- Associated Press - Sunday, March 5, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A horse is a horse, of course .

Unless you’re looking for one for Maymont.

Armistead Wellford, the carriage collection manager at Maymont, has been looking for new horses since August 2015, when he knew the much beloved pair of horses, Danielle “Dani” and Chauncy, would soon retire after many years of pulling carriages at Maymont.

He started looking everywhere, but none were the right fit.

“It was like Goldilocks after a while, like this one’s too soft, this one’s too hard,” Wellford said with a laugh.

He was looking for something special. Like the horses he saw on “Pride & Prejudice” every time a carriage rolled by on screen.

“The horses were always a pair. Like a pair of white horses or soft gray horses,” Wellford said.

He wanted something similar for Maymont. A good-looking pair that would fit right in at the 100-acre Victorian estate known for its beautiful setting.

Finally, he found Artie, 11, a retired racehorse who ran under the name Arctic Warrior. He was brought on in April 2016.

Artie is a handsome bay-colored Standardbred with a black mane. He’s laid-back and kind, Wellford said, not skittish as some racehorses are known to be.

In January, Wellford finally found Artie’s perfect partner: Solo, 12, a fellow former racehorse.

Like Artie, Solo was acquired for “a small adoption fee” through the Standardbred Retirement Foundation, the New Jersey-based nonprofit organization that finds homes for retired racehorses.

When Solo was racing, he was known as Sadie’s Soloist and won over $700,000. Now he goes by Solo, for short.

Together, Solo and Artie make a striking pair. They both have fine, shiny brown coats, although Solo is a bit darker and he has “white socks” on his hind legs.

“The first time they pulled a carriage together, Solo was walking a little ahead of Artie. But now he’s perfectly in step. They look beautiful together,” Wellford said.

“They’re solid citizens,” added Bobbie Franks, the carriage collection assistant. “They’re just really good horses.”

Although the horses’ predecessors, Chauncy, 23, and Dani, 20, were enjoyed by visitors for over 13 years, Wellford described them visually “as sort of a mismatched pair. Like Laurel and Hardy.”

Chauncy was a stocky brown-and-white Clydesdale, while Dani was darker in color and a cross between a Hackney and a Clydesdale.

Chauncy retired in April, due to old age, and then Dani, suffering with arthritis, followed in January. They’ve both been moved to a horse farm in Fluvanna County.

Solo and Artie join more than 400 animals at Maymont, which is home to a variety of creatures, from the basic barnyard goat to the more exotic bobcat.

Last year, Maymont lost its two otters, Neptune and Pandora. Pandora died in September of kidney failure. Her mate, Neptune, died in October at age 19 of natural causes. A Maymont representative says the park is seeking new otters for its nature center.

Besides the new horses, more changes are afoot at Maymont.

On March 26, the Children’s Farm, which has been closed for several months, will reopen with a renovated barn, plus a new building for birthday parties and special events, and an outdoor nature-themed play area for children.

Artie and Solo can be found in the pasture just below the Children’s Farm. In the days and years ahead, the pair will pull carriages through the park for weddings, birthday parties and special events.

“The carriage rides are a little quicker now,” Wellford said, noting Artie’s and Solo’s racing careers. “I have to jog to keep up with them.” But he said that visitors will still enjoy the same amount of time during rides.

“Artie and Solo are working animals at Maymont,” Wellford said, affectionately kissing Solo on the nose. “But they made themselves right at home. And they took to each other like brothers.”

___

Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, https://www.timesdispatch.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide