The man behind the carriage horses in the Belgium city of Bruges, has a special relationship with his horses — which means they happily follow him into the pub...
If you’ve ever visited the romantic city of Bruges, you will remember the carriage horses waiting patiently to take the 300,000 visitors who descend on it each year on a tour around its postcard-worthy streets.
But behind these working horses is an unlikely set up. Three-and-a-half kilometres outside the city is the home of Mark Wentein — international driving judge, proposed chef d’equipe for the Belgian driving team at the World Equestrian Games this September, editor and publisher of Belgium’s equestrian magazine Hippo Revue, and himself a Belgian single pony champion.
With his son Mathias, he owns four of the 13 licences for carriages in the city and has turned his 17th-century farm into a yard that most top competition horses would consider lavish.
The working day for these horses is capped at eight hours, after which they head back to Mark’s yard for a compulsory two-day break. And the lines between their jobs are blurred — he likes all his carriage horses to be ridden under saddle, and one that was in the city yesterday could find itself drag-hunting the next.
The secret to his successful business and gleaming horses he says, is the trust he has with them.
His old Welsh cob Lucky, whom he drove at Royal Windsor — where he is now a commentator — once came on stage for a play his daughter was in, which involved taking him up two floors in a lift. For a TV programme his horses came into his sitting room — “my wife thought I was mad” — and they’ve stopped by at the pub he owns while he pulls a pint.
“It proves that if you have a good relationship and you never cheat on trust, they follow you,” he says. “In America being a horse whisperer is a job — here it’s logic. You need to be able to communicate with them so they can tell you when something is wrong.”
Watch Mark’s horses coming into his house and pub:
Don’t miss our full feature about carriage horses in Bruges in today’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine (8 February 2018)