Marissa’s post on carriages brought back some great memories. I’ve actually had the privilege of driving a coach, thanks to some creative friends who gave me an unforgettable birthday present a few years ago.
They rented an open carriage and coachman to drive me through our little town’s equivalent of Hyde Park, which runs along the placid green-gray waters of the Columbia River. It was a white carriage with red trim and seats, pulled by two prancing black horses. What a thrill to feel the breeze caress my face, hear the clop of hooves against pavement (okay, blacktop, but go with me here!), adjust to the bounce of the springs and sway of the seat beneath me, watch the joggers stop and stare. Easy to imagine how it must have felt to tool through the real Hyde Park during the Season. Only it would have been Colin Firth and Matthew MacFayden staring. (I said go with me!)
We reached the end of the park road, and the coachman turned the horses. Then he looked at me with a grin and asked, “Would you like to take the reins?”
Would I? Oh, would I!
So there I sat, up on the box (that’s the seat up front for the driver), reins in one hand, just like a member of the Four-In-Hand-Club. The best young drivers (or at least the ones who liked to think they were the best) in nineteenth century England belonged to that club, meaning they could hold the four reins threaded through the fingers of one hand and remain in control of the horses even on turns, in bad weather, and during races.
It was thrilling and a little scary. The horses seemed massive and powerful. I swear one looked back with a smirk as if to say, “Bring it on, honey.” Could I really control them with those long, thin strips of leather? Young ladies and gentlemen in nineteenth century England did.
So did I. It was an amazing experience: setting them trotting, feeling the horses move to my commands. The flick of my wrist told them volumes. What a rush! If you get the chance to take the reins, I heartily recommend it.