Horses

Of course, carriages can't go anywhere without horses, and like most modern people, I don't have a ton of experiences with the creatures, other than being overly obsessed with them as a little girl. So, here's some general information about horses that you might find interesting.

Random Facts
  • Horses were a huge part of 1800s life. During long-distance travel, coaches would trade out their tired horses for fresh ones at coaching inns, and at the height of the horsepower era, over 150,000 horses were kept at inns along major coaching routes. Over 30,000 people were employed to care for them.

  • An estimated 100,000 tons of muck (the fancy word for poop) every day in London during that time.

  • A horse eats 2.5% of its body weight in food every day to have enough energy to live and work. Most of the food needed to be bulky food like hay or chaff, which were good for digestion.

  • Horses have to be taken to the blacksmith (or farrier) every 4-6 weeks to have their hooves trimmed and shoes replaced.

  • For gentlemen who drive gigs, curricles, cabriolets, and other such carriages, it was considered imperative for them to have two horses even if the carriage only required one. They needed one horse for daytime travel and one for nighttime travel. The daytime horse had to be impeccable, where the nighttime one wasn't quite as handsome or nice. The idea is that at night, the horse wouldn't be easily seen as the streets weren't well lit, and you wouldn't have to subject your nicer daytime horse to the cold night air. As Lord William Pitt Lennox said in Coaching, with Anecdotes of the Road, "No one who values a good horse would dream of allowing him to stand exposed to chilly blasts at the opera, the theatre, or his club."

  • Horses are measured by "hands," which is the measuring system that has been in place for centuries. It's based on how many hands (going from the base of palm to tips of the fingers) would fit from their front hooves up the leg to the shoulder blades. In modern measurements, a hand is four inches.

Terms

Pair

Two horses harnessed side-by-side. They were needed when carrying four-wheeled carriages for long journeys or when carrying a great weight a short distance. A single horse could only be used for light carriages.

Tandem

Two horses harnessed one in front of the other

Team

Four (or possibly more) horses comprising of pairs. These were used for heavy carriages, such as stagecoaches.

 

Leaders

The first pair of horses in a team. They need to be brave and sensible horses who will listen to the postillion and behave well.

 

Wheelers

The rear pair of horses in a team. They needed to be strong as they pull the majority of the weight and provide the main form of braking.

Breeds

Irish Draught

A strong, powerful and attractive horse, bred initially for farm work. Its powerful build makes it ideal as a top-class carriage horse and hunter. Roughly 16 hands tall.

Friesian

One of Europe’s oldest breeds. It is compact, muscular, and very showy. Known to have a calm nature. It is a perfect carriage horse -- particularly for larger carriages and coaches. Roughly 16 hands tall.

Thoroughbred

Originated in England during the 17th & 18th centuries to produce a fast racing horse. Elegant and athletic, this breed has incredible stamina and excels in all types of equestrian sport. Perfect for cabriolets and smaller carriages. Roughly 15 hands tall.

 

Welsh Cobb

The largest and strongest of the Welsh breeds. A courageous animal, much prized for its versatility; it's perfect for use both on a carriage and for riding. Roughly 14 hands tall.

 

Hackney Pony

Famous for its elevated and extravagant trot. It has a spirited disposition and combined with strength makes it an elegant and eye-catching carriage horse. Perfect for Phaetons. Roughly 14 feet tall.

Exmoor Pony

An old breed from as far back as 1000AD. Exceptionally tough, it is capable of carrying a grown man for a full day with ease. They have unique pale markings around their eyes and nose. Perfect for carriages like a governess cart. Roughly 12 hands tall.

Shetland Pony

The smallest native breed. It is incredibly strong and hardy. Its abundance of mane and tail hair is designed to protect it in hard winter weather. Useful for very small carts. Roughly 10 hands tall.

Donkey

Okay, so not technically a horse, but donkeys were used during the 1800s to pull carriages and wagons. Considered the poor man’s horse, they were incredibly hard-working, strong, and placid. They were popular pets and were often used by the elderly or ladies to pull smaller carriages. Roughly 9 hands tall.