[2011 news shared on Horse Smarts Blog]

Two NH-bred and raised carriage horses, named Gilford and Glendale, on Sunday July 17, 2011 took their owners, Rick and Connie Moses of Granite State Carriage, to the top of Mt. Washington. The event truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

In celebration of the 150th year since the opening of the Mt. Washington Carriage Road in 1861 (now known as the “Auto Road”), a Horse Event Weekend was held July 16-17, 2011, in which horses were invited to ride and drive on the mountain. The Great Glen trails at the base were closed to bicycles and open to horses, and on Sunday the Auto Road was closed to motorized vehicles so that horses could make the trek, 7.6 miles distance, from elevation 1527 ft. to 6288 ft.

UnicornHitchHorseCarriageUnicorn Hitch heading up Mt. Washington in 2011

BuckboardPair600Antique Buckboard with pair driving horses

About 35 horseback riders and 4 carriages achieved the summit, and one other coach with four reached the 6-mile mark. The Moses' pair of Arabian-Percheron brothers, pulling an Amish-made “Eagle” combo carriage, was one of two driving pairs making the full climb.

The other "turnouts" (rigs) summiting were a unicorn hitch (3 horses) pulling a marathon cart (Peter Van Halen), a pair put to an antique wagon, and a 4-in-hand put to another Eagle, sponsored by Carriage Machine Shop. The Eagle carriages have hydraulic brakes on the rear wheels. The ascent took the Moses' 4 1/2 hours, and 2 hours back down. During the descent the brakes were applied almost continually, in addition to holding the horses back in a controlled walk.

HorseCarriageOnWindyMountainThe Moses' and their carriage pair encounter stiff winds above the tree lineRick and Connie spent two months conditioning their "boys" through training on the hills of Gilford NH, including driving them up Gilford's Belknap Mountain carriage road a few times to simulate the grade of the Auto Road, which averages a consistent 12% incline. Rick  retrofit and installed a bicycle odometer/speedometer onto their carriage so as to track their training progress, and he was able to observe their walking pace up the mountain, which averaged from 2.2 to 2.4 mph, with lots of rest stops.

Glendale and Gilford got pretty tired but never faltered, they trudged along like true work horses. They sweated some at the lower elevations but never were breathing really hard, due to lots of rest breaks. Connie did a fair amount of walking too!

As they passed the treeline around 4000 feet, and especially above 5000 feet, the wind was ferocious but it kept them cool. At points there was such a strong headwind it slowed them down! Temperatures on top were in the high 50's and the air was quite clear.

Amish4inHandCarriageAmish 4-in-Hand Eagle Carriage

AmishCarriageEagleDragBoardDrag Board used to add extra braking to Amish horse carriageCarriagePairMtWashingtonThe Moses' Glendale and Gilford on
Mt. Washington Carriage Road

The Moses' barefoot horses wore rubber hoof boots on all fours which gave them protection and extra traction. They were very glad to stand at the top for an hour eating hay; one could say they were energized when it was time to head back down. Overall they came through in fine shape! The boys received "This Horse Climbed Mt. Washington" bumper stickers for their achievement, plus lots of treats and hay, a liniment sponging, and a well-deserved rest!

The well-organized mountain support crew provided horse water and people water at every milepost checkpoint along the route (level pullout), and they monitored and reported all the horses' conditions to a veterinarian on the summit. At the top they provided hay and plenty more water.

HorseRidersPeriodCostume1880sHorse riders in 1880s period costumeHorseback riders were in front, with carriages following; a small group of costumed sweep riders from the Auto Road crew were behind the Moses’ most of the way up. The carriages were held at the top until all four had summited, so that no carriages had to pass each other on the mountain. The Auto Road organizers headed by Mary Power, plus lots of volunteers, deserved all the praise for this fantastic event, which was blessed with perfect weather!

HorsebackRidersMtWashingtonHorseback riders with Mount Madison behind



The video at

gives a good sense of driving a carriage up and down historic Mount Washington. Camera-person and “groom” Connie Moses did a lot of walking, both for exercise and to lighten the horses’ load. Rick Moses was the “whip” (driver).

Mt. Washington Auto Road website: