There is an interesting backstory to both the carriage and the horses featured in the annual Cool Spring Downtown District’s Carriage Rides with Santa. This year, the festive rides started this past weekend and run through Dec. 22 in downtown Fayetteville.
Jim Bob and Jolene are dappled Percheron draft horses. When they are not on loan to Santa for the carriage rides, they live free-range with Gary and Tina Sessoms in a pasture on the Sessoms’ farm.
Tina has been a horsewoman her whole life. She originally rode quarter-horses until a condition affecting her balance forced her to sell her horses. It wasn’t long before she realized that working with horses had to be part of her therapy. Because she could no longer ride, Tina and her husband, Gary, decided to work with draft horses.
The Sessoms knew a gentleman who owned draft horses, so they arranged to work in his stable in exchange for lessons to learn how to hitch and drive the horses. When the Sessoms were ready to establish a herd of their own, they decided on Percherons because these horses have a reputation among the draft horse breeds as eager pullers.
The Sessoms traveled to Amish country in Ohio and began purchasing fully trained draft horses being retired from field work. The Amish replace their farm horses when they are around 8 years old. Since eight years is still relatively young in horse years, the Sessoms knew these Percherons would still enjoy an active life.
The Sessoms’ carriages also come from Ohio Amish country where carriages and wagons are still the approved mode of transportation. Gary credits a conversation with Hank Parfitt as the beginning of their association with the carriage rides in downtown Fayetteville. Jim Bob and Jolene and the carriage they pull are a perfect complement to the quaint downtown district, where the short carriage rides take place.
What better way to slow down during this holiday season and enjoy the lovely decorations along Hay Street than from the vantage point and leisurely pace of a horse drawn-carriage?
Carriage Rides with Santa take place on recurring Saturdays and Sundays from 1-8 p.m. They began Dec. 8 and run, weekends only, through Dec. 22. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children and can be purchased by phone by calling 910-223-1089 or in person at the office of the Cool Spring Downtown District, which is located at 222 Hay St. Reservations are recommended. Jim Bob, Jolene and Santa will be waiting to greet everyone out in front of the CSDD office, where the carriage rides begin and end.