Carriage driving involves hitching a horse (or horses) to a wheeled vehicle. It is from this most ancient form of transport that we get the modern terminology 'horse-power' or 'brake horse-power' to refer to motorized vehicles. The strength and size of the horse determines what type of vehicle it can pull. Small ponies can pull 'pony-traps', two wheeled vehicles perfect for two passengers; huge Clydesdale horses can pull immense carts. Teams of horses are used to pull elegant carriages. Before the motorized engine took over the roads it was the horse and carriage that dominated travel.
And what a wonderful way to travel! Some carriage drivers prefer the stately gait of a gently walking horse pulling a small 'buggy' or 'gig'. These are usually small 2-wheeled carriages perfect for an afternoon drive. But if a steady 4mph does not excite you watch competitive carriage driving where teams of up to 6 horses race around obstacles at speeds of up to 30mph.
Our modern lifestyle may at first not seem suitable for carriage driving. But many communities throughout the world still use horses as their main form of transport. Amish communities across America still use horse drawn vehicles for every aspect of their lives. From large agricultural wagons to two-horse carriages the Amish people have kept carriage-driving traditions well into the present day.
Carriage driving evokes a sense of nostalgia. Of times gone by when life was less hectic. Carriage hire is a delightful treat for special events; the flamboyant arrival of a horse drawn carriage is enough to impress anyone. It can also be very therapeutic to sit back in a carriage and simply watch the world go by with nothing but the sound of horse hooves measuring time around you.
Although carriage driving may be thought of as romantic escapism there is growing recognition that this transport can provide an environmentally favorable alternative. In some parts of the UK farmers are returning to more traditional methods to protect the countryside, so the sight of a magnificent shire horse pulling a cart is becoming more familiar along country roads. Drays (large heavy horses) are still used to transport apples for cider making in parts of Hereford and Worcesteshire in the UK.
Carriage driving is seeing a real renaissance in the 21st century. With many breeds of heavy draft horses becoming scarcer there is a real sense among horse lovers that this tradition should be protected. Carriage driving offers a chance for horse lovers who may not wish to ride to still be involved in the equestrian world. Carriage driving and hire also offers everyone the chance to transport themselves not only across miles but also back through time.