AAA Buggy Rides provided a free buggy ride. All opinions remain my own.
When I was a child of about three or four, I often stayed with my grandparents during the day while my parents worked. My grandparents owned a dairy farm, and it provided many interesting things for me to do and explore.
My grandparents had dairy cattle, but no horses. Horses didn't provide milk, and we had tractors, so there was no need for them on the farm. But I thought horses were beautiful and wanted one.
I would often ride to the feed store in a neighboring town with my grandparents. When we arrived at the store, there was usually at least one horse and buggy tied to a post. Sometimes several would come and go while we were at the store.
I was always mesmerized by them. They just seemed so neat. I always thought that it would be fun to go for a ride in one of those buggies. I was even more impressed when I saw young men -- just 10 years old or so -- driving them. Now that was special! Ten-year-olds couldn't drive a car or a truck, but they could drive a buggy.
I remember asking my grandfather if we could go for a ride, and he explained that these folks didn't just give rides to people. He told me that they didn't drive cars or trucks, so the horses and buggies were their only means of transportation. But I still wanted to go for a ride!
A Dream Realized
Fast forward to adulthood, and I had still never ridden in an Amish horse and buggy. I learned that the buggies I had wanted to ride in as a child belonged to Mennonite families, not Amish ones. I was fortunate to ride in a horse-drawn carriage several times, but it just wasn't the same as an Amish horse and buggy.
Then, when my husband and I were planning a trip to Lancaster, I resolved to make my dream of going on an Amish buggy ride a reality. We scheduled a horse and buggy ride with AAA Buggy Rides. We would even cross a covered bridge!
We arrived a few minutes early and were able to watch the handlers giving the horses some snacks and water. Between rides, the horses get a much-needed break. We learned that the horses that would be pulling our buggy were named Bailey and Tina. We were allowed to pet the horses and talk to them.
Then the magical time arrived -- it was time for our buggy ride to begin. Since we had arrived first, we got to sit in front with the guide. This gave us a great view. Getting into the buggy was reasonably easy, with only one significant step up into the buggy. The seats were hard, but the handlers had added cushions to make them more comfortable.
Our buggy was a bit larger than the ones I had seen as a child. It had a front seat facing forward and then side seats in the back. It looked like it could hold between 15 and 20 people. We had nine people on our ride.
A Few Surprises
Much of the ride was what I expected, but there were a few surprises. The first surprise came as our ride was beginning. The horses had been standing still for a while and had eaten. Once they started moving, their intestines began working, and as Bailey took a few steps, she lifted her tail and expelled gas. Being in the front seat, I got a good whiff of the offensive odor. We still chuckle about it now!
The second surprise was how knowledgeable our guide was about the horses and the Amish lifestyle. She had relatives who were Amish, and she knew all about their customs, beliefs, and rules. She was just a fountain of knowledge and was happy to share it with us.
She also knew a lot about horses. She talked to us about their unique personalities. Bailey was a worker. She was happy when she was working. Nothing made her happier than trotting along. Tina, on the other hand, was a bit lazier. She had to be reminded to do her job. She was happy going slower or not moving at all. Both horses responded to their names and commands.
Another surprise was how close cars came to us, whipping by and cutting around the buggy. We were sort of shocked that we were on the main roads. We had thought we’d be on the backroads with no traffic. When riding in an Amish horse and buggy, you feel somewhat vulnerable with all the other vehicles on the road. You are out in the open with very little protection.
Our guide explained that the cars didn't bother the horses much unless they cut too close in front or honked their horns. Bailey and Tina didn't seem to mind when they were passed by cars going around us or in the opposite direction.
As we were trotting down the road, another buggy passed us. It was a smaller buggy with a single rider compared to our larger buggy with about nine passengers. The smaller buggy just flew by us.
We learned that the Amish keep draft workhorses for farm work and other horses to pull buggies. Those selected to pull buggies are often former racehorses.
An Experience To Remember
I loved riding down the road with the breeze in my face and hair. It felt just like I had imagined as a child. When we were on the country roads, I enjoyed the scenery and the scent of freshly mowed hay.
I waited 60 years to check an Amish horse and buggy ride off my bucket list, but it was definitely an excellent ride and exceeded my expectations. If you have the opportunity to go for a horse and buggy ride, take it. You will learn a great deal about the Amish lifestyle and have fun as well.