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Bo and Honey: Your Carriage Ride Tour Guides this Holiday Season

Eager for a tour of Novato holiday decorated homes? Gary Sello of Indian Valley Carriage Rides shows off his beauties, the pride of Indian Valley.

OK, so it’s only five times a year, including three times this month, but Bo and Honey are happy to have the work whenever they get it. (Sound familiar?)

“These are big, strong horses, and what I ask them to do (pulling a wagon for four hours) is something they enjoy," Novato's Gary Sello says. "They could do it for 20 hours! OK, well maybe not 20 ..." he pauses for a laugh ... "but this is nothing like pulling a plow from sun-up to sundown in 100 degree heat.”

Sello, the proprieter of Indian Valley Carriage Company, chats with me one recent morning while getting his pair ready for their gig with the Noe Valley Merchants Association.

Bo and Honey stand 16.2 hands high (5-foot-6 at the withers), meaning their owner's head comes to about the top of their shoulders. They are half-brother and half-sister, sharing the same sire with different mothers and born in the same year. Gary drove to Nebraska to pick them up four years ago after purchasing them sight unseen from a stable in Virginia. At the time, the gelding and mare were 3 years old. It was love at first sight.

“Their sweet dispositions were obvious,” he says.

More than good personalities, they also happen to be gorgeous. Bo and Honey are half Percheron (a draft horse originally bred in France) and half thoroughbred. They are big, strong and powerful while also classy and elegant. These two have a soft dove-gray color that sets off the red and black of the Christmas decorations affixed to their tack at this time of year.

I watch as Gary approaches his horses in their corral, easily sliding a halter over each, one at a time, as they wait patiently while he talks to them quietly. I have to admit I had images of great whiskery muzzles and hairy legs when I anticipated coming to meet these horses, but they’re as sleek as panthers.

“I feed them well,” Sello says while sliding a padded yoke onto Honey’s neck. “They get lots of love and attention.”

Sello honed his carriage driving skills on Fisherman’s Wharf years ago. He grew up in the city yet spent part of his teen years working at a dairy ranch in West Marin. Work in Novato led to him moving here 35 years ago.

“I used to hang out with guys who would drive 10-12 horses at a time,” he tells me with a glint in his eye. “It’s a lost art!”

Elaborating that he’d love to have more horses, more land and bigger carriages,  he sighs and says, “I’m really happy with driving my nice pair.”

I tell him I think it’s great when animals have work they can do, and he readily agrees. ”I’m just happy to have horses in my life, and the fact that they can generate a little income is great, too,” he says.

We peruse a barn containing his collection of buggies and carriages. Dominating the entrance is the covered wagon known as a “people-mover” with glossy mahogany sides fitting an average of 12 adults. There’s also a three-seat surrey topped with Victorian fringe that Gary says is his favorite because all the passengers are facing forward on the same level as the driver with a good view of the horses. Nestled in between is a two-seat spindle-seat buggy from the 1890s that he acquired a couple months ago.

“Look how thin this is,” he says while gesturing to the material that forms the carriage. “This is so light and so much fun to drive because the horse hardly knows it’s there.”

Sello also has a formal carriage known as “vis a vis” that fits six people who sit face to face.

“When you take the horses to the city, you see the kids change, from the way they walk to get in cadence with the horses and the big smiles,” he says.

Sello has been president of the Novato Horseman's Association for three out of the past five years. Last weekend he stepped down from his most recent term while friend and long-time Novatoan Art Yee ascends to the saddle, so to speak, for his first year-long term.

“This used to be a cow town,” Yee says. “Growing up, the highlight of my life was Western Weekend.” 

Yee and Sello pose for a quick photo together, and Sello realizes he needs to get changed. Before he goes, he pauses to ask his assistant, Jana Hefner, if the second diaper bag is in the wagon. It seems like a funny question to ask until you realize what kind of diaper bag he’s talking about.

"It's very rare for any to fall out," Gary assures me. "Well even if it did, it shows you tried."

That's good for a laugh.

Sello nods toward Hefner, saying, “Besides being a great driver and having her wonderful charm, she’s the major decorator of my horses and the carts and does an outstanding job.” Hefner just smiles and continues sticking poinsettias in the harness.

It’s time to get out of their way so they can be on their way — two trucks, one hauling a wagon, the other hauling an extra large double-sized horse trailer. The horses don’t do coffee during the commute but they do nibble from a huge bag of carrots all day long.

I call to my little terrier, who doesn't want to leave Sello's spread, either, and I  marvel at how nice a neighborly visit can be to start off your day.

Neighborly! Get it?? (I know, you can't pay me enough to come up with this stuff!)

HOLIDAY CARRIAGE RIDES IN NOVATO

Indian Valley Carriage offers 55-minute tours of decorated houses, highlighting the Rombeiro Christmas House on Devonshire Drive. Mondays through Wednesdays, Gary Sello uses the six-person carriage; Thursdays through Sundays he drives the 12-person wagon. Guests are encouraged to bring adequate blankets, jackets and hats. Pricing is $150 for the six-person carriage  and $300 for the 12-person wagon. Kids on laps don't count on the headcount. For more information, call 309-8618.

SHROYER FOR SUPERVISOR 2014 December 10, 2011 at 06:04 AM
Gary is one of Novato's true treasures--- as is Jana. Gary is such a giver to the community. He is as kind to his horses as he is to the children of Novato. Gary's generousity and heart are such an asset to our community and our family feels blessed to have him as our neighbor. Gary and his horses have made people's dreams come true....make sure to book a ride with Gary, Jana and The Team this season!
mary schmitz December 10, 2011 at 03:12 PM
Wonderful article. You captured Gary just right. My family has been blessed to know Gary since before my youngest was born, and he's one of the (Many) reasons we love our community of Novato. Yes, it's the 'neigh'bors, but even more importantly its the 'neighbors'!
Sarah Panyard December 10, 2011 at 05:25 PM
What a wonderful assest for our Novato Community !!. It has been a treat down memory lane to visit with Gary and his team as I see them ride around our multicolored tree line town. Honey and Bo are a beautiful team and I loved hearing Gary share about their background and history. Gary, know I am watching you with envy and pride as you drive your team. Truly giving this local a warm Holiday Spirit. Drivers, may we all give our Mascots a wide and courteous berth as Gary drives Bo and Honey around our town.
Carole Bennett December 10, 2011 at 05:40 PM
We have taken this ride a couple of times in the past, and we already have our reservation for this year! Riding in the open carriage on a cold frosty night can be a romantic ride for snuggling couples, or it can be tons of fun for kids as a family activity. I highly recommend it!
Beth Huizenga December 10, 2011 at 08:25 PM
Yes, please do give horses a wide berth when you're driving by - they're not machines! Thanks for mentioning that Sarah. Also, after I wrote this article my 11- year old daughter said, "I know that man." Turns out Gary was a tutor during Small Groups at San Ramon Elementary and my daughter received instruction from him. What a great guy!

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