Holding the reins as a carriage driver
By Sarah Einselen
Each year at Come Home to Galion, one of the most popular attractions Uptowne is the free carriage rides embarking from the steps of the Galion Public Library. Young children wait in line to sit in the seats behind the driver. But what’s it like to be holding the reins?
Tom Murphy, who with partner Rich Wolfe owns T&S Country Carriage Service and recently purchased Pine Acres Reindeer Farm and Carriage Service, drove a white carriage around and around the library block for about two hours on Saturday, Dec. 3, trailing the larger wagon that the company also brought. Murphy launch-ed T&S in 2005.
“I had draft horses and I just decided to start doing it,” he said. He already had a show harness, as well, that he’d purchased in 1995. That was the harness he used to hitch his percherons, a breed of powerful draft horses, to the little white carriage he drove on Saturday.
That harness also represents what usually surprises people about the business—how expensive it is to operate. The harness is made of bionylon-covered leather in order to repel water and cost $3,000. Add to that the cost of the two sleighs, two carriages and two “people-movers” that T&S owns, plus the feed for each horse. Then there’s the time that a carriage driver spends.
“If I’m doing a wedding it’ll take me a whole day just to get ready,” Murphy said. He has to clean everything, each horse, each piece of equipment, each horse stall. He has to make sure the horses stay clean, too, coaxing them back inside their stalls if they try to explore the dirt and mud outside.
During the summer, Murphy bales hay and straw and maintains the stalls for the company’s six horses. The horses’ feet are trimmed every eight weeks throughout the year.
But the work’s worth it when he sees children’s smiling faces.
“Seeing little kids being happy, and if I’m going to a wedding, seeing the people there,” he said, was the most rewarding part of being a carriage driver.