… Arosa's horse drawn sleighs do in summer?
The horse-drawn sleighs glide silently across the snow whilst the clatter of the horses' hoofs is muffled by the winter landscape. The snow falls quietly as it gets gradually darker: "a horse-drawn sleigh ride in winter is about as romantic as it gets," says coachman Franz Weinbach. "Summertime, with carriages just like the ones in the lowlands, simply cannot compete!"
The coachman's working day begins early: the horses have to be fed at the crack of dawn so that they are fit for the demanding work ahead of them. Whilst they are exercising in the paddock, the stables are cleaned out; then, it's time to get serious: cleaned and groomed, the horses, together with driver and sleigh, are waiting at Arosa station by 10 am. The coachmen from the Weierhof Stables are normally out and about until 5 pm. Having then been fed, the horses return to the stables to rest. "If a reservation is made in advance we are also willing to undertake a night journey," says business manager Koni Strittmatter who, in a manner of speaking, almost grew up in the horse's saddle.The Weierhof Stables have more than eight horse-drawn sleighs, five carriages and a horse-drawn sleigh with wheels at its disposal. In winter there are also 14 horses, with 12 in use at any one time, explains Strittmatter: "One pair of horses always has a rest day – or, at the most, is used as a replacement." This means that during the winter season up to six sleighs can be seen criss-crossing Arosa. As the horse-drawn sleighs occasionally traverse the ski pistes in winter, the horses need to be sure-footed. Horses that are easily afraid or unsure and not happy in traffic are not suitable for sleigh rides. In contrast in summer, only eight to ten horses are used. Are carriage rides more popular in winter, then? "Without a doubt," according to coachman Weinbach. "In winter I make between five and seven journeys per day, whilst in summer it's mostly by reservation only." And what do the animals do then in the warmer months? "In summer at the Weierhof Stables, we offer group rides around the Arosa countryside and lunge-line lessons. For children or adults without riding experience it is also possible to go for a hand-led horseback ride," explains Strittmatter.
From butcher to coachman
Franz Weinbach has been working for the Weierhof Stables as a coachman for 19 years. In his original profession he was also involved with animals, but in a completely different capacity. "I used to be a butcher," he laughs. "I only became a coachman by accident, thanks to a colleague who previously worked in Weierhof as a driver." What he particularly likes about his present job is the company of the horses. Bad weather, on the other hand, is not something to relish. "A winter snowstorm is particularly unpleasant when the temperature can drop to minus 25° C, all the more so if this weather lasts for several days." During his almost 20 years as a coachman is there a particular experience he will never forget? "Literally the most enjoyable sleigh ride was a photo-shoot trip with the former Miss Switzerland, Anita Burri, and four previous title-holders. Both on and off the piste, it was an absolute hoot."