On the weekend of the Carriage Association of America's Annual meeting collectors and carriage enthusiasts from across North America converged at The Grand Oaks Equestrian Resort where the amazing collection of Gloria Austin's Carriages are on permanent display. From the museum's floor the Royal Golden Coach of Austria was polished and prepped for the occasion in a presentation attracting over 2700 spectators. Austin's Equine Heritage Institute is dedicated to preserving the history and role of the horse since the beginning of civilization.
On this day with her eight Pura Raza Española (PRE) horses, the coach which carried Austrian Countess Consuela, and avid driver in her own right. The coach driven by former Royal Coachman to the Queen of England and Prince Phillip, David Saunders, held the reins and guided the procession.
A Special Carriage on a Special Day
On February 4, 2017, Gloria Austin put six of her purebred Spanish horses to her Armbruster Dress Chariot, the only full state carriage in the world in private ownership. She and her staff worked tirelessly to prepare horses, harness and carriage for the day when the 120 members of the Carriage Association of America and 2,700 area residents witnessed a thrill of a lifetime at 3 pm Saturday afternoon at the Grand Oaks Equine Resort and Museum in Weirsdale, FL.
Each of the six Pura Raza Española (PRE) horses and two other grays were washed and polished for the occasion. Each side of harness took 10 hours to polish 60 hours total. Since the Armbruster Dress Chariot is in Gold there was no polishing require. There is gold plate, gold leaf and gold bullion on various parts of the carriage, sometimes called a Gala Coupe. Coupe because its body is “cut off” so the significant royals can sit facing forward, not looking into the faces of other passengers facing backward like in a typical full state coach.
The staff led by Gloria’s private coachman, David E. Saunders, polished the full state harness made by Brothers van der Wiel of Hamont-Achel, Belgium. Each harness took 10 hours to polish. Driving six horses meant 60 hours of labor just to clean and fat the leather and polish the brass. To maximize the white of the tail hairs of these gray horses, special vinegar, water and baking soda were used.
The golden carriage was made in about 1850 for the wealthiest and most powerful families in the history of Europe: the Habsburg dynasty, Emperors of Austria, Kings of Hungary, who ruled for centuries over a huge empire. Like all European monarchs, the Habsburgs had an extensive collection of carriages. Until his death in1916, Emperor Franz Jozef I, married to the famous Empress “Sissi”, almost exclusively used horse-drawn carriages.
This is the only full state carriage in private ownership. Most are owned by royal households of in state operated museums. The carriages, art, and artifacts at the Grand Oaks Resort and Museum are all owned personally owned by Gloria Austin.
The golden carriage was restored in 2000 by Patrick Schroven of O-L- V Waver, Belgium. The carriage is in better condition than most European state carriages because it is a new restoration.
Gloria is now writing books about the collection, carriages and the history of the horse. Her Books are for sale on amazon.com. They are published through the Equine Heritage Institute Inc. a not-for- profit organization whose mission is “To educate, celebrate and preserve the history of the horse and its role in shaping world civilizations and changing lives.”
Donations to further publications to can be directed ehi-donations.com