A carriage is a wheeled vehicle which is drawn by horses. A number of nations have used carriages as modes of transport historically, and carriages are still used in the West for ceremonial occasions or the novelty of the experience. There are numerous different styles of carriage, ranging from formal coronation carriages with ornate decorations to lightweight pony traps used for casual trips historically. The horses which pull a carriage must be specially trained for driving, as drawing a carriage is very different from being ridden.
In order to be considered a carriage, a horse-drawn vehicle must have springs. Springs are designed to make the ride more comfortable for the people or products in the carriage by softening the rough spots in the road. A horse-drawn vehicle without springs is known as a wagon or dray, while a two wheeled vehicle is called a cart. The influence of the carriage on society was so immense that early motorcars and trains were called “horseless carriages,” and many of them retained design elements classically used in carriages.
There are literally hundreds of different styles of carriage. Historically, one's carriage was an indicator of social status, with people in phaetons looking down their noses at passengers in gigs, for example. Carriages were also ornately constructed and beautifully decorated with bright colors, ornamental accents, and gilding. In high society, people were judged on the basis of the carriages that they drove, along with the horses between the shafts.
While a single horse can pull most carriages, many people like to use teams of horses, since teams are stronger and they have a strong aesthetic appeal. Traditionally, a team of horses would have been matched in physical appearance. Using horses of roughly the same size would have been sensible, since different leg lengths or body types could make it difficult for horses to pull together. Color-matching of carriage teams, however, was simply vanity.
The driver of a carriage typically sits on an elevated seat or box in the front which allows him or her a clear view of the road. The driver controls the horse or horses with the use of long carriage reins, as well as a carriage whip. Carriage whips are traditionally used to provide cues, not to actually hit the horses; most coachmen will slap the harness with the whip or crack it in the air to encourage the horses to speed up.