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Starting a carriage business
Posted by Vickie at 2013-04-08 19:18:50
I'm tossing around the idea of starting a carriage business for weddings etc. I have a matched team of mules that have been in traffic an heavily shown also. I have a 2 seater carriage I just purchased.

Does anyone on here do this? If so, what advice do you have. I have a full time job as an ultrasound tech so this would be a side job.

I live in Casper wy and there is no one here that provides this.

Response by BelgianGuy at 2013-04-08 21:20:22
INSURANCE! Also, don't be afraid to charge a competitive price. You may want to check with CONA (Carriage Operators of North America) for info.
Response by Rod SW WI at 2013-04-09 05:49:17
I used to do some weddings years ago. Hard to charge enough when you figure in all your time and travel. Not trying to discourage you but mine could have been termed more of a "Carriage Hobby" rather that a "Carriage Business" LOL.
Response by Joaker at 2013-04-09 06:34:24
Insurance is important, check with your farm owner's policy they may cover you already. I have Farm Bureau, and they do. If you just by a carriage operator's policy, that will be a major portion of your cost.
Response by Mike in MI at 2013-04-09 08:15:11
I've driven carriage, hired by someone else, and learned a couple things: You have to have a rig big enough to carry both the carriage and horses/mules. That's a huge expense, along with the gas to get there. LOTS of time eaten up schlepping around. But it is a very special feeling to provide the service, especially at weddings.
So I came up with a possible alternative: Park the carriage in town i.e. find someone willing to store it for you at little/no cost (folks I met were happy to have a carriage in their "carriage barn"). Then, all you have to do is haul your horses/mules to town, hitch where the carriage is, then drive, say, up to 3 miles, to where the event is.
Now, of course this limits the geography of your business, but there's not the enormous overhead of a huge rig. And it's amazing how many people will alter their plans a bit to get that ride. I live 10 miles from the town where I've done this (Chelsea, MI, population: 5k). Not doing it now for various reasons, but it also worked when I did wagon rides at the Farmers' Market.

We charged $20 for just a 15 min. ride around town, and around $250-450 for a wedding. Proms are good business too. And don't forget to make it clear you accept tips!

Hope it helps...just my .04 worth

Response by kevin fort causeway at 2013-04-09 11:10:33
you might check into corporate sponsorships to pull a wagon in Frontier Days in Cheyenne for some extra $$ too....

Safety is key, sometimes a more utility function heavier vehicle with brakes is a great idea. Some use an outrider to be in front of the team, and keep ignorant people out of the way...
Response by Vickie at 2013-04-09 16:31:50
Thank you everyone ! I want to hear the good and bad of it. I have a rig to pull both and am doing my sons prom this weekend in Nebraska.

The hauling part isn't an issue. The vehicle I have has brakes too.

As far as home owners I have a mobile home so it's a different policy. I see the cona website probably has some insight on that when I join.

Thank you all very much and if u have more insight please share.
Response by Randle at 2013-04-09 18:27:08
Check state laws or do a google under 'equine liability' for your state. Some states now have laws specifically for liability in equine activities that puts the responsibility on the customer. A signed waiver is also a good idea. I used the waiver in Illinios and was verified by a lawyer and a judge that it would stand up in a liability case. The main responsibility as an operator is ensuring your equipment is in GOOD, SAFE shape and the horses/team is appropriate to the activity.

