You can’t get much more romantic, especially around the holidays, than a horse-drawn carriage ride. When the weather’s nice, you can enjoy clip-clopping through your favorite Appalachian historic town. And even if the temperature drops, you can snuggle together under a blanket, sipping hot chocolate, while enjoying the pace of life from another era. After an outdoor wedding ceremony, a carriage ride is perhaps the most romantic outdoor activity.
In the larger towns and in cities throughout the Southern Appalachians, horse-drawn carriages carry tourists and locals alike along paved streets. Once a common sight, back before the automobile became synonymous with personal transportation, horse-drawn carriages have made a little comeback. Although not without some dissention.
Worry and Bother
Accidents can happen. But like downtown accidents involving motor vehicles, they are extremely rare. Some animal-lovers see a horse-drawn carriage and conclude that the industry is not only dangerous, but immoral. They worry that the horse receives little care, is pushed beyond its means and has to work in health-hazardous conditions.
The truth points in the opposite direction. Most of the horses that pull carriages in Southern Appalachia aren’t housed in the city or town, as the countryside is usually nearby. The horses often live on a farm just outside the city, with plenty of open pasture. While they work in the city, their hours are often shorter than a human’s. Most carriage companies employ more than one horse for their carriage(s).
A Holiday Treat
The sight of a horse and carriage on the street becomes the best advertisement for the business. People can’t resist interacting with the animal, and during the Christmas season, the rides are popular. Tourists from other cities look for unusual activities, something they can’t do at home. Locals are drawn by the idea of seeing their city in a unique way.
Plus, a horse-drawn carriage can’t help but inspire nostalgia, especially among the older generation. Since Christmas is a time of year that draws on the memories of years past, a horse-drawn carriage often evokes a smile, even from those who aren’t interested in a ride. It’s like a Currier-and-Ives holiday print come to life.
Southern Appalachian Carriage Rides
Towns like Asheville, NC, and Dahlonega, GA, allow horse-drawn carriages on their city streets, and the businesses have been successful. Since the cities already promote their historic pasts, the horse-drawn carriages seem to be a good fit. If you travel to Southern Appalachia during the holiday season, look for a carriage ride. Here is a sampling from every state in the region:
- Asheville Horse & Carriage Tours, LLC, Asheville, NC
- Carousel Carriage Services, LLC, Kearneysville, WV
- CarriageMarriage.com, Richmond, KY
- Equine Elegance, Inc., Elizabethton, TN
- Gold City Corral & Carriage Company, Dahlonega, GA
- Lexington Carriage Company, Lexington, VA
- Whispering Winds Carriage Company, Greenville, SC
If you’ve never had the pleasure of a horse-drawn carriage ride, you’re missing a relaxing way to tour a mountain town. Feel free to ask about the animal’s care, but remember that, like humans, horses like to work. Take the ride and, because it’s the holidays, leave a big tip.