Ron Schilling Sr.
Horseshoe Farm Carriage Service
Go just a few miles out of city limits down a country road and you’re sure to stumble upon Horseshoe Farm. Expect to be greeted with a whole-hearted smile and a firm handshake. Ron Schilling Sr. lives there with his wife of forty years, Linda. In addition to working full-time jobs, Ron and Linda have started a small home business, a carriage service. They are sure to be seen in every parade that goes through their city and during their yearly vacation you’ll find them participating in a wagon train, traveling only by wagon with anywhere from ten to twelve other families on a trail ride covering several counties on their journey.
The particular breed Ron chooses to use, the haflinger, is an Austrian breed known for their chestnut color and flaxen mane and tails. Haflingers are bred to be a compact size while still powerful enough to engage in draft activities with little exertion; they were used as pack animals in World War II. These quiet, kind natured ponies are magnificent to see in action and are hard to forget. As we walked around Ron’s farm he was sure to point out every one of his eleven horses. He’d say, “See that one out there? That’s Nash. He was my first haflinger. He’s 24 years old, got him when he was five or six months old. I raised him and did all his training myself. He’s a good old boy. He’s one of my carriage horses.” The horses are more than just livestock to him; they are like members of the family. Each horse has its own story, purpose and personality. That is most likely why the horses themselves were the biggest influence on Ron pursing his passion. In addition to working at a local fertilizer company and running his carriage service, Ron is also a 4-H advisor. His 4-H club includes draft style horses and ponies and focuses on kids that want to learn how to drive a horse.
Their carriage service caters to weddings, proms, special events, Christmas parties and just about any other occasion there is. “We kinda wanted to do it for fun but it turned into a little small business” Ron modestly explains with a chuckle. After forty years of marriage, Ron and Linda are still so much a part of each other. This is a true family business. “My wife is a big help in my carriage service. Linda keeps me going. My granddaughter is a big help, she goes with me once in a while and they know how to harness the horses, help get everything ready. They know what I want when we do it so they know where to fall in and get the job done. And we take pride in our carriage service so we wanna give everyone a good job, look sharp, and do the best that we can” he continues. He manages to keep his business going by just using his truck and horse trailer to haul around their equipment. “I’m proud of my wife and my carriage business. We try to do a good job for the people we do things with the carriage service for,” continues Ron as we advance further through the farm.
Aside from being an all around enjoyable experience, the carriage rides also offer a glimpse of history. The earliest type of carriage used and that was recorded was the chariot during the 9th century. Carriages were brought into the United States with the establishment of the thirteen colonies. Sadly, the invention of steam power led to the rapid decline in the use of animal power for transportation. This once flourishing tradition is now hard to come by. The nostalgia of the ways of the old days it what draws the customers to the carriage business. “They like going back and just listen to the horses hit the road when they trot and takin a ride in the carriage, a lot of people don’t get that. Especially people that lives in the city, that don’t see stuff like that get a chance to do it” adds Ron. Carriages also help to capture the imagination of the public. In fairy tales we see stories such as “Cinderella”, where the beautiful maiden is carried away to a ball in a pumpkin transformed into a carriage, heightening the allure of the carriage. This facet is especially appealing to the wedding customers since a bride gets to act like a princess and truly live out her dream of a fairy tale wedding. Ron and Linda make sure that every customer is treated with the utmost respect and show this by doing the best job possible for the job that they are doing. Ron concludes that the key to doing the best possible job is to “Be on time, look sharp.”
“I’ve enjoyed it,” explains Ron, bringing a smile to his face. “Had a lot of fun, met a lot of nice people,” he continues. The carriage business also offers some other benefits to Ron, he tells me “It keeps me young, keeps me going with it, not giving up . . . keeps me movin and active.” When I asked Ron if he ever wished if his life would have taken a different path, his answer was the quintessential answer to sum up his character, he responded with a simple “Nope, I’m happy with the one I got.” With a happy-go-lucky attitude toward life, Ron is not someone who is easily forgotten. When asked about the future of the single man carriage business Ron explains “I think it’s going to be, it’s a good hit. It’s growing. Our business is getting more and more and we don’t really advertise that much, just on word of mouth but I see it getting bigger.” Likewise his goals for the future are “mainly to get the carriage service going more . . . try to get it more active, be busier, do more weddings, advertise a little more to help it grow.”
Winston Churchill got it precisely right when he said there is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man. Ron has surely gotten to experience the life of a horseman to the fullest. He hopes to be remembered for being a good, hard-working, honest man, but most of all he wants to be remembered for being an all around good horseman. Ron plans on retiring from his full-time job in a few years and continuing to run the carriage service. With a constantly optimistic outlook he admits, “When I get too old to get up in the carriage, I’ll have to quit and give it up. Figure I’ll hand it down to one of my kids or grandkids.”