With so much happening at a fast pace these days, there’s something about the steady clip-clopping of hooves that encourages people to slow down and enjoy some fresh air.
Cruising through historic Easton, the driver making those hooves go is more than likely Jessica Tanglao, who operates Tanglao Carriage Driving.
Between her horse sense and outgoing personality, in the year the business has been open she and her team have been entertaining droves of tourists and locals alike.
With all the fun facts you’ll hear on the tour you’d think Jessica grew up on the Eastern Shore, but she’s from Virginia where she raised horses and then starting in high school, ran tours for Lexington Carriage Company in the Shenandoah Valley. While private wedding charters are a big business in the carriage industry, Tanglao knew her goals leaned toward the historical tours instead.
When she set out to start her business, her first step was to look for the perfect town to pursue her dream. But, what is a perfect town to a carriage company?
To start, Jessica needed to be an hour from her husband’s job, which landed her here in the Mid-shore area. To whittle down the historic towns in the area, she looked carefully at the characteristics of each.
Were the streets wide enough? Was there a good driving loop with points of interest for the entirety of a tour?
Easton, she found, still had a great path for carriage maneuvering, as it was probably the main mode of movement until the early 1900’s when cars started taking over. After she picked her spot on the map, she, her husband Rainier and their young daughter Millie came and set up shop, creating a barn oasis for her family and hard-working horses.
One barn is devoted to housing her intricate carriages. One carriage simply doesn’t fit all riders’ needs, so Tanglao has nine. Like automobiles, where a Rolls Royce would be used for a wedding and a van would be used for a more casual trip for a group of people, she has several carriages to suit her objective.
She sources her carriages from the Amish as well as overseas. Her newest is from the Netherlands and features two long padded wooden benches and would have served as a “people mover” in the carriage times, while her wedding carriage is a more decorative white one with large wheels where the guests of honor sit in the lush cushioned seats and can choose to use shade canopies if they’d like. When carriages were the only mode of transportation, her wedding carriage would be reserved for driving the upper class while the bench style would be for more common folk. In today’s terms, they could be likened to Uber Black versus Uber Rideshare.
Aside from her historical tours and wedding charters, surprisingly one of her most common private charter requests are for funerals.
While she doesn’t have a hearse carriage full time, she’ll often have requests to transport the family and can transport cremated remains.
She says the funerals have been interesting to be a part of, and a memorable one was watching a family release doves in front of the carriage.
With the carriages, while there’s no computer chip to mess with and tires don’t necessarily go flat in the traditional way, one unique challenge of the carriage business is maintenance. Jessica says she has learned how to do lots of general fixes but says she also uses an auto mechanic regularly to help with things like flushing the brake lines, which are actually motorcycle brakes.
Not putting the carriage before the horse, but of course the other half of Tanglao’s transportation are her stunning horses, all of whom have had exceptional training and have had championship competition careers.
Tanglao chooses to use a two-horse team to pull her carriages, though she says if you look closely, usually one is working while the other might be sightseeing themselves. The horses truly enjoy the rides, she adds, and of course, the admiration and attention from everyone they pass. If you were as sleek and leggy as Savannah, you’d strut through town too, not to mention her sidekick Dancer or the fun-loving Yara.
Tanglao says her horses know their route and if you notice a little pep in their step as they get closer to their finish line, it is because they know it’s close to treat time. You can usually expect to be cruising around 2-4 miles an hour.
Another important component of the carriage rides are the passengers, Tanglao said. While Tanglao and her family are new to the area, she is very knowledgeable on the history of the buildings and town of Easton. That said, usually when she has the locals taking a ride, they can’t help but give their own tours back. She’ll hear everything from who used to work in the bowling alley before everything was mechanized or where the best penny candy was or where a couple went on their first date decades ago. While her carriages mostly travel the same route, when locals are aboard the different fond memories emerge from the town for different riders.
Tanglao estimates about half her riders are tourists while half are locals.
For visitors, she says there’s no better way to get a good overview of a new town than relaxing and trotting along. For locals, she says it’s fun way to really see and appreciate the buildings you may drive past everyday on your way to work.