Traders Point Carriage:
Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // Laura Arick
Did you know that the earliest form of a “carriage” was devised in Mesopotamia around 3000 B.C.? The earliest model would have consisted of a two-wheeled basin for a couple of people, pulled by one or two horses. Travel via carriage became a universal mode of travel for the elite, as well as the military and working class, but with the invention of motorized vehicles, the carriage has been downgraded over the last century to a nostalgic pastime.
Nevertheless, Hoosiers enjoy the majestic sight of a horse-drawn carriage and the familiar “clip-clop, clippity-clop” that delights adults and children alike during special events and holidays.
Traders Point Carriage
Zionsville resident Tom Santelli thought we should be able to enjoy this experience more often while taking in the sights and sounds of downtown Zionsville and surrounding communities in Boone County. Santelli also wants his carriage to be a catalyst for the development of alternate modes of transportation besides walking and driving in Zionsville, Whitestown and Lebanon.
“What motivated me [to establish Traders Point Carriage] was an article on my sleigh by a local publication that said sleighing was one of the coolest things to do in Indiana,” Santelli said. “It’s shifting modes from 65 mph to 6 mph, and it’s about connecting with one’s environment and the horses. It’s [carriage ride] a life experience that fits very well with Zionsville, Lebanon and Whitestown because of how well the areas are compressed together. Why not take advantage of our size and provide experiences, as well as moving people from point A to point B?”
Another motivator for Santelli—who is a fierce advocate for supporting local businesses and organizations—was the idea of hitching his carriage rides to local events, charity events and auctions and local restaurants that can package a special event/meal with a memorable carriage ride.
“I’m looking at how we can tie it [carriage ride] with events that take place in Whitestown’s core, downtown Zionsville and Lebanon,” Santelli shared. “Also, how we can collaborate with local restaurants like Cobblestone, Noah Grant’s, The Salty Cowboy, L.A. Café, Moontown Brewing Company and The White Stallion Bistro?”
Traders Point Carriage will debut in its first July Fourth parade in Lebanon this July, and Santelli is actively reaching out to local organizations to offer carriage rides as a silent auction item or as an “experience” combined with a special dinner service from a partnering local restaurant.
Additionally, Santelli is working with Keepsakes by Design’s Laura Cain to develop inaugural and/or special occasion etched glassware to be enjoyed with a bottle of champagne or other libations while strolling in between destinations.
The First Steps to Carriage Ownership
“To make this happen, you’ve got to have a horse and you have to train the horse,” Santelli explained. “Polo [Santelli’s horse] has been trained by Cathy Zahm [at a training center] in Huntington, Indiana. Cathy trains Budweiser Clydesdales, and she has a methodology that takes a horse from scratch to doing things you thought would be impossible in two weeks.”
In addition to training the horse, one must train the driver on how to direct the horse and on carriage safely, as well as what requirements must be met to make a carriage, antique or otherwise, street legal.
Zahm offers a two-week “driver-training” course, during which the driver will train with his/her own horse as well as with other horses that are at different experience levels.
“You have to have the right training, shoeing and everything that goes into it,” Santelli emphasized. “We [Zahm and Santelli] were on a thin country road that was one lane. Cathy said, ‘OK, let’s turn around.’ I told her that I was looking for a school parking lot—turning a carriage around is like turning a tractor trailer. She scoffed and took the reins. She stopped Polo, tapped him with the right rein and said, ‘Ha,’ then he proceeded to sidestep and completely turned us around!”
Choosing a Carriage
“We’re blessed to have so many Amish institutions around the state,” Santelli said. “We’ve got the leading world-famous carriage builders in this area. Ernest ‘Ernie’ Schwartz with Antique Carriage Restoration in Nappanee, Indiana, is world-famous for what he’s done. If you go to the carriage museum in Virginia, most of the inventory is his. He’s built carriages for kings and queens and lives in Indiana.”
Santelli’s carriage was built by one of the largest carriage manufacturers in the world, Roberts Carriages out of Canada, but he had it modified to make it street legal by Raber’s Buggy Shop down in Montgomery County.
“It [the carriage] needed a little bit of work, so I took it down to Raber’s,” Santelli said. “He [Victor Raber] does remarkable work and is cost-effective. I had the carriage reconfigured and had all the required lights installed to make it road worthy.”
Traders Point Carriage for All of Your Special Events
“We are taking this pastime, integrating it into the present and making it a great experience for our riders,” Santelli said. “The demand is greater than the supply [of carriages], and the area carriage companies are overcommitted. This [carriage] will serve as a demonstrated concept. I see this becoming like Uber—throughout the weekend on good [weather] days, we could have additional carriages if other people get involved and decide to invest in a carriage or other carriage companies get involved. The support from the individual communities is key.”
Watch for Zionsville Monthly’s Facebook Live coverage of the inaugural Traders Point Carriage ride through the core of Whitestown in mid-June. Traders Point Carriage will officially launch in July. Look for the TPC website and social media to launch in July as well, where contact and booking information will be posted online.