While most in the Hillsdale area sport pickup trucks or sensible Subarus, one Hillsdale couple opts for a different style of transportation: a horse-drawn wagon.
At least once a month, Barney and Teresa Traylor can be seen driving in downtown Hillsdale in a horse-drawn wagon, taking a break from the regular hustle and bustle of modern life. For the Traylors, horses are a long-time, simple constant in their life, and now they are able to share it with their community by using their houses for events upon request.
For the Traylors, the wagon outings are relaxing and, as Barney Traylor puts it, the horses are “an expensive hobby.” Sometimes, other members of the Hillsdale community will request the Traylors’ services, for wedding venues or holiday church events, birthdays, sleigh rides, or organized fall outings.
Sometimes they will charge venues for their services, other times they do it for their community: As far as the Traylors are concerned, “We know half the county, what are we supposed to do?”
The couple has no desire to make money off of their passion.
Barney Traylor said he doesn’t see his horses as a business as much as he sees himself as a business trying to sell a product; he enjoys the thrill of driving his horses into town, wife and grandkids in tow, so the town shouldn’t go without such an experience at its own disposal.
When the Traylors do find themselves riding into town, they normally stop at the McDonald’s drive thru, which is always a surprise for the employee working the drive thru that day. For the Traylors, the monthly experience more than outweighs the costs of their favorite pastime.
“The world slows down,” Teresa Traylor remarked with a smile, as Barney busied himself bathing two of their Belgians, Lily and Roxy, getting them ready for their show at the Hillsdale County Fair.
Barney, the custodian at one of the Hillsdale local elementary schools and Teresa, a bus driver in the school district, have been raising and training horses for the past 20 years in their family home just 10 minutes outside of Hillsdale.
Teresa has grown up around horses all her life, and Barney said he has always been fascinated by them. In 1997, the couple purchased their first mare and began breeding Belgians in 1998. Since then, the Traylors’ stables have become the home of 14 stunning mares, and as Barney added jokingly, “We only ever seem to get the mares with blazing stripes,” pointing out the beautiful flashes of white that streak the heads of all their horses. The Traylors make the wagon rides into town whenever they can, but it can be difficult at times.
Barney has even taken his horses to the national level, becoming the U.S. National Plowing Champions in Kentucky in 2016. The training also has its own practical applications: sometimes Barney will use his horses to plow his own fields.
Beyond the occasional rides into town, the Traylors also train their horses for competitions and shows, including competitive plowing. In the advent of tractor plowing, Barney said competitive horse plowing is like a “science” or “hidden knowledge.” Barney trains his horses in speed consistency, in their ability to maintain a steady trot, and in the orderly manner with which the horses pull the plows that till the ground.
In accordance of the familial impact horses have had on their lives, Teresa plans on moving forward with getting their grandchildren involved. The Traylor grandchildren have begun to learn the ropes behind raising the horses.
“We’re doing the grandkids thing now,” Teresa said, smiling.