How We’re Helping Carriage Drivers and Motorists Stay Safely on Course

Horse and Carriage caution advisory sign

70 Mile House is a hotbed of horse-drawn carriage activity and it’s also where one of our more unusual signs originates, to keep carriage drivers, horses and motorists safely on course.

Back in 2011, our Cariboo District office was contacted by the Cariboo Country Carriage Club whose members train on local side roads. The club requested signage to warn local and visiting motorists that around the next corner, they could come upon a unicorn…

Yes, that’s correct – there are unicorns in the world of carriage driving!

But don’t expect to see a horse with a spiral tusk on its forehead – a unicorn is a trio of horses harnessed in a triangular formation. Other kinds of “horse power” harnessed for carriage driving might be draught horses, Welsh ponies, miniature horses, a Canadian (Canada’s national horse) or two or four, or even mules. The carriages are two or four wheeled, and can be antiques, modern technically optimized conveyances or something in between.

Two people riding a horse and buggy in competition.
Competing in a marathon. Photo by Mary Putnam, courtesy Thompson-Nicola Film Commission

Whatever the setup, carriage drivers who want to take part in competitive events, must have well-trained horses and that’s where BC’s side roads come in. The horses need to be in excellent physical condition to compete in dressage (a predetermined sequence of movements) and marathons (timed events on a course of sharp turns around trees, through ponds and other natural features). There’s also obstacle driving – weaving through a course of narrowly set cones (we love the cones aspect!).

Single rider competing in an obstacle race
Obstacle driving (also known as “Cones”) at Cobble Hill. Photo courtesy Gerry Breckon

Harnessing the Sign Idea for Safety

When Michelle Schilling, South Cariboo operations manager was asked about the possibility of carriage driving signs for side roads in the 70 Mile House, she agreed that bright visual warnings would make travel safer for drivers of carriages and motor vehicles.

A member of ministry staff leaning against a cabinet in office
Michelle Schilling, South Cariboo Operations Manager

Michelle worked with others in our ministry including a traffic engineer, policy analyst and a sign designer to consider the request and develop a carriage driving sign for BC. (One is not yet standardized for Canada, in the manual of uniform traffic devices).

Signs were installed along side roads in the 70 Mile area, that are frequently travelled by carriage drivers. Interestingly, some of the roads where carriage drivers train were once part of the old Cariboo Wagon Road (or “Cariboo Waggon Road” as it’s spelled on maps from that era).

Sharing the Roads with Horse-Drawn Carriages

One important thing to recognize is the operator of a horse and carriage has the legal right to use provincial roads (except for busy, higher-speed highways), and has to obey the rules of the road just like a motorist. A horse and carriage is a “vehicle” as defined in Section 1 of the Motor Vehicle Act.

Horse and Carriage traffic sign

  • Watch for horse-drawn carriages when you see the warning sign, especially on weekends.
  • Give these vehicles lots of space.
  • Slow down when approaching and accelerate gradually after passing a carriage.
  • Don’t stop to take photos of carriage driving (as interesting as the sight might be).
  • Be aware that horses are sensitive and can be unpredictable – turn off your stereo and don’t honk or yell.

Carriage Driving in BC

While 70 Mile House might be the birthplace of BC’s carriage driving sign, carriage driving also happens on southern Vancouver Island, the Okanagan, Barriere, Kamloops, other parts of the Cariboo, and the Peace area. Events are advertised by the BC Carriage Driving Society.

After Michelle Schilling worked to develop BC’s carriage driving sign, she began volunteering at Cariboo Country Carriage Club events. “It’s a really good family and spectator sport,” says Michelle. “There are beautiful events ­– very polite, very organized. It’s fun to watch them run through water and to see the commitment to safety. I hope people get a chance to see it.”

Carriage driving brings together equestrian skills, athleticism (horses and drivers), competition and history. We’re happy to have contributed in a small way to this pursuit that links with BC’s transportation past, so it can be safely enjoyed in the present.

Heritage horse and carriage field driving trial
Arriving at the Cariboo Country Carriage Club’s field driving trials. Photo by Mary Putnam, courtesy Thompson-Nicola Film Commission

Check out these other equestrian and signage related blogs:

How to Share the Road Safely with Horseback Riders

Left for the Laundromat – BC’s Unusual Highway Signs

A Look Back at the BC Provincial Sign Shop

Chaos vs. Consistency: Reasons Behind BC’s Sign Rules

Signpost Up Ahead: The Hazards of Illegal Highway Signs

Do you have any questions about signs you see on BC highways? Ask us below.

 

Page 1 of 10 comments on “How We’re Helping Carriage Drivers and Motorists Stay Safely on Course”

Leave a Comment

  1. Loved the story on the carriage driver signs in 70-mile. My name is Pat Matthews and I work in the news department for the Goat and Cariboo Country that broadcasts to the 100 Mile House area. I would like to do a news story about this and was wondering if it would be possible for me to do a short over-the-phone interview with Michelle Schilling.
    I look forward to your reply.

    Reply
  2. Hello TranBC,
    I have three areas of concern that I would like to inform the Ministry of (two are safety related, the other’s practicality/environmentally related)
    However, I am unsure of who to contact about these issues. Would you be able to provide me with someone to contact via email? I’m not sure if the contractor responsible for the area (Mainroad – Metro Vancouver) can solely help the issue.
    With many thanks in advance,
    K.

    Reply
  3. Hello,
    I just moved to Turtle Valley , near Chase and have been driving my horses all over Skimikin Road, Bailey road and Chase Falkland road. I am wondering if I could get horse driving signs put up.
    Thank you!

    Reply
  4. Such a great article, maybe we could get the speed limit in 70 Mile House lowered from 100 km per hour to 70 kmh so that the residents might be a little bit safer

    Reply
    • Hi Sally – thanks for your comment. We encourage you to reach out to our local staff at your closest area office for follow up. Here is their contact info:
      100 Mile House Area
      300 South Cariboo Highway
      P.O. Box 1600
      100 Mile House, BC V0K 2E0
      Telephone: 250 398-4510
      Fax: 250 395-6062

      Reply