The Clip-clop Of Happy Memories Northwest--taneytown * Union Bridge * New Windsor * Uniontown

January 07, 1993|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

Anyone planning a wedding knows there are no fairy godmothers using pumpkins and rodents to provide classy transportation for the bride.

But New Windsor horse breeders Meg and Bub Smith have spent the past six years helping countless brides create the Cinderella image, using carriages drawn by their prize-winning Percheron draft horses.

"It's the fairy tale thing," said Mrs. Smith, 41, a licensed practical nurse at Springfield Hospital Center. "I've gotten calls from mothers who tell me it has always been their daughter's dream to be carried to her wedding in a horse-drawn carriage."

The Smiths began breeding horses in 1981. In 1985, they began using their horses to draw a carriage in Frederick, for an attraction that lasted from Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve.

But when the owner of the attraction turned his business over to someone else, the Smiths decided not to continue with it.

"In August of 1986 we were asked to do hayrides at a farm in Gaithersburg," said Mr. Smith, recalling the beginning of their association with Smokey Glen Farm. "We took our horses and a wagon there and eventually were asked to do all their summer hayrides."

The Smiths, who collect antique farm equipment, eventually added enough equipment to provide other horse-drawn activities as well.

"We have two surreys [two-seat buggies], a hotel wagon [which can seat about 12] and four hayride wagons," said Mrs. Smith. "Our horse teams have been hauled just about everywhere to do sledding, hayrides and other things."

As avid 4-H'ers, the native Carroll countians have had their share of experience with animals. Mrs. Smith, originally from Gamber, has always been involved with horses; Mr. Smith showed Holstein cows when he was growing up in New Windsor.

Although he fox-hunted for several years, Mr. Smith said, he stopped riding because of an accident.

"I fooled around jumping horses over things for a long time," said Mr. Smith, who will be retiring as housekeeping superintendent at Springfield this year.

"After I got hurt, I got two horses and a wagon just for fun. It all sort of started there."

Mrs. Smith is no stranger to accidents. She fractured her skull and nearly lost her leg after children threw rocks at the wagon during the 1991 Maryland State Fair.

"The horses became so frightened they jumped up and threw us" out of the wagon, Mrs. Smith said. "But they [the horses] didn't know any better."

The Smiths own 20 purebred Percheron draft horses, some of which placed highly at the 1992 State Fair.

The Percheron is a breed that started in France and was brought to this country as a work horse.

Mrs. Smith affectionately calls the Percherons "the horses that built America."

"They are beautiful and strong. People get used to them wherever we take them," Mrs. Smith said. "Especially the little girls. They are horse crazy."

When the Smiths take their animals and equipment to weddings, the horse and carriage aren't the only things dressed to impress.

The couple tried to make the dream of riding in a carriage a reality for their customers by dressing as drivers did when carriages were the primary means to get around town.

Mr. Smith can often be seen riding behind his six-hitch team in a tuxedo and top hat, with assistant Heather Bankard decked out in a riding habit and boots at his side.

"We try to be as close as possible to what coachmen or horse grooms would be wearing," said Ms. Bankard, 20, who has been working with the Smiths for about six years. "Sometimes I'll wear a derby, like someone driving for a wealthy family may wear."

The Smiths said people have complained that $200 is too much to pay for their services.

"People don't understand how much work goes into getting the horses ready for a wedding," Mr. Smith said.

"They have to be groomed and hitched, the carriage has to be washed and the people have to get ready."

"We do just about whatever the bride wants," Mrs. Smith said.

"But we have to pay the people we need to go with the team and keep the teams well-groomed."

While the Smiths have provided the transportation for numerous nuptials -- including unions taking place as far away as West Virginia -- their services have been sought statewide for entertainment purposes as well.

Johns Hopkins and George Washington universities have used teams from Smith Hill Farm, as the couple's 100-acre property is known, for homecomings, parents' weekend galas and other special occasions.

Ms. Bankard, who drove a team during Western Maryland College's Homecoming last fall, said the horse-drawn events are always popular.

"Whenever we do something -- a hayride, carriage rides, whatever -- people will wait to do it," Ms. Bankard said.

"People have waited two hours for hayrides in the summer."

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