Archive » June 21, 2012
By Pat Murphy, Contributing Writer
What luck! In this Valley we are blessed with gentle reminders of the past that beguile the eye and charm the soul. One of our latest additions to the carriage driving community is Paula Knickerbocher. She’s been driving horses almost all her life and has a team of the most dazzling, giant black Friesians horses one could imagine. They charge forward on feathered hooves, with long-flowing manes and tails and create a true spectacle.
We went on a drive on Roblar Avenue, a rural road that is in the heart of horse country. Of the 30 or more cars that passed us, only four failed to courteously slow down, and many pulled over to enjoy the beautiful sight. We give great courtesy to our bicyclers, and drivers who slow down for horse-drawn vehicles are instantly rewarded.
“When I was a kid in Illinois, I had a pony and in the winter time and I’d hitch it up to my sled,” Paula tells me. “In the summer I’d hitch him to my wagon. Later, I got a pony cart and my aunt taught me to drive. As an adult, I drove a wonderful Morgan that was just the most sensible horse in the world. It was almost a case of him teaching me, and horses have always been a big part of my life. Some years later, I was attending the Draft Horse Classic in Grass Valley, and I saw these magnificent big, black horses and found that they were Friesians. I located the man who had these old-type baroque Friesians and somehow, I ended up buying two horses, with their special harnesses, an elegant vis-a-vis carriage and a Dutch cart.
“I just went home and hitched them up and off we went. I really could have gotten myself killed, but these horses were so kind and forgiving. We had a wonderful time. Then, Gov. Miller of Nevada heard about us and asked if we could be in the Virginia City camel parade. So I took my horse Ingbert and the carriage. We were temporarily parked by the side of a road while the governor and his family got aboard. All of a sudden, here come 25 camels down the road headed for the camel races. Ingbert was really fascinated and couldn’t take his eyes off of them, until an elephant walked by. But he remained calm and stood perfectly still. He also survived walking along the parade route with a big band behind him.”
Because of his spectacular beauty, Ingbert had his moment of TV fame and was then invited to Louisville, Kentucky, to take part in a big show called “Equatana.” Part of the show included medieval costumes. “Ingbert was showing off for all he was worth, and I don’t think his feet ever touched the ground. Sometime later, we entered a carriage class in Pomona, Calif., against 13 elegant carriages, and Ingbert was hitched to a simple presentation vehicle and we were so astounded to be chosen the winners that I almost fell out of the carriage,” says Paula with a laugh.
“We also went to the Calgary Stampede to do a demonstration. I can tell you that these Friesian horses have taken me to places I never would have visited. I go on trips with the Carriage Association, and I recently went to England to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. There were people and horses from all over the world. They actually flew horses in from Oman and the Mounties came from Canada. It was 40 degrees outside and we were all just freezing. The ladies from Oman in gossamer costumes rode Arabian horses bareback and some of them just slid right off. One of the Mounties horses bucked his rider off and left him standing there while he went right on with his routine. Poor guy was so embarrassed! We saw the Queen and Prince Phillip and his four Fell ponies, which are descended from the Friesians.”
The Friesian breed originated in the Netherlands and is a draft breed. But due to their great beauty and kind dispositions, they are being refined to be riding horses.
Paula’s dear horse, Ingbert, is retired now and Axel is his replacement. “Axel is one of the most perfect horses I have ever had, she says.” He loves his work and is a very kind horse. The other horse in my team is Harley. He famously represented the Friesian breed at Kentucky Horse Park and took part in the costumed presentations. He just has a wonderful temperament … but then all Friesians do. They use the thinking side of their head instead of the flight instinct.”