Horse-drawn carriages are fun: enthusiasts

More than 100 years ago, the rich often travelled in horse-drawn carriages. Today, people of all backgrounds enjoy leading horses the old-fashioned way.

Gordon Fulton guides his horse Lakeview Spunky

Gordon Fulton guides his horse Lakeview Spunky

More than 100 years ago, the rich often travelled in horse-drawn carriages.

Today, people of all backgrounds enjoy leading horses the old-fashioned way.

The Chinook chapter of the Alberta Carriage Driving Association hosted it annual Pleasure Driving Show on the weekend at the farm of Gordon Fulton and Geri McNeil, 15 km west of Bowden.

About 15 entrants from around Alberta showed off their horsemanship on two-wheeled and four-wheeled carts.

Drivers donned their best dress, polished their carts and shined their horse’s coats for the pleasure-driving class — a chance to strut through gates and around corners in the ring. On Sunday, the teams were tasked to pass through pylons with tennis balls on top and clear other obstacles as part of a skills, timed combined-driving event.

The reasons why people enjoy this pastime are varied.

“It’s not as far to fall off the seat as it is to fall off a horse,” said Morris Helmig, chuckling. “It’s physical, but not as physical as riding a horse.”

The oilfield consultant from Rosalind bought one of his carriages through eBay for $3,900 US. The black carriage looks like one of long ago, but was made in China and is all metal.

“You sit quite high,” he said.

He bought another cart from Pennysylvania where he sometimes competes. As part of the deal, it came with a pony.

Judy Orr-Bertelsen of Kevisville has been carriage driving for over five years.

“It’s a lot of fun and if you have a competitive spirit, it’s great,” she said.

Fulton, a 62-year-old employee for insulation manufacturer Johns Manville in Innisfail, said he originally wanted a horse to go sleigh riding in the winter. He joined the Chinook chapter eight years ago.

“We needed some skill upgrading and then we heard about the (chapter),” said Fulton, chapter president. “It’s a great way for young and old to get together and enjoy their horses. And as people get older, jumping up on a horse can be a challenge.

“It’s easier to step into the seat of a cart and ride behind.”

He figures some people participate partly for nostalgic reasons. With their formal outfits on, they might feel like they’re stepping back into the 19th century.

“At one time, only the wealthy could own horses and carriages,” said Fulton.

Chapter members use various horses, from thoroughbreds to miniatures. Fulton drives Norwegian fjord horses.

“Not all horses can handle wheeled vehicles coming along behind them so you need a horse with a fairly calm nature to do this,” said Fulton.

The Alberta Carriage Driving Association, formerly known as the Alberta Combined Driving Association, was formed 25 years ago in Innisfail. It now has eight active chapters which organize a range of activities including beginners’ driving clinics, pleasure shows along with cutter rallies in the country.

The Chinook chapter of 30 members meets monthly in Olds.

For more information on joining, go online at www.albertadriving-acda.ca or call Gordon Fulton at 403-224-3753.

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com