By Léo Azambuja
There is a business on Kaua‘i’s North Shore that takes you back to a time when people didn’t depend on cars to get around, when life was more romantic and old-fashioned, and making connections with other people didn’t mean signing up for social media.
“We create an experience that’s unique and unforgettable, that’s what we are trying to do,” Wishing Horse Farm owner Marti Kitch said.
The hour-long tour in the back of a restored wagonette pulled by Duchess, a 17-hand carriage horse, takes people through the idyllic 500-acre Waikoa Plantation in Kilauea. During the tour, people learn about the lush property and the history of horses in old Hawai‘i. A two-hour tour includes a picnic complete with a chef-prepared meal and champagne.
“I take them on a historic tour through the property of Waikoa, and we explore the grounds, the forest, talk about endemic birds, the history of the land and the history of the horse in the Islands,” Kitch said. “You kind of connect the past and the present moment.”
Can it get more romantic? The answer is yes. Kitch also provides customized carriage rides for marriage proposals, engagements, weddings and honeymoons. And then there are birthday parties or any other special celebration.
“It’s really fun,” she said. “There’s a lot of romance with horse and carriage.”
Kitch also offers occasional charity rides, horsemanship and riding lessons for children during weekdays, and a free weekly children’s equi-culture club.
“The kids club is about stepping back and honoring and celebrating the power of the horse, and connecting to the past,” she said. “There is tradition and there is wisdom for centuries with the horses.”
Kitch has 10 horses on the property, and five of them are rescue horses that hang around what she calls a horse sanctuary. Her working horses, including Duchess and D’Artagnan, a massive 18-hand white percheron, came from Amish country.
Most of her carriages also came from Amish country. Kitch said pretty much the Amish are the only ones keeping the carriage traditions alive, both making and maintaining carriages. She still has to send her old carriages and wheels to Amish country in Pennsylvania and Ohio for maintenance. She hopes to honor and keep the old tradition of driving horses alive, and pass it down to others.
Kitch grew up on the Mainland training horses for showing and for hunter/jumper A-Circuit. As a child, she qualified for national championships. As an adult, she trained horses all over the West Coast. When she moved to Kaua‘i, there was nothing here at that level, she said.
“So I decided it would be fun to do carriage work because there is some elegance to it, there is a level of training to get them really refined and driving well that’s fun, and there’s a special connection when you drive,” said Kitch, joking she also gets to wear a top hat and her boots.
Carriage horses, she said, are more highly trained and sensitive than other horses. Since she wasn’t showing horses anymore, having the horse and carriage business is a good reason for her to keep her horses highly trained and to give them baths to have them looking beautiful and elegant. For a one-hour tour, it takes three hours to get the horses and the carriage ready, plus another hour of post-production, she said.
Everything she does, Kitch said, whether it’s the horse and carriage business, the horse sanctuary, the kids classes or the kids club, is about connecting us with our horse-powered past, with horses and with each other.
“It’s all about keeping connections,” Kitch said.
Find Wishing Horse Farm on Facebook, at www.kauaicarriage.com or at 639-7433.