During a horse-drawn tour of Stanley Park with my family on the Labour Day weekend, we took to the trails, giving me the opportunity to see the park from a completely different perspective.
We typically visit Stanley Park to enjoy one location, where we stay put until it's time to get in our car and drive home unable to see the forest for the trees. By getting off the beaten path with Stanley Park Horse-Drawn Tours, I got up close and personal with some of the tallest trees imaginable.
We also became the focus of dozens of tourists with cameras, who played paparazzi as our horse-drawn carriage travelled through the park. Owner Gerry O'Neil acted as the guide to our tourist-in-our-hometown group and offered tidbits of information on everything from the park's history to the Hollywood stars who have graced his carriages, including Katherine Hepburn and Anthony Quinn.
During the Canuck's run for the Stanley Cup last summer, O'Neil was so convinced of the team's impending victory, he hooked up his antique horse-drawn hearse and paraded through the park holding a mock funeral for the Boston Bruins. Turns out the funeral was premature and the Bruins beat the Canucks in Game Seven of the championship series. But the YouTube video of that funeral ride brings back some of the collective excitement the city was feeling before it all went down in a ball of flames. (To check out that video visit youtube.com/watch?v=JUMV3D-YgY4.)
We were also offered a tour of the horse barns, which are adjacent to the paddocks and stables of the Vancouver Police Department's mounted unit. The horses drawing our carriage that day were Percherons Pepper and Barry. Pepper is also used in O'Neil's Gentle Giants Visitor Program, which sees the huge horses attending seniors' homes, schools and community events.