A carriage, a horse and away he went

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Mike Wertz, the owner of Caustelot Farms, fondly remembers Tom, his first carriage horse, as he sits in an office overlooking the barn’s indoor arena. Clad in a barn jacket and sturdy boots, he looks every bit the horseman he claims to be. Wertz bought Tom 17 years ago, when he decided to branch out from his farrier business and learn how to drive a carriage.


“I bought a carriage, a horse, and away I went!” he jokingly recalled when talking about his decision to give carriage driving a try.


Before Wertz owned Caustelot Farms in Cecil Township, he was a farrier, and he fielded a lot of phone calls asking if he knew of anyone who offered carriage rides. After going on a carriage ride in Lancaster, he decided to buy a horse and teach it how to “drive.” Today, Wertz offers carriage rides to people at Station Square and Market Square in Pittsburgh.


Wertz’s parents were not horse people, so when he decided to drop out of college and become a farrier, they were initially skeptical. “Horses were my life,” Wertz recalled. At that point, he owned one horse.


“You always get the people saying, ‘You’re crazy,’” he said. “(But) I’m the kind of person ... to make sure I do it.”


When Wertz started the carriage rides 17 years ago, he had a horse, a carriage and a driver – himself. Now, Wertz uses five horses and has three regular drivers. Over the holidays, he uses three extra drivers.


“As soon as it gets cold, everyone wants a carriage ride,” Wertz said. He offers carriage rides year-round, but business really starts to pick up over the holidays and around Valentine’s Day. “There’s no competition in town,” he said.


Originally, Wertz started his carriage rides in South Park, where he kept his horses. “It was just a flop,” he said. The start-up cost wasn’t easy, either. For a new carriage, Wertz said it cost about $9,000 to $10,000. A single harness costs $1,200, and the cost of the horse and trucks and trailers that go with it also can be expensive. But then, Wertz was given the opportunity to give carriage rides in Station Square.


Wertz offers two types of carriage rides: the downtown tour, which people can take via reservation and is a one-hour ride at $135, or walk-ups. People can walk up at any time to take a ride, and it costs $20 for a 10-minute ride through Station Square, or $50 for a 25-minute round trip to the Duquesne Incline. The company also gives carriage rides at weddings.


Jessica Drilak of Chartiers Township said she loved taking a carriage ride around PPG Place with her friends. “We were at PPG looking at all of the Santa Clauses and the lights, and stumbled upon the carriage rides,” she said. “(We) decided it would be something out of the ordinary. It was just a great experience to ride around Pittsburgh and see everything by carriage. Driving through Market Square was magical.”


Wertz said he loves it when little girls get up in the carriage and smile. “(They) think they’re little princesses,” he said.


Over the holidays, he also takes carriages to assisted-living facilities. “I like that end of stuff,” he said. The carriage service also offered rides with Santa Claus on weekends in December and managed to raise about $1,200 for Children’s Hospital.



For more information about carriage rides, go to www.caustelotfarms.com/services_carriage.html or call 412-913-0664.


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