The January issue of our magazine, The Carriage Journal, includes a fascinating article on horse-drawn travel in Switzerland. The article is adapted from Andres Furger’s lecture at the 2010 CAA / CWF International Carriage Symposium.
Andres shared the following story with the symposium attendees, and his lively storytelling prompted an awful lot of laughter in the room. Except for the general intro (below), however, this story didn’t make it into the magazine article. So I offer it here:
“Over two thousand, five hundred years ago, the area that today is Switzerland lay in the heartland of the Celts. These people, the Helvetii, were excellent craftsmen particularly when it came to building vehicles. During their time the concept of using spoked wheels was introduced into Europe. These were constructed in much the same way as they are today, maybe even better, as the Celts understood the need to make the wheel rim out of a single piece of wood, which they bent using steam.
“Using archaeological evidence, I was able to reconstruct a working Celtic war chariot for the Swiss National Museum in 1987.
“Unlike the Greeks and Egyptians, the Celtic driver sat while the warrior stood behind him on the back of the chariot, which was suspended even then. I had the opportunity to test this with my good friend Daniel Würgler, today one of the world’s top four-in-hand drivers.
“The test was going splendidly until I tried my hand at something that Julius Caesar himself had described, which was the “warrior method” of leaping at full gallop from the back of the vehicle onto the pole and up to the yoke to be able to throw the spear down from a great height. This my horses tolerated at the halt. However when I tried it again at speed they shot forward, catapulting me backwards between their hind legs.
“Only some quick thinking and a roll to the left saved me from becoming yet another statistic concerning itself with the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.”