A 'yellow bounder' is born
It was around 2003 when Steve and I were asked to provide the horses for Trafalgar 200 by carriage-driving expert Richard James. We had always been known for doing “different” types of events with our horses—including leading the New Year's Parade in Hong Kong in 2002 (the year of the horse).
Back then, when the organisers of the New Trafalgar Dispatch were planning and researching for their 2005 events, there were not any original post-chaises in a fit working order, so we decided to have one built especially. At that time Steve was importing carriages from Poland. We knew a very good small family company that worked to a very high standard and demonstrated great attention to detail, so they were the ideal people to ask to build a replica post-chaise. We took photos of an original carriage that is in the Mossman museum and also found some old drawings to work with.
The bright yellow post-chaise probably took over a year to build and it was very exciting when eventually it arrived home [Ed: Temple Farm in Bedfordshire where Liz still operates her carriage hire business].
Training the horses
The horses we had at the time were all very young, four horses - all 5 year olds, but at that age they are all willing to learn and we had had them since they were 2 years, so already knew them well. Although the horses all drove in a carriage, they did have to be trained to ride and then to be ridden in the carriage, which is quite a different feel for them.
When we were training them I would ride the horses and Steve would sit up on the exercise carriage to work the brake if needed, a very strange and unnerving feeling sitting on a carriage with no reins in your hands. We often used to joke about what would happen if I were to get bucked off! Fortunately we never tested that theory!
Out in public
Before the main events we had a press event at Royal Windsor Horse Show, we took a pair and had a wonderful canter round the main arena as this was the pace that the post-chaise would have travelled at. In its day it was a very fast mode of transport.
We also took it to Het Loo Palace in Holland for a Attelage event and then on to Cuts in France for another Attelage competition. Attelage de Tradition events are competitions using original-style carriages. The event consists of three phases: presentation in front of three judges; a timed drive with difficulties such as a one-handed circle, or a rein back, or going past a band without the horses shying away; and then a cones course. They are great fun and very social events. They started in France but are now held all over Europe and more recently here in the UK.
Planning for 'Trafalgar'
In the 6 months leading up to the main events there was lots of planning to do. We had to recce the route, find places to unload and set up, locations to stable the horses, plus local services such as vets and farriers. Also we had to meet at all the places we would be presenting plaques, to go though and make notes of what was required. It was all planned very thoroughly down to the last minute: who would open the carriage door, what side the passengers would get out from, where the carriage would be while the presentation took place and which direction we would head to when we left.
Meet the horses!
The important thing through the whole trip was keeping the horses happy and settled. The horses that we used were Larry and Impulse which are the two dappled grey and Mischief and Bubbles liver chestnuts. Mischief is the only one of those four that is still working and he also took part in the Waterloo celebrations in 2015. The horses are all Dutch Gelderlanders, they are a very flashy moving horse and tend to have a good temperament. They make very good carriage horses.
Larry was the biggest of the team at 17.3 hh and a gentle giant, he loved to make his work fun and was always looking for ways to entertain himself. He liked to chew reins and generally be very nosey but he would accept any situation that you put him and was totally reliable.
Impulse lived for food! He was a real worker and could pull the carriage on his own if you would let him. Always liked to get on with the job and like to dance a bit if he thought you were going too slow.
Bubbles was a quiet boy who just got on and did his job, did exactly as he was told and you could easily forget that he was there as he was never any trouble.
Well what can I say? He is my favourite boy and loves to pose, he will go anywhere and trot along quietly until he sees people and then he just has go up a gear, lift his knees and pose to the crowds. He's a super friendly boy who loves a cuddle.
You can read more about Carriagehire's horses here.
The highlights of our Trafalgar Way adventure
The first day in Falmouth was pretty special, we were sent on our way by HRH Princess Anne and the streets were packed with people. London was also fantastic as it marked the end of an incredible six weeks, but some of the smaller presentations were very moving too and the support of the local people heartwarming. Always lots of happy people that were very interested in what we were doing.
The people from the farms and yards that stabled the horses along the route often get involved too and came to help and watch while we were working in the local area. At one of the yards where we stayed there was a large historic house and it was the birthday of one of the owner's daughters, so we took them for an evening carriage ride in the post-chaise. We were delighted when they appeared in original costumes that they had found in the attic, it was like going back in time.
