Carriage Operators

Company Owners

  • safe operations-the do’s and don’ts
  • training Staff
  • picking and purchasing suitable horses
  • a guide to employee reward and reprimand
  • how to handle emergencies
  • making a good impression

Carriage Drivers

  • first on/ last off
  • going down with the ship
  • how to handle an emergency/ having a plan
  • filling in training/instructional gaps
  • keeping it classy
  • respect and protect your horse
  • dealing with animal rights in a professional manner

Company Owners

  • Safe operations-the do’s and don’ts

The number one reason for insurance liability claims for horse drawn carriage services is accidents involving automobiles. Most of these are what would be considered “fender benders”. Often a car tapping the back of a carriage, or a horse stepping sideways brushing a car with a shaft. Unfortunately some of these accidents are serious with a car forcibly rear ending a carriage.  Carriage drivers sitting in the “high seat” on a Vis-à-vis can be thrown onto the street or over the dash into the horses back legs when this happens.

This is why B.E.S.T. operators pledge to never have passengers other than a carriage driver trainee or a groom/footman in the driver’s seat/box.  While an unfortunate happening it is nearly unheard of for horses to get seriously injured in these accidents. Carriage drivers are not always so lucky. Never take this risk with the unknowing public.

Now let’s explore the number two cause of insurance liability claims, the all too often unattended horse. Walking away from a horse(s) hitched to any type of carriage or wagon is an extremely foolish and an unnecessary risk you should never be willing to take. Not even for customers requesting a photo. You risk your carriage, your horse, and the public.  Surprisingly insurance providers actually know this fact because carriage operators openly admit they walked away from the horse and that it caused an accident. Make sure you drive this point home with your employees and they fully understand how important this really is. B.E.S.T. operators pledge to never ever walk away from their horses when hitched to a carriage.  Learn more about the unattended horse here.

  • Training Staff

While what you feel you need to teach your employees will vary some according to the unique circumstances of your location there are a number of things your employees should know that are universal to the industry.

  • never load passengers until the driver is seated and lines are in hand.
  • never leave the hitched horse unattended
  • always have horses under your hand control even when out of the carriage
  • never put passengers in the driver’s seat or let them touch or handle the lines
  • never allow passengers to stand up in the carriage while moving
  • never allow customers or the public to hand feed your horses anything
  • if you allow petting make sure you have a header supervising or make sure the customer stays at the horses shoulder in the safety zone if you do not have a header.
  • make sure you employees know why it is both unacceptable and dangerous to canter or gallop a carriage horse
  • show employees how to inspect harness for wear and tear but do not totally rely on them to check it.
  • teach employees the importance of being able to say no to people making dangerous requests. i.e. “can I sit on the horse?”, “can I feed this to the horse?” “can I ride up there with the driver?” “can we go faster?” etc.
  • make sure employees understand how to harness, what poorly adjusted harness looks like, and what each part of the harness is called, is for, and why proper adjustment is very important.
  • make sure employees do not post anything about your carriage operations, carriage horses, or any photos of either online without your approval. This should be in your contract with them and signed as understood. Bad online photos can be staged or used out of context and haunt your business for years.

Make sure your crews public presentation is something you will be proud of when the pubic posts the pictures they took online for all to see. It is all about the “turnout” and that first and lasting impression. Make sure yours is a great one.

  • Picking and purchasing suitable horses

While a beautiful color and perfect conformation is always nice to have in a purchased horse the most important attribute a commercial carriage horse can have lays between his/her ears. A calm brain with low flight responses, tractable personality, and a brave and mostly fearless disposition is paramount in a commercial horse. One must be especially careful when purchasing carriage horses since unlike a private riding animal they will be subjected to traffic both vehicular and pedestrian along with city sights, sounds, and noises the typical horse rarely if ever encounters.

Unless you are a first rate carriage horse trainer you probably need to purchase experienced commercial horses. They won’t be cheap but they will prove to be worth their weight in gold (literally) allowing you to operate without incident. Pick a horse that fits you or your driver’s skill levels. Being “over-horsed” might be a little scary in the case of a barrel racing horse, but being “over-horsed” with a commercial carriage horse is nothing short of an accident waiting to happen. Remember it’s not just yourself you have concern yourself with but also a trusting and unsuspecting public.

If you need help purchasing a suitable commercial horse there are several B.E.S.T founding members that are willing to help you with that search.( insert Link to BEST members and reputable dealers that sell carriage horses or help people find them here) We not only have a list of sellers that have served the industry well we also keep track of the ones who have not.  Call and ask.

  • Equipment safety and maintenance

As a company owner it will serve you well to periodically check your carriages and tack. Dangerously worn equipment can cause an accident. Failing equipment is a problem that can lead to serious legal trouble from being accused of gross negligence. States equine liability laws will not help protect you in any way should you have a tack or equipment failure leading to an injury lawsuit.  B.E.S.T. operators pledge to carefully inspect their carriages, tack, and other equipment.

  • A Guide to employee reward and reprimand

There are few things more rewarding in business than having an employee or employees you can one hundred percent count on. There are few things that are a bigger headache than the ones that are a constant source of drama, bad practices, and bad attitudes. A common pitfall in any business is becoming too friend like with an employee. This often leads to that worker feeling entitled and expecting special treatment from you. This leads to frustration on the business owner’s part, and can even lead to problems with your other employees from feeling less “special”. It’s a difficult path to navigate as we all want to feel like we have a special bond with our employees since they are handling horses that we are very attached to. Even so… tread these waters carefully and try very hard not to treat anyone person better than another. If you treat one like a pal, treat them all like pals. Or better yet try and keep the relationship more cut and dry as employer and employee and leave the fraternizing to corporate functions like Christmas parties. It will make your job easier if you find yourself having to let someone go or reprimand them for an infraction.

