CAPE CHARLES, Va. (Delmarva Now) -- New York City’s Central Park has its iconic horse-drawn carriages, but a single draft horse is becoming a staple of downtown Cape Charles.
An imposing steed with a sweet disposition, Gabe can be found toting visitors by carriage in front of Brown Dog Ice Cream most summer weekends.
Marshall’s Anchor Down Ranch will offer special rides for Valentine’s Day this year, too, including a package for a one-hour carriage ride with flowers, a beverage and a ride to your favorite local restaurant, said Timothy Marshall.
“I’ve heard from quite a few people, ‘This is the first time I’ve ever gotten a carriage ride. This is the last place I’d ever expect to get a horse and carriage ride,’” said Marshall, who runs the business with his wife and daughter.
“I make people’s days. That brings a lot of satisfaction,” he said.
Since taking over Cape Charles’ horse-drawn carriage business last year, the Marshalls have turned it into a true family affair.
At 15 years old, Rayne Marshall is her father’s “right-hand person” in the business, he said.
Rayne became enamored of horses from an early age, starting with a pony ride during a birthday party nearly a decade ago.
The budding equine enthusiast started riding with Angie Pfeiffer, of Pfeiffer Riding Stables, who ran her horse-drawn carriage business out of Cape Charles for nearly five years.
Soon, the Marshalls bought their first pony, Red, who was trained to drive carts.
“Our love for carriages and cart rides just bloomed,” Timothy Marshall said, “and we haven’t stopped ever since.”
When Pfeiffer moved and sold her carriage business, “she said there’s no other person she knew to sell him (Gabe) to than us,” Timothy said.
Rayne now travels to riding competitions and aspires to be a horse trainer, she said.
“She works hard taking care of the animals,” said her mother, Julie Marshall, who helps with the family business. “She starts her day in the morning before school feeding, and then ends her evening feeding and putting them in.”
During the summer, visitors can find the family parked with Gabe in front of Brown Dog Ice Cream, on Mason Avenue and that, Rayne said, is her favorite part.
“I love seeing people’s reaction when they see this giant horse at Brown Dog,” she said.
The rides take visitors on a 15-to-20-minute trip down Cape Charles’ Mason Avenue, along the bayfront and back up Strawberry Street.
For Timothy, the most rewarding part of the business is showing people his town.
“I love to tell people about the town of Cape Charles. I love explaining what a wonderful town we live in,” he said.
The family hopes to expand their business, he said, and participates in townwide events such as its annual Fourth of July Parade.
Gabe also gets decked out for the holidays, delivering complimentary carriage rides to more than 70 merrymakers during Cape Charles’s first Festive Friday this December, he said.
“We’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from the town,” Timothy Marshall said. “Every year gets busier and busier.”
Though the carriage does not post up in front of Brown Dog on winter weekends, the Marshalls can arrange rides year-round with 24 hours’ notice, Julie Marshall said.
To make reservations for Valentine’s Day or another winter day, call 757-693-2111.