Good Luck Vickie!
Response by Klaus Karbaumer at 2013-04-09 19:36:33
In 1992 I ran a carriage business in Iowa City, IA with one horse ( I still own him , my now 28 year old Charlie) and a surrey (with fringes on top) that would seat 9 people, myself included. I gave carriage rides in the city park on weekends, did some weddings and especially picnic trips primarily for professors from the University of Iowa. In the park we charged $2 per person for a 5 min ride, weddings and picnic rides cost a flat rate of $ 250. We started in May and ran till the weather got to be too cold in October. It paid well, since it paid the purchase price for the horse , the new harness, the new surrey, the insurance, the feed cost for that year , the fee for the city ( 25 of my park earnings)and left me a little on top of that. The following year flooding and my move to Kansas City put an end to that. Here is what I found important: I had good publicity (two newspapers picked up on the story of the immigrant with a passion for heavy horses and local TV brought a short segment ) and the size of the community with its special university population . I didn't have to spend money on advertising , the people sought me out.
I don't know where you live , Vicki, if the population base is big enough for a profitable enterprise. Of course, if it's not meant to bring in real money, then anything is possible. But be sure, that you have enough insurance coverage. A million dollars is a must. And then one has to consider if in today's economic climate people do not spend money that easily anymore. Also, if your carriage holds only two passengers , you need a lot of trips to make it worthwhile for yourself.
Response by M. Burley at 2013-04-09 20:43:05
We do quite a few wagon rides in the nearby towns for some of their events. We try to avoid the larger cities as most require a higher liability coverage. Ours is covered by a rider on our farm policy. Try to have plenty of help with you, and hopefully some with experience. As Mike mentioned, accept tips. Our kids keep a coffee can in the wagon with a sign that says; " Donations for apples and carrots for the horses".
Response by carlheth rolla mo at 2013-04-09 21:34:15
Around here some use a light bumper hitch trailer for their carriage or wagon behind a 2 horse bumper hitch trailer. I have a receiver hitch on the back of my goose neck to pull a light trailer with my wagon. Short distances it work fine for me.
Response by Felt at 2013-04-10 07:21:54
I have had a carriage business in New Braunfels for 6 years. In general, I have found that as long as you are doing weddings and small private functions like that, the city stays out of the way and I can make a little money. Not enough to live on. Just enough to feed the horses.
If you are trying to do carriage/wagon rides for the public, picking up folks on city streets, the game changes. Then you become liable for annual license fees, minimum insurance requirements, carriage and horse inspections and regulations around when you can and cannot be on the street. Doing it for the public, they require that you pick up and unload passengers at specific locations that are not convenient to the public. I got the license last year, but am not sure I will this year. December is my biggest month, and as long at it is profitable, I probably will do it.
I do not set on the street and wait. Have tried that and found it to be a waste of time and resources. The city seems to prefer to have horses somewhere else.
We are absolutely prohibited from being in the part of the city that has the most foot traffic, and therefore, the most potential profitability; Gruene, TX.
Response by Mike in MI at 2013-04-10 09:41:45
Just another .02 worth: The last time I did wagon rides for the farmers' market, I had told them I couldn't afford to do it (they had invited me). I was charging $3/person. They said, "How about if we pay you a flat rate and you do the rides for free?" I said "Yes." The market had the liability insurance and I didn't need it, since I technically wasn't selling anything to customers. Probably always a risk, but it worked then. Insurance is usually the over-the-top expense that kills the whole venture from making any $$ at all.
Agreeing with Randle, making darn sure your equipment is in perfect shape is a must.
Good luck! Mike
Response by Geoff at 2013-04-11 11:24:08
You're only limited by your imagination. I looked at a wagon for sale that a woman in N. CA was using to give rides to and from the local wineries (maybe even a route). She was swamped. Also did one of those "online deal of the day" things to jumpstart her business and the floodgates opened.

As per most public ventures with your animals, the biggest hazard IS the public. Unpredictable.
Response by Bernadine Newland at 2013-04-12 12:15:46
I had a horse drawn carriage service here in Salem Oregon for a few years. I had more business than I could do in the first two years until the economy tanked. Then I kept working on it but couldn't make it pay. My best advice is to make sure you have insurance or at least legal insurance like Legal Shield for your business in case someone sues you. I had great fun with weddings, Quinceaneras, etc. I also did rides during the Chistmas season. If you have a street or two that go all out decorating for the Christmas season you can do well giving rides through a neighborhood. I have a 12 passenger surrey and we charged $10.00 per person for a 20 minute ride. I now have it for sale. : ) because I sold my team. Also CONA has a lot of info and a forum that is worth the price of joining. I learned so much just paying attention to the chat on the forum. : ) Good luck with your venture!
Response by Don McAvoy at 2013-04-13 16:25:20
I did several 4th of July parades. Now the city of 2000 doesn't want horses on the streets. I have enjoyed seeing no horses the last 2 years. They are begging for horses in the parade now. Sucks when it was the horse that made it a town. Idiots.

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