“Dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh, over the hills we go, laughing all the way. Bells on bob-tails ring, making spirit bright….la la la la….”
We’ve ridden and now we are riding in high class…in a coach, sleigh a barouch, brougham, calash, chaise, chariot, dray, fiacre, fly gig, hansome, phaeton, victoria wagon, stagecoach…the list is very long indeed. We’ve riddin in style and we’ve ridden rough, but we’ve ridden on something at some time or ‘nother or dreamed about it during the holidays.
I’ll admit that my time driving horses is very limited. However, I did work one of my horses to harness, which he loved. In fact he preferred harness to the saddle. My mother, who kinda avoided the horsey things, loved to drive him about the pasture. It was a wonderful experience. But, if you’ve ever seen the Budweiser Clydesdales, you can easily see that it is an art.
One of my favorite books is God is an Englishman by RF Delderfield. It is a story about a man Adam Swan becoming a rich teamster. One scene that brings tears to my eyes everytime I read it is when a coal mine collapses on a wintery sleety night. The mine was filling quickly with water, miners were trapped and the rescuers needed that pump now.
“Lovel himself backed the first of the horse into the single shafts and a great broadchested Shire the only horse present that would have caught his eyes at an auction. Then, with a volley of shouts, a snapping of leather, and the pleasant jingle of metal, nine other horses were added to the string, so children prancing in the snow forgot their grief and terror of the moment and stared wide-eyed at the cavalcade, seeing a sledge made ready for a winter journey by a warrior king Llewellyn or Arthur himself.” (Carroll & Graf Publisher, NY,p299)
The hitch ended up with twenty-four horses pulling this pump up this steep incline, struggling for footing with each attempt. This scene is one of the most powerful scenes about what a team of horses can do . It’s the beauty, the strength of men and horse working together. Be sure to also read Black Beauty by Anna Sewel, a first-person autobiography of a horse from birth to being retired to pasture.
Of course draft teams ( the big horses) aren’t all that we see harness. There are stagecoaches, wagons, and elegant coaches pulled by lighter breeds of horses. Here is a bit of lingo regarding coaching you may want to use now and again.
A carriage may be open or closed, but the cover is called a head or hood. “Draw the cover, Howard. Its going rain.” The wood or leather fore part of the carriage is the dashboard (and still is in a car and now we know why) An extended side piece is the wing and the step up into the carriage is foot iron or footplate that tears the hem of her most wonderful gown. The driver sits on a box or perch at the front is known as a dickey box and is also for seating for the servants sitting at the back. “You’ll ride in the dickeybox, Clarence,” the coachman ordered from his box. And the footman may use a small platform called a footboard or rumble seat in the rear. “I’d rather sit in the rumble seat, thank you,” Clarence announced. The underneath is the undergear or undercarriage where the wheel axles will certainly break during a thunderstorm on a lonely muddy road late at night. The driver of a carriage is a coachman. Servant in livery is a footman or piquer. Attendant on horseback is an outrider.
Those heros and heroines rich enough to own a carriage weree referred to as ‘carriage folk or carriage trade’. (If they only knew) They may use a ‘lap robe” to cover their laps or a buffalo robe obviously from the American bison that was backed with fabric. A carriage boot was fur-trimmed winter wear. A carriage horse or roadhorse was an attractive stylish horse used on “Sunday go to meetin’ days” in the park. A dog was a carriage dog or coach dog bred to run along side the carriage or to ride up with the driver. I thank Wikipedia/carriage.
But how about driving these horses…sit back and enjoy this amazing video about what a great coachman can do with
Now enjoy dashing through the wintery wonderland with the Budweiser Clydesdales and Miller Highlife…\
May your hearth be warm, the food delicious, the family safe and healthy, and may all your dreams come true this new year.