Breckenridge Stables gets approval for permit
The Breckenridge Town Council approved a street-use permit for the Breckenridge Stables carriage rides at its meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 13.
The business has been operated by Brad Bays since 2005. Initially named the Mountain Man Carriage Company, more recently he changed the name to Breckenridge Stables Carriage Company. Permits for horse-drawn carriage ride businesses have been issued in Breckenridge since 1988.
There is a pending sale for the carriage business, but he will continue to operate horse trial rides and sleigh rides under Breckenridge Stables.
Shaun Dillon, Linda Dillon and Everett Delong are in the process of purchasing the carriage-ride business, which they propose to rename Breckenridge Carriage Company, LLC. In a letter to the council,the Dillons said they had originally planned to take over business operations as of Oct. 1 but, due to the license renewal, have put the purchase on hold temporarily.
“We have tremendous respect for Brad Bays and his current carriage business, but will utilize different methods of operation commencing our first day of ownership,” the Dillons wrote. “Upon purchase, we commit to restructuring to fit the needs of the horses, the business, and the patrons. Not only will we adopt industry best practices, but (also) we will set the bar for doing so.”
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The Dillons’ stated priority is the well-being of their horses, which they described as the “backbone” of the business.
“We are purchasing this business with three horses,” they wrote. “Not one horse will be over-utilized. Within our first few months of operation, we will make every attempt to acquire a fourth horse to ensure no horse is in ANY danger of being overworked.”
Bays was denied a renewal application in 2011 due to issues with the carriage stop location, which had been in front of the Creatures Great and Small storefront on the southeast side of the South Main Street and Washington Avenue intersection. The permit was approved after Bays agreed to relocate his carriage in front of the Welcome Center, where it currently operates.
The town council approved a new town code section entitled “Permits Required to Conduct Certain Businesses on Town Streets,” which instituted a new review policy for pedicabs, horse-drawn carriages and peddle buses. In light of this change, Bays was issued one-year renewals in 2013 and 2014.
Due to complaints the council received from less-than-satisfied customers, recommendations for improvement were offered from various groups, including Far View Horse Rescue, based in Fairplay.
One of Far Views principal suggestions was for Bays to have regular vet checks for his approximately 125 horses.
“One issue with regular vet checks is that it can get pretty costly,” Bays told the council. “I don’t want to set myself up with a big vet bill when the horses are healthy and happy.”
He said he would typically only have a vet examine a horse if he was transferring ownership or there was a complaint. He also said his entire herd is currently on vaccinations.
“There is no industry standard,” he said. “If there is a concern, I’m definitely OK with a vet check.”
Council member Gary Gallagher suggested a compromise to allow for vet checks as needed.
Council member Erin Gigliello asked if Bays would consider not using Main Street for carriage rides.
“Our tours are only on Main Street for one block,” he said. “If we are not on Main Street, we don’t get the business.”
Council member Elisabeth Lawrence asked about employee training and how they are qualified to give tours of historic Breck.
“Drivers are given information from the Welcome Center and target specific spots in the historic district,” Bays said.
The issue of animal welfare also came up in discussions. In response to an inquiry from Bays, the Summit County Animal Control and Shelter delved into their records to document complaints against Breckenridge Stables.
Lesley Hall, director of the animal control division, said she discovered five calls for service since 2008 related to the stables.
In three of the instances, the complaints were related to sores on the horses. In each case, the horse in question was given treatment and time to rest and heal.
One call raised the issue about the cleanliness of the corrals and foals. The responding officer said the corrals and water were clean and noted the foals had been rolling in the dirt, a typical horse behavior.
Hall said animal control was last contacted in 2014 about issues at Breckenridge Stables.
“The reporting party said the carriage horses had sores and patches of hair missing due to improperly fitting harnesses, appeared very tired and looked underweight,” Hall wrote.
After a meeting between the stable manager, a Breckenridge police officer, a veterinarian and an expert in properly fitting harnesses, a course of action was chartered.
It was also determined the horse’s teeth had to be floated, a procedure that uses a file to smooth or contour sharp edges that form on a horse’s teeth, as they grow perpetually. Left untreated a horse may have difficulty chewing, holding a bit and experience mouth pain and discomfort.
Other changes included altering the horse’s grain supplement for increased protein content, as well as better distribution of work among the carriage horse teams. Also the harness expert reviewed each horse with the stable manager and examined how to change the harness to avoid rubbing.
“Our officer followed up twice in the next two months and found that the horses’ condition had improved,” Hall wrote. “The horses showed increased weight, hair growth on the previous rub marks, and no new rub marks.”
Jessie Jones, Welcome Center manager at Breckenridge Tourism Office, wrote a letter in support of the license renewal.
“Main Street carriage rides are immensely popular with guests of Breckenridge,” she wrote. “On busy days, we have a waiting list for carriage rides – which speaks to the popularity of the activity.”
Calling the carriage image iconic to Breckenridge, she noted it’s been featured in movies, television broadcasts and is even featured in paintings sold at the Welcome Center.
“During off-season times when it’s not operating, the Welcome Center gets questions about it and phone inquiries about when it will be available next,” she wrote. “I feel, from a guest’s perspective, that a horse-drawn carriage adds to and enhances the charm of the historic district.”
If the business were located outside of the downtown core, she said only a fraction of the guests would be aware it existed.
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