‘Driving landaus isn’t just a job it’s our way of life’

Landau drivers respond to a council review of their operation on the Promenade.  Pictured L-R are Ella Sinderson, Carolynne Edwards, Colin Sinderson, Kevin Coates and Timmy Leech.
Landau drivers respond to a council review of their operation on the Promenade. Pictured L-R are Ella Sinderson, Carolynne Edwards, Colin Sinderson, Kevin Coates and Timmy Leech.
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After a hard day at work, a warm shower and a stint under a heat lamp are a welcome treat – along with a bale of hay of course.

For this is how Ella and Colin Sinderson ensure their horses wind down after a busy shift on the Promenade as part of Blackpool’s landau fleet.

Landau drivers respond to a council review of their operation on the Promenade.  Pictured is Queenie.

Landau drivers respond to a council review of their operation on the Promenade. Pictured is Queenie.

Their purpose-built stables in South Shore have been designed to ensure the welfare of their horses is the priority.

They, along with other landau owners, are speaking out after a council review of the horse-drawn carriages was sparked following an accident in October 2014 when a horse bolted.

Tonight councillors will consider seven recommendations including that drivers be forced to take tougher driving tests, a review of the fare structure, and that a dedicated forum is set up.

The council report also sets out complaints of drivers going through red lights and driving down the middle of the road.

Landau drivers respond to a council review of their operation on the Promenade.  Pictured is Colin Sinderson with Vanilla.

Landau drivers respond to a council review of their operation on the Promenade. Pictured is Colin Sinderson with Vanilla.

Drivers say they are happy to work with the council, but stress they are already dedicated to delivering the best service possible.

Many are from families where three, or even four, generations have been in the landau trade.

Colin said: “This isn’t just a job, it is a way of life.

“We are up at 6am getting the horses ready to be on the Prom for 9am, and when the horses come back they have to be cooled down and stabled.

“We have showers and heat lamps in the stables, and we continue to look after our retired horses as well as breeding foals who will be the next horses to work on the Prom.”

Most of the horses are cobs, and are specially selected for their good temperaments both with people, and in traffic, while drivers usually have an equestrian background and must pass a 75-minute test before being granted their licence.

Landau owner Carolynne Edwards said: “People have to realise Blackpool is a tourist town, and you can’t just speed down the Prom.

“A lot of visitors have never been in a horse and carriage before and say it’s something they have always wanted to do and so we are a big part of the tourist offer.

“While we’re on the Prom we are often called upon for directions and even to look after lost children who sit on our cabs while they look for their parents.”

Blackpool has the largest horse drawn Hackney carriage fleet in the country, with 44 landaus and about 90 horses who can work a maxiumum of a seven hour shift at a time.

Fares range from £15 to £20, depending on the number of passengers, for a trip from Coral Island to the Pleasure Beach, or a round trip part way up the Prom and back.

Horses must be aged over four years and just over four hands high to work on the Prom.

Another operator, Kevin Coates, said: “Our horses are extremely well trained and selected very carefully to ensure they are used to traffic.

“The speed of a landau is only about five miles per hour so we are slower getting across traffic lights, and sometimes they have changed to red before we get across which is why people sometimes think we have gone through a light.

“A lot of our customers have their favourite carriages or drivers, and even their favourite horses which they look out for when they come to Blackpool.”

Ella and Colin own 11 horses for their two carriages, and as well as their stables, they rent fields for the animals to graze in and sometimes take the horses for a hack on Beacon Fell.

Ella said: “They are part of our family and of course we make sure they are looked after.

“Queenie, our retired carriage horse is 20, and she now is used to help children learn to ride.”