Confident and unqualified are two words that should never be put together in the same sentence with commercial horse-drawn carriage service, but sadly sometimes is the case. Above is a photo of a horse so incompetently harnessed it makes my heart skip a beat just knowing that this actually happened, and not only that they were proud enough of it to take a picture and post it on the world wide web.
Ours is not a business one should learn by the seat of one’s pants through trial and error at the expense of everyone’s safety, both human and equine. The dreamer only sees what they imagine as money being made while having fun doing it. Nothing could be further from reality. If you’re doing horse and carriage “right” you probably have stomach ulcers from the stress. That is the reality.
We deal with every form of insanity imaginable. A person intentionally trying to spook our horses is commonplace. I personally have had everything from cups of beer thrown onto my horse to six bottle rockets set off all at once as my horse rounded a corner. Waving protest signs in horses’ faces is a regular happening in cities like New York. Then there are the innocent heart stoppers. Children that dart under your harnessed horse’s belly, photographers that lay under your carriage for a shot, and all sorts of potentially dangerous and even life threatening stupid things people unfamiliar with horses seem to do.
Then there are the unanticipated things. Horses are commonly freaked out about people on skate boards, kids’ plastic shoes slapping pavement, metal manhole covers or drains in the street or a painted wheelchair emblem on a parking lot surface. Keep in mind that is just a tiny sampling. Special event horses deal with even more. They have an ever changing work environment, hills that are too long, or too steep in the route and must be rerouted, blind corners where traffic may not anticipate a slow moving vehicle. Again these are just a tiny sampling to consider.
The commercial carriage industry is not for the faint of heart and confidence is something we have to have. However…unqualified confidence is a disaster in the making and for sure causes insurance rates to skyrocket, or become downright impossible to secure. It is never a good recipe when ones confidence outweighs their skill. Especially egregious when the end result is personal injury and/or property damage.
So what would be the B.E.S.T. advice for a person new to the industry that wants to start up a horse and carriage service?
The very best advice includes spending a year working for an existing, well-respected company. This will help you learn what it is like to handle horses in all kinds of situations. You should have a mentor. Find someone already in the business that is willing to help guide you through the maze of issues involved with operating a commercial horse drawn carriage service. Once you get past the hurdle of how to operate safely there will be a mine field of other things you likely will not have thought of (i.e. The necessity to be an incorporation of some sort to protect any personal assets if you have any). A mentor or even a few of them will prove to be absolutely invaluable to you.
Lastly join industry groups and organizations like B.E.S.T. By networking with groups that promote and educate about a safe commercial carriage operation, you greatly increase your knowledge base as well as avoid ending up being “that guy” or “that company” that is only famous for being overly confident and dangerously unsafe among your industry peers. Or worse yet, the one that is causing accidents and news coverage that only serves to give legitimate concerns to our ever growing list of detractors.
Food for thought, and safe driving!