A horse-drawn carriage adds a noble elegance to a funeral procession. It is a fitting and eloquent tribute that can be personalised to reflect the life of your loved one and the send-off chosen by the family.
Horses have been used for centuries to draw hearses. They are notable as the traditional way to mark the funeral processions of royalty and esteemed individuals.
Why are horses used to draw a hearse?
Before horse-drawn hearses, a type of bier was usually used to carry a casket. Even the word ‘hearse’ harks back to rural times, meaning ‘platform’ or a type of plough in Middle English. The bier would be fitted with handrails for ease of carrying and the designs became more and more elaborate.
As the decoration could be heavy, and as mourners began arriving at funeral services in horse-drawn carriages themselves from the 17th century, wheels were added to biers and it was fitting that horses would pull them.
Carved wooden hearses with heavy drapery and ornamentation would be used to carry the wealthy to their final resting places. Hearses with a metallic chassis and glass windows later came into use.
The horses and your choices at a funeral
The horses leading the procession will be highly trained and only the calmest breeds and personalities are chosen for funeral duties.
You can usually select a team of two or four horses in black or white to lead the cortège. Traditionally, black horses were chosen to reflect the solemnity of the passing of an adult while white horses drew the coffins of children and maidens. Today, the colour of the horses reflects the preferences of the person who has passed and their family with a choice of carriage to match.
The horses will be immaculately dressed in leather harnesses and full traditional livery. You will be offered a choice of coloured plumes and drapes to mark something special about the departed person and their life. This could reflect family colours, their own favourite colour that had some special meaning or perhaps even the colours of a beloved sports team.
What to expect with a horse-drawn funeral
Nothing is rushed in a horse-drawn funeral procession. For one thing, it can’t be, as horses can only travel around a mile in approximately 10 minutes, and their use in a burial or cremation ceremony is a fittingly sedate send-off. You might need to think about the distance and time it takes to get to the venue.
As the horses are well trained and experienced, they offer a calming sight at a funeral. This can be of particular note should children be attending who can offer a pat and take interest in the horses themselves as a distraction should the occasion be a little overwhelming for them. Passers-by will take note and often pause to mark the procession as it sedately makes its way to the place where the funeral ceremony is to take place.
A horse-drawn funeral is a particularly stately way to mark a send-off. It is rooted in tradition and history. Get in touch with our funeral directors Manchester-based to discuss how we can help you mark the passing of a loved one with grandeur and style.