Sentineal Carriages has been providing romantic carriage rides around the old town of Niagara-on-the-Lake for almost 30 years. And as the Frank Sinatra song goes, “Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage,” Sentineal Carriages is accredited and has been a part of thousands of romantic moments. “We cater to 80 weddings a year and we assist with a lot of wedding proposals and anniversaires,” says Laura Sentineal, co-owner of Sentineal Carriages.
“The proposals are always exciting,” says Sentineal. “The men want their proposal to be perfect. I tell them all they have to do is get the ring and pop the question.” Catering to requests is something that Sentineal and her team of handlers excel at. “I always joke we will do anything as long as it is safe and not illegal,” says Sentineal. “We had a groom who wanted to give his bride a fairytale proposal. He rode up the stairs at Oaks Garden Theatre wearing a suit of armour on one of our white horses, flipped up his visor and proposed,” says Sentineal. “That is one I won’t forget.”
Laura Sentineal grew up in a condominium with little space to run and play. “Being on the farm was so novel and I loved the horses,” she said, adding that providing horse-drawn carriage rides is something the family just fell into. “My husband, Fred, was born and raised on a horse farm in Niagara-on-the-Lake and he has always had a natural ability for working with horses. When he was in high school, the family purchased a carriage and he started providing transportation to weddings for friends and family,” explains Sentineal. “This went on for several years and then we started getting calls from the Pillar and Post Inn, who was trying to get brides interested in weddings in Niagara-on-the-Lake,” says Sentineal. Enjoying the carriages made it an easy decision for the couple to leave their day jobs and focus on raising their three children and taking on a business with 20 horses. “We receive so much positive feedback,” says Sentineal. “Regardless of the occasion we are with them at their best,” says Sentineal. “As a business model, it is a great place to start. They are already celebrating and happy,” says Sentineal.
Sentineal and her team work around the clock to ensure top care of their horses. “You don’t lock the door at night. The horses’ care comes before everything,” says Sentineal. “We have been on vacation and had to come back: they are the number one priority.” Horses are acquired by many sources including some that otherwise would have been sold for meat.“It is nice to find a horse and give him his life back and provide a home and a job,” says Sentineal. “Heavy horses are bred for work and studies show that if they are not working it affects them physically and mentally,” says Sentineal who carefully pairs the horses with a handler. “Our horses and their drivers become a team and rely on each other,” says Sentineal. “People would understand that it is a mutually beneficial relationship.” Sentineal thoroughly enjoys creating special moments for clients. There are more than just weddings and tours on the carriages. “We have had little girls who want to be Cinderella and centurions that still remember a time when they went to church in a horse and buggy,” says Sentineal who provides complimentary rides to local senior’s homes.
Over the years, the business has expanded beyond weddings to include a wide variety of services including: weddings, historical tours, sightseeing, parties, anniversaries, first dates, Shaw Theatre packages, parades, corporate events, bus tours, special events, and funerals. At times, Sentineal Carriages receives calls for movies. Most recently the retired horses have appeared in television shows and movies such as Pompeii, Murdoch Mysteries, and American Gods. The Sentineal family recently had their own romantic and memorable moment.
“In the fall, our oldest daughter was married. The carriages took us to the ceremony. The bridesmaids were in front of us and it was a special time for my husband and I to share with her,” explains Sentineal. “On the way back from the ceremony the ten members of the bridal party rode in the wagonette through the town. People were waving and cheering. it was really fun because it was my first time on the other side of the equation.”
Sentineal Carriages has been a crowd favourite among all ages in the historical town of Niagara-on-the-Lake since 1989. The smiles and memories the horses bring to visitors and local residents are invaluable. As Ol’ Blue Eyes sang, “you can’t have one without the other.”