More Tips About Using Horse And Carriage Transportation

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PHOTO: FOTOLIA/WOLLWERTH IMAGERY
I hope these additional pointers will be helpful to anyone who is considering a horse and buggy as a means of transportation.

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!.