the street to accost me while Cisco and I waited at a red light. She proceeded to call me cruel and heartless for forcing my horse to “carry the weight of the carriage” all night, at which point I assured her he did no such thing. The carriage bore its own weight–Cisco merely started and stopped the momentum, walking easily as he enjoyed the laws of physics.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about!” she shouted. “Shame on you! You have no right!”

“I beg your pardon, miss, but you have no right. Who are you to judge me? I assure you, I’ve done this long enough to know exactly what I’m talking about. And furthermore, shame on you! You are the very height of rudeness and impolite behavior to approach a complete stranger on the street and judge them with no knowledge of them or the situation. How dare you judge me? How dare you judge my horse?”

Her friends begged her to come away and once the light turned green, she followed me down the street. “You don’t care about that horse, you’re just using him!”

FullSizeRender (1)I slowed Cisco’s walk, no small task as he was headed home and knew it. “Again, how dare you judge me? I adore this horse. Do you honestly think I’d do this job if I didn’t? This time of year, I make very little money–I’d be better off sitting behind a desk. This horse is the ONLY reason I do this job–I care for him far more than I do myself!”

Again, her friends pulled her along, trying to assure her that the horse looked good, well cared for. And perhaps, my interest in defending myself and my trade made a difference. I’m no troglodyte, and am generally good at making a point.

FullSizeRender“If you are concerned about my horse, come meet him. See for yourself!” The group walked away, and the girl, after a brief pause looking at Cisco (who was doing his best to be patient but had begun to puff up into his ‘fire breathing dragon’ pose), shut her mouth and followed her friends. A different approach, but a somewhat similar result.

So why do I share these little tidbits?

Seldom do carriage drivers get an opportunity to defend themselves. Most of our opponents hurl insults out of car windows as they drive away, unwilling to hear anything that might tarnish their gilded heroism. Many hide behind computer screens, their confrontations protected by the anonymity of screen names. Personal attacks against someone capable of refuting assumptions and accusations take real gumption.

I applaud the two people who confronted me. Good for you! With any luck at all, you learned something from me. If you listened to what I said and looked at my horses, perhaps you feel better. But perhaps not. Faced with living proof that our horses are cared for, that we drivers know our horses better than anyone else alive, if you still feel certain that I am an abuser, then so be it. You are still wrong, but at least you now base your beliefs on tangible evidence.

I cannot change willful ignorance, but at least it’s not my burden to bear.


Former Mayor Jane Byrne and the Celebration of Survivors


Chicago Alderman have proposed a rename of the Water Tower Plaza after Jane Byrne, the city’s first and only female mayor. While her accomplishments are long and distinguished, it’s worth noting that Chicago’s horse drawn carriage industry came into existence per her suggestion.

Byrne’s daughter Kathy said, “It’s a place that my mother looked at when she was in office..she could look right out her kitchen window and see that Water Tower Park…the horses and carriages gathering around it.”

Alderman Edward Burke, chairman of the Finance Committee, and the man who proposed the ban on our horse drawn carriages, supports the vote, saying it “essentially rights a wrong: “A failure to honor one of Chicago’s most significant political figures.””

Interestingly, Kathy Byrne commented, “the Water Tower is a survivor…my mother is a survivor…Chicago is a survivor.”

My guess is that Former Mayor Byrne might also like to see the horse drawn carriage industry as a survivor!

Miss United Nations World Ambassador

Horse drawn carriages are eye-catching photo ops in every city! Miss United Nations World Ambassador 2014, Sherrie Gearheart enjoys a photo shoot at the Chicago Water Tower!photo (4)

Check out Miss Gearheart’s charity, Live Out Loud Charity, which focuses on suicide prevention and awareness!



Yes, There Was An Accident

Late Monday night, an SUV carrying 3 adults and 4 children rear ended a Chicago Carriage heading home after a shift downtown. The 4 children were treated at Lurie hospital and released. The driver of the carriage has a broken wrist but is otherwise fine. Milo the horse is fine, and has been checked over by Inspector Holcomb from Chicago’s Animal Care and Control.

So what does this mean?

Does it mean this?

I don’t THINK so. What both of these recent tweets fail to mention is that the horse and carriage didn’t collide with an SUV, but rather the SUV collided with the horse and carriage.

And I have to ask, how does an attentive driver not see an oversize dapple grey horse pulling a large white carriage with a highly reflective slow moving hazard triangle?


Were you paying attention? Were you driving too fast? Were you distracted? Were you on your PHONE?

Instead of questioning whether horse drawn carriages should be in Chicago, maybe we should be asking more important questions?




Go Pickle!

Check out this great new video made about one of our Chicago carriage horses!

We’ve watched Pickle since the beginning, as a newbie in town, to becoming one of the cutest greys to pull a carriage. How great is it to see him become a star?!

How Can You Help?


We get a lot of questions asking how someone can help keep horse drawn carriages in Chicago.

1.Contact your city alderman. Politely tell them you want carriages in Chicago. Not sure who your Alderman is? Check here.


2. Keep up to date with our Facebook page and Twitter account. Share our message with your friends to spread the word

3. If you speak with someone who’s uncertain about the conditions of the horses, be informative! Point them to the resources that can help them understand the love and care our horses are given every day!

4. If you are unduly harassed by protesters when taking a carriage ride, contact the police! You have rights!

5. Share the message! We are always willing to talk to people about their concerns–we love to talk about our horses!

Antique Coach and Carriage

Great Lakes Horse and Carriage

Chicago Horse & Carriage

Do you have a great carriage story to share? Please comment in the thread beneath this message and include any pictures of your ride!

Where Do the Horses Go?

Radical animal rights activists believe carriage horses go to slaughter once their working days are over.

Elizabeth Forel is quite outspoken in her beliefs. 

Peta is certain carriage horses are what’s for dinner.

And if you ask this guy, well:

You can watch the whole video if you want, but I can’t be held responsible for any loss of brain cells. This guy’s a real wunderkind.

Anyway, if we listen to these folks, carriage horses are the wildebeest of the horse world, basically feeding everyone from lovers of Aldi’s lasagna to Fido to that weird kid who ate glue in Kindergarten.

So, these pictures and videos of retired carriage horses must be super rare footage of almost mythical creatures, right?

Meet Roger. He has his own Facebook page, and his retirement was profiled by the New York Daily News:


And meet Caruso. This Chicago horse retired and now packs a little kid around the hunter ring.

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And then there’s Toby, who retired after pulling a carriage in his owner’s funeral.


I guess if we knew retired carriage horses were so rare, we wouldn’t have been giving them away to loving families for all these years.

Unless perhaps,



…could the animal rights activists so proudly beating their drums be mistaken? I mean, retired carriage horses running around in fields with goats, packing little kids around show rings, and relaxing in pastures just don’t make very convincing arguments, now do they?

Have a retired carriage horse? Share your pics with us and we’ll include them here!



More Support Arrives From Veterinarians!

Two more letters of support have arrived from vets familiar with the horses working in Chicago!

Jim Rogers

Professional Letter


Many thanks to Drs. Smith and Beatty for taking time out of their busy schedules to support working horses in Chicago!