More Tips About Using Horse And Carriage Transportation

Shaun Ann Eddy revisits her original article to offer additional tips about using horse and carriage transportation.

Horse and carriage transportation

I hope these additional pointers will be helpful to anyone who is considering a horse and buggy as a means of transportation.


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I've been reading over my article on the horse and buggy in MOTHER EARTH NEWS NO. 30 and would like to offer a few additional hints ... since I find that I've assumed knowledge of some points which might prove disastrous to a novice starting out with a rig.

Tips for Using Horse and Carriage Transportation

[1] A horse drawn carriage driven on ice in the winter and hot asphalt in the summer needs borium dripped on the bottoms of his shoes. This treatment prevents slipping (and possible leg damage) and saves wear on the metal. Ask your blacksmith about this precaution ... not all of them apply the borium routinely.

[2] I mentioned that harness should be dipped twice a year to preserve it. Actually, the process is more than a dip, it's an overnight soaking of the leather in warm oil. Cut open a large drum, place it over a burner, partly fill the container with oil, heat the contents gently, and add the harness (be sure all straps are submerged). Brush the collar with the same lubricant ... and resign yourself to getting your hands greasy every time you use the gear for the next month.

[3] The only regular maintenance a buggy should need (apart from an annual repainting) is the spring chore of tightening the metal rim that protects the wooden wheel. This band — called the tire — expands and contracts with changes of temperature and moisture and when the weather warms up I can expect to hear the clacking sound of a loose rim. The noise warns me that stones and moisture will soon work into the gap between metal and wood and damage the wheel enough to warrant replacement (an expensive business, and one that can be avoided by prompt action).

To correct a loose rim, the tire is taken off, the wood joints of the wheel driven together, and any shaky bolts or screws tightened or replaced. Then the metal band is heated in a fire, replaced, pounded down firmly, and finally dipped in cold water. A blacksmith needs a full day to do a set of wheels and, around here, charges $20.00. (The front and rear pairs generally seem to need attention in alternate years.)

The cost of tightening the wheels, and $3.00 worth of buggy paint every spring, are the only maintenance expenses you're likely to have. That's a far cry from what you'd spend to keep up an auto for a year!

Incidentally, I find that my article didn't go far enough on the subject of protection for a buggy. A cover thrown over the top of the rig really isn't sufficient, as I implied ... the carriage house you'll often find built behind or onto an old farmhouse was there for a reason. Our 1840 home has such an attachment, and that's where we keep, the buggy and bob sleigh. The farm wagon and other horse-drawn equipment are stored in a barn away from sun, rain, and snow ... all of which are equally harmful.

[4] Don't hesitate to purchase a 10- or even 14-year-old driving horse if you take a liking to him. Around here, such animals are driven well into their twenties. Sure, a young gelding is preferable as a long-term investment ... one you can expect to keep around and in good health for years of faithful service. But buy an aged horse for $100 or $200, use him wisely for the rest of his working life, and your transport will have paid for itself.

[5] I've heard arguments for and against the use of a checkrein (a strap that comes off the top or side of the harness bridle, snaps or buckles to the saddle pad, and keeps the horse from lowering his head). Personally, I prefer to loosen this restraint and let it hang to one side. I'd much rather have Handy put his head down and throw his neck muscles into his work ... especially going uphill, when he must do so for good balance. He can't pull properly with a tight checkrein yanking his head up to sky level (and it looks absurd, too).

I hope these additional pointers will be helpful to anyone who is considering a horse and buggy as a means of transportation. After driving a rig for two years, I'm absolutely convinced that it would be a bummer to go back to auto payments, insurance fees, repair rip-offs, warranties that always have a catch, and good old New York State registration and license charges!.