At Classic Carriage we pride ourselves on having the best looking horses in the city, and we exclusively use black Percheron draft horses for our touring carriages. Percherons were originally bred in France, taking their name from the Le Perche province. Known for their impressive size, strength, and intelligence, Percherons were originally bred as war horses. They were ridden by knights into battle, and as warfare evolved they were used for pulling artillery. The breed was later used to pull long distance stage coaches, mail wagons, delivery wagons, in addition to being used on farms for plowing, logging, and harvesting work. It has been said that these are the horses that built America. Percherons have also been used to pull beer wagons, much like their more famous (yet smaller) cousins the Clydesdales. Percherons were first brought to this country in 1839, and would eventually become the most common draft horse breed in America. The invention of the modern tractor would lead to the near extinction of the breed, but a few farming communities, many of them Amish, continued to use these magnificent animals for their farm work. Today, you will find Percherons working on farms, logging in forests, and pulling carriages in theme parks, small towns, and major cities throughout the world. American breeding of the Percheron has resulted in a much larger horse, and they are now considered to be the second strongest breed in the world. With their average weight of around 2,000 pounds, the breed is around 700 pounds heavier than when they were first brought over from France. In fact, the largest horse in American history was a Percheron named Dr. Legear. Foaled in St. Louis 1902, he eventually stood 21 hands tall and weighed over 3,000 pounds!
The horses we use at Classic Carriage all come from Amish country. Holmes County, Ohio has the largest percentage of Amish residents of any county in America, and that is where our horses are born and raised. Before they make their way to Charleston, our horses are working on Amish farms pulling plows, logs, and hay threshers. Only the best looking and best mannered horses are selected for our company. Once they make their way to Charleston, we put them through an extensive training regimen to make sure they are qualified both mentally and physically before we bring them into the city. Going from working on an Amish farm to pulling a carriage with wheels on a flat paved street is a transition our horses are very happy to make. When they are in the city, they get watered and have their temperatures taken after every tour, they have Jolly Balls to play with on their days off, and on hot days they even get to drink beer (it helps them sweat). If it gets too hot for the horses, we will take them off the street.
When it comes to caring for our horses, we set the standard for the industry. We take great pride in having not only the best looking horses in the city, but also the happiest horses in Charleston. When they are in the city, our horses will only work five to six days out of the week, and do an average of about three hours of work a day. Their work rotation is six weeks in the city, and then a three to six week vacation out at the company’s farm. While at the farm, they can run, roll in the mud, and just be horses!