One moment that sticks in my mind was on the final day going down The Mall and walking very slowly behind the Household Cavalry when instead of turning right to Horse Guards we continued to the end and turned around in front of the arch, apparently we were early and needed to lose some time, I wondered where the earth we were going!
I think the last part in London was the biggest highlight—being escorted by the Household Cavalry along The Mall to Horse Guards Parade and then in to the Admiralty. Amazing!
There was a funny moment when we were in The Admiralty, when the dispatch was handed to Deputy Prime Minister Mr John Prescott and he was about to start his speech. One of the horses, Impulse decided that was the moment to interrupt him with a very loud whinny. “Why are politicians always barracked?” Mr Prescott wanted to know.
It was a very emotional experience and I am grateful to our wonderful horses that made it all possible
The challenges of the trip
We were away on the trip for six weeks and had only three days off in that time. Even then, on one of these days off we did a special appearance for a local 'Driving for the Disabled' group with whom the people we were stabled with were involved. It was an amazing six weeks and looking back I am not sure how we did it! There was just Steve and I to manage everything regarding the post-chaise until the last five days in London when we were joined by Laura from home as we had a team of four horses for the last part of the trip in London.
Fortunately the weather was very kind to us apart from Portesham and Portland where it rained very hard all day. [Ed: we have seen the footage from the thunder and rainstorm you encountered in Blandford, too!]
What we accomplished is especially remarkable given that Steve was receiving peritoneal dialysis at that time and he had to administer his treatment 3 times a day for 30 to 40 minutes. He would often do this in the lorry in the mornings on the way to the first job of the day.
We had four horses with us and most of the time we were working just a pair. We would swap the horses around depending on how many miles we had to go and what sort of presentation it was (some horses were better at accepting bands playing next to them, etc.). The four horses all had to be fed, mucked out etc, before we left the stables with the pair of horses that were working that day. On arriving back, we'd have all the horses again to sort and feed, and harness to clean, ready for the next day.
I think non-horse people perhaps don’t realize the amount of work that goes into producing horses for this sort of event. They need to be very well trained and mannered but they are still animals and people need to remember this. Our horses will accept a lot and I was very proud of the fact that we did this whole trip with four young horses and everything ran like clockwork. At the last dinner we were likened to the Red Arrows, always spot on time and always at our best!
Since our Trafalgar adventure we have also being involved in the Battle of Waterloo celebrations from Waterloo to London. This time over two long weekends but again great fun. Mischief was the only horse to have been with us on both occasions. He is normally the lead hand (led) horse and loves to pose to the crowds.
Unfortunately, by then Steve was not fit enough to ride with me for Waterloo, so Sharon Wootton learnt how to ride postillion so she could share the riding.
After losing Steve in 2016 Carriagehire will never be the same, as we had been running it together for nearly 30 years, but the horses do keep me busy and moving forward and I still enjoy the opportunities and events that we get involved with. We have travelled to many places home and abroad and I am grateful to my gorgeous horses.
Our day-to-day work is providing traditional carriages for weddings, funerals and special occasions. Last summer we gave many people the experience of carriage driving while joining us exercising the horses around North Bedfordshire.
I also continue to take part in Attelage events here and abroad with Singles, Pairs, Tandems and Teams.
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In memory of Steve Jarman 1950 - 2016
Steve came from a totally non-horsey family. Living in Watford as a young boy he delivered paraffin to earn money for riding lessons. His love of horses grew and he started carriage driving. He built up a polythene manufacturing business and he bought a pair of horses to show in a trade carriage to promote this business. This later progressed to teams of four horses. He competed in most driving disciplines and had great success. For the 30 years before his death in 2016, along with his wife Liz, many horses were purchased and brought over from Holland and trained to work in the Carriagehire business that is still thriving now. Steve also showed a team of horses with a private drag (stage coach) at all the major county shows. He was a member of The Coaching Club, which is a very old historic club for gentlemen who drive teams of 4 horses.
The Trafalgar Way and the 1805 Club express their warm thanks to Steve (in memoriam) and to Liz for all their work helping with the New Trafalgar Dispatch, making it such a success and creating such great memories for people who witnessed the post-chaise appearances of 2005.
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Do you have photos of the post-chaise to share with us from 2005 or since? Or have you ever seen or taken a ride in an original one from the 19th century? We'd love to hear from you! Drop us a note via this page!