  • Humane Operations

This will vary some depending on whether you are running a special events service or nightly street rides. For service lasting more than 2 hours make sure to have adequate water for your horse(s) available either on site or nearby. Naturally temperature and work load can also change hydration needs. Use common sense.

For nightly shifts lasting 4 or more hour’s horses should be worked at a walk only. Trotting to get through a traffic light or intersection for safety purposes is acceptable. Trotting a horse all evening all over town is hard on your horse(s) joints and internal hoof structures and should be avoided. It may cause dropped soles, road founder, and premature arthritic conditions. Never canter or gallop a commercial carriage horse. The risk for a fall in harness is exponentially increased. During a canter and/or gallop there is an instant when all four hooves are off the ground and another where only one hoof is making contact. This also creates far more concussive forces to the legs, hooves, and joints and is never recommended in any circumstance. To learn more about humane operations

  • How to handle emergencies
  • Making a good impression


Carriage Drivers

  • First on/ last off

this is in reference to how the carriage is to be boarded and vacated. The carriage driver is always the first one on the carriage and must be seated with lines in hand before allowing any passengers to enter the carriage. If unloading passengers you must wait until all of them are off the carriage before you step down.  ( see Robins Video)

  • Going down with the ship
 You are the captain of your carriage! If things get sideways and you anticipate a wreck it is your job to stay with that horse and carriage through whatever transpires. This is what you owe your passengers, and what you owe your horse if there are no passengers. We make only a couple of exceptions to this. Should your horse be speeding out of control into an oncoming train, into a lake, river, or over a cliff (and nobody else is on the carriage) by all means save yourself and bail last minute. Otherwise go down with the ship.
  • How to handle an emergency/ having a plan

As a carriage driver you at some point will find yourself in a tense situation. Something odd that really bothers your horse or something potentially dangerous you have to encounter. Always have a plan. Look around for an emergency exit. Should things start getting out of control steer your horse towards that exit. An exit can be anything. It can be a true exit away from the problem, or it can be the brick walls of an alley that stops a horse that is in a panic. Should your horse fall in harness and become entrapped have a plan for that too. Have a plan on how to get him/her untangled (carry a seat belt knife on your carriage) Then have a plan on what to do after the fact. What you don’t want to do is be out on the streets on a hope and prayer that everything is going to go as planned. So spend a good deal of thought on the “what ifs” and the probable solutions to them.

  • Filling in training/instructional gaps 

After completing your training as a carriage driver with the company you are working with or for you may not be all that confident that you truly know all that you feel you should know. Should you find yourself feeling that way we highly encourage you to seek out ways to fill in those troubling gaps. It is far better to do this ahead of time than to be faced with it after an accident or mishap. We welcome you here for this information. Call any one of our founding member companies and they will be happy to help. Your boss never has to know if you do not want them to. We here at B.E.S.T. would far rather help you sort out your concerns than to have you end up a carriage accident statistic.

  • Keeping it classy

Carriage rides are all about romance and fantasy. That trip back in time where people get a feel for what life might have been like back in the days of long ago. The time when instead of a car you rode in a carriage. So keep it classy! Don’t cover your carriage in duct tape and your horse in holy tattered harness pads and zip tied together harness. Not only is this not safe it is unattractive and takes away from the experience for your passengers. ( learn how to be tacky in a tactful way) If you give tours ask your passengers if they want the tour or for you to only be talking to your horse. If they are there to snuggle and kiss they probably don’t care about the local restaurants. So ask! Remember to keep your feet off your carriages dash, dress nicely, and sit up straight. You are you are the best advertisement there is for your services so make a great impression.

  • Respect and protect your horse

Staying with your horse and never leaving him unattended and on the “honor system” says a lot about you and how you feel about your horse. You should not be in this industry if you care less about your horse’s safety than you care about taking a customer up on free meal at an event reception, or to go chit chat with someone, or a tip taking a picture. Stay with your horse! You should never be more than arm’s length from your horse unless you are sitting in the box! You should keep a lead rope on your horse’s halter that is under your bridle if you plan on spending any time off of the box. Don’t forget to be seated with your lines in your hand before allowing any passengers to board your carriage. Never ever, ever take the bridle off of a horse still attached to its carriage! This is right up there as dangerous as walking away from your horse. If you feed your horses while on the job hold the feed bucket for your horse and never feed him off the street or pavement. While you may feel that this is not problematic as horses eat off the ground as a rule while grazing the impression this leaves in the minds of the public is not a good one. Holding the bucket of feed goes a long way for making a good impression. We recommend taking care of feeding back at the barn but if you need to feed on the job hold the bucket and show some respect for your horse. Besides most horses can wolf down a bucket of feed far faster than your arms can get tired from holding it.

  • Dealing with animal rights in a professional manner

First off try not to engage with them. Avoid yelling back at them and calmly explain to your passengers that they have odd and radical views about the human/animal relationship. Do not spend the whole carriage ride focusing on them. That is what they want. If you are having a serious and regular problem with them we have brochures you can request that you can hand out to the customers that are curious about them or even to the animal rights people themselves. The hope is they may lose interest in harassing you if you seem overly prepared for them. Call the police if you feel threatened or you feel your passenger’s safety is in question. Especially if their actions are upsetting your horse. Stay calm and cool and never let them get under your skin. We know that is at times very difficult but it will serve you far better than letting them upset you or your horse.  Improving your skills