Saturday, May 10, 2008

Profile: Amanda Araim, carriage driver

Posted By on Sat, May 10, 2008 at 5:00 PM

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Amanda Araim and her husband, Yasir, run Nottingham Shire and Carriage for Hire, a horse-drawn carriage tour company headquartered near downtown.

"I always wanted unicorns as a kid, and this was the next best thing."

The horses choose their own time off, usually every three or four days. "They like to work. If they don't want to go to work, they don't let you catch them. They're not stupid."

Yasir says a carriage ride's leisurely pace isn't usually a problem on the various city-approved roads. "Cars pretty much just zip around us."

When a homeless man recently jumped onto a horse's back on its route downtown, the horse kicked him off. "I'm sure he did [get hurt], but he got up and ran away."

One of their horses was videotaped running loose during the tornado in March. "[She] broke free, ran two blocks where she was out of the way of the wind and debris ... then just started following her regular route and her normal pace."

Customers often request rides to the nearby World of Coke and Georgia Aquarium, which are off-limits to horse-drawn carriages. If customers want to leave the city-approved routes, they have to pay for a police escort.

The horses wear bags to catch their dung, and while Amanda says there are sometimes "blowouts," drivers bring dustpans and brooms to clean up when that happens.

The company is located underneath occasionally loud MARTA tracks and the horses navigate busy downtown streets, but Amanda says noise doesn't faze them. "It's things on the road, like objects or new paving, that bothers them. They're real careful where they put their feet."

Amanda also breeds horses, some of which she sells on the company's website. She has mostly sturdy Shire draft horses, which were selectively bred and widely used for pulling weight before the Industrial Revolution.

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