PATRICIA SMITH: For Whom Does the Horn Blow?
One Southern Pines resident who lives adjacent to horse country thought the horn he heard sounding one day last week was the Archangel Gabriel calling him home.
He and other local residents were delighted with a sight from a bygone era as they rushed out of their homes to see a parade of carriages, each pulled by either three or four horses, traveling the roads around horse country. It was a sight from a time when horsepower meant just that. The sounding of the horn by the "tootler," which is the coaching term for the horn blower, is what signaled the arrival of the carriages to people along the route.
The drivers or "whips" of the carriages are members of The Four-in Hand Club, an international organization whose members drive four horses "put-to" sporting vehicles (and coaches in more formal presentations). The purpose of the club is to promote driving of fours for pleasure, to preserve the historical and cultural traditions of coaching, and to share the experience with others in the hope of promoting more interest in the sport.
Local members Linda and Jack Kennard, James and Sharon Granito, Linda McVicker, Claire Reid and Barry and Gail Soloman hosted John and Penny Hunt from Pennsylvania and Eric and Mary Jensen from Colorado April 24-27. This is the sixth year the club has met in Southern Pines.
On Sunday, April 27, Linda Kennard led the parade of carriages on a drive with a stop at Hobby Field during the Terrier Trials. The sight of the four-in-hands trotting across the field with the backdrop of purple flowers in full bloom was reminiscent of 19th century paintings of horse-drawn carriages with passengers dressed in their finest attire for a day's outing in the country.
Linda Kennard drove a Wagonette pulled by four Dutch Harness Horses. According to Linda, the Dutch Harness horse is especially bred for long-distance driving. The horses have the stamina to travel 25 miles per day.
Like most four-in-hands of horses, they are carefully matched in appearance and pace.
Linda was joined on her carriage by Holly Thompson, a professional coachman who used to drive for Prince Philip. Riding in the back of the carriage were Linda's husband, Jack, and Peggy Baldwin.
The tootler on John and Penny Hunt's carriage traveled from Pennsylvania to take part in the three-day drive. According to LInda Kennard, the sounding of the horn originated for purposes of safety back when the roads were poor. It was a way of communicating highway signals from a distance. There were different tunes to indicate different signals such as passing left or passing right. Furthermore, each coach had an identifying medley.
The splendid sight of wonderfully turned-out carriages and horses is just one of the perks of living in an equestrian community.
For a driver, a four-in-hand is considered the ultimate challenge of driving skill. It's a little like dying and going to heaven to see a parade of four-in-hands. Gee, I never did find out what the coach horn tootler's name was.
Perhaps it was Gabriel.
Patricia Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
More like this story
- Competitor Camaraderie Marks Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games Driving Event
- A Timeless Tradition: Pleasure Driving Returns to Pinehurst for the 14th Year
- Local Drivers Take Top Finishes
- Christmas Tradition Continues: Driving Club Gets Ready for Parade
- Southern Quarters, Ravenbrook Farm on Upcoming Horse Barn Tour