Alberta Carriage Supply (ACS) – a local one-stop-shop for all things working and driving horses including horse-drawn vehicle parts, repairs, and sourcing – has been servicing farmers in Rocky View County and beyond for approximately 20 years.
This summer, the company began manufacturing its own brand of horse-drawn farming equipment, beginning with the versatile forecart – a sturdy work cart used to perform tasks where heavy-duty pulling is required with the assistance of working horses.
The cart is used to hitch horses to any type of load and can be used with a multitude of important tools to perform tasks like snowploughing, gardening, harrows, or even for leisure.
According to ACS owner Dale Befus, over the past few years, the company has seen the price of horse equipment that was previously imported from the U.S. steadily rise.
“From tariffs to increased costs for steel and freight, these essential pieces of equipment have become priced out of reach for many small operations or pleasure farmers, so we decided to build our own,” Befus said in an ACS press release.
In an interview, the business owner added the cost to import the goods would be as much as the units themselves, together with delays importing them from foreign countries.
“We were chewing over our problem, and we thought, ‘Well, why can’t we make one?’ and the response was, there's no reason we can’t,” he said.
Befus added ACS built a few forecart prototypes and tested them out to ensure functionality and safety, followed by a second redesign process. The team then hired an experienced welder and fabricator and “took a big breath and jumped in with both feet,” as he put it.
The locally designed horse farming equipment is made in-house at ACS’s shop in east Rocky View County, providing employment for several local tradespeople.
Though Alberta’s farmers no longer rely on draft horses and forecarts for their yearly harvest, Befus said he believes it is important to keep the history of the draft horse alive.
“Our farmers here today are the best in the world, and they have to make a living, but there’s a lot of farmers and people in general who just love driving horses,” Befus said. “They do it as a hobby or in some cases as a sport and there’s actually lots of draft horses around.”
He said he hopes ACS can help share with others the history of how these magnificent creatures “helped settle our country and worked so hard” to build western Canada.
“We believe there is something magical and mystical about them, and honest, they are hard-working and big-hearted animals who love to work,” he added. “Draft horses built this country. Anywhere you see a diesel engine today, it was draft horses in the day – it was horsepower running the equipment.
“I think it’s a great nod to our forefathers. And to work with draft horses under load – there’s nothing better, it’s just a fantastic feeling. It’s good for the spirit.”
He said although there are still many draft horses in the province, the difficulty is finding ways to keep the animals busy and in shape – which is where the forecart comes in to play.
“We’re just trying to help everybody keep their horses in shape and our motto has been, ‘Helping people put their horses to work,’ and whether it’s a big horse or a saddle horse that somebody wants to drive, we look after them all,” he said.
The forecart is one of the most versatile pieces of farming equipment, according to Befus, as it enables users to hook up anywhere from one to four horses to the cart and carry immense loads.
“Whatever you want and pull whatever you want – large loads are not an issue,” he said.
In a world where so many products are mass-produced, Befus said it's important to champion local manufacturing, but it involves a shift in mindset.
“We can do it. We just have to be creative,” he said. “My team – we sit down, and we go, ‘How can we do this faster, cheaper, easier, so we can compete with other people?’ And if we put our brainpower to it, we find we have that ability,” he said.
The team has more products in store to be added to its repertoire in the coming months, according to the ACS press release.
Those interested in finding out more about ACS can visit their website at albertacarriagesupply.net