Now five years ago, if you would have said that Matt Hickey would be saying those words to a team of horses WHILE DRIVING THEM. I would have laughed my head off! I mean really, I am allergic to horses.
I have always had some ties to agriculture throughout my life. My grandfather bought my brother and me our first purebred sheep when I was three years old. We spent our summers traveling to county fairs showing sheep, cattle and hogs. When I wasn’t showing I was heavily involved in agriculture activities such as 4-H and FFA. After high school I took my passion for agriculture to the next level where I attended Virginia Tech and obtained a B.S. in Agriculture Economics and Applied Sciences, while at the same time an active participate in Block and Bridle.
Now if you will notice that as I was talking about growing up, the one thing that I did not mention was horses. I found out from an early age that I was allergic to them so I gave up the idea of ever being able to work with a horse. All of that seemed to change when I meet my wife Stacie, while she was a handler for the Budweiser Clydesdales east coast traveling hitch. I immediately fell in love with the large horses and wanted to know all I could about them. The more time I spent observing these large horses the more I began to notice the same reaction out of the general public, pure amazement. I to felt this amazement and as I watched the Classic Series Six Horse Hitch Competition shake the building at the Ohio State Fair I knew from that moment on I wanted to be involved in the draft horse industry.
Since our marriage my wife and I have started Classic Carriage LLC. We currently have six horses and average over ninety events a year ranging from weddings to company picnics to mall holiday celebrations. Our business is based in Staunton, VA but we take our horses everywhere from downtown D.C. to North Carolina. Like the Budweiser Clydesdales, we get the same pure amazement over the size and beauty of our draft horses. The expression on a small child’s face looking up at a 2000 pound horse and then, to have that horse drop his head so the child can pet him is priceless.
At all of our events we are usually asked a wide variety of questions about the horse like how much do they eat, our daily care for them, how much can they pull, do the horses like pulling people around, what is the history of the draft horses, etc. My wife and I strongly believe that this is where we can have the biggest impact on the Agriculture Industry. For many of the people we give a ride to, this is the first time they have even seen a horse. Our goal is to leave a positive impression on these people in knowing that impression with extend to general agriculture. We know that by taking our horses into large metropolitan areas we are on the front lines of the animal rights discussion.
As we talk to the general public at these events, one area I have always felt we needed to improve on is our knowledge and communication skills. VALOR offers me the chance to develop these skills so that I may help the agricultural industry face its ever-changing economic, social and political issues. My hope is that I can teach people about the history of agriculture; effectively communicate agriculture today, with the goal of leaving my son a positive future in the industry.
Now if you want to know how I overcame the allergies you have to come take a ride in one of our carriages!!!