Clydesdales and Shires are well suited to pull horse trams with their immense power, large round feet and generally good temperament. There are currently twenty-one of these heavy draught horses with the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway. Historically known as 'trammers', they also attend agricultural shows and compete in ploughing matches on the Island.
The Tramway Stables, established by Thomas Lightfoot in 1877, are located off Queen's Promenade at the junction with Summer Hill.
The current in-service 'trammers' are Amby, Andrew, Charles, Douglas, Ian, Keith, Kewin, Mark, Philip, Robert, Rocky, Steve, Teddy, Torin & William. In training are Alec, Bobby, Harry & Robin. Joining the stables in 2017 are Nelson (a three year old Shire) and Blae (a one year old Shire). With the exception of Blae, all of the horses are geldings.
The oldest and smallest in-service trammer is Mark, the tallest is Steve, the heaviest is Andrew, the fastest is Kewin, the youngest are William and Torrin.
There are also a number of 'retired - now drawing pension' trammers resident at the IOM Home of Rest for Old Horses, an entirely charitable organisation (see below). Please support Gwynne, Jubilee, John, Fletcher, Una and the other retirees by visiting the home when open and by making a kind donation to their upkeep.
New boys on parade !
Robin, Bobby, Torrin & Harry at the 2015 Royal Manx Agricultural Show.
Working roles for heavy draught horses not only helps to maintain health and fitness, it forms an important part of their breed conservation.
Clydesdales remain on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust watchlist as a 'vulnerable' breed whilst Shires, although greater in number, are still considered an 'at risk' breed.
There are only about 700 breeding Clydesdale mares left in the British Isles.
Home of Rest for Old Horses
The Isle of Man Home of Rest for Old Horses came into being in 1950 when Mrs Mildred Royston and her sister, Miss Kermode, became dismayed at the number of perfectly fit, old working horses being shipped from the Island for a doubtful future. Of particular concern were the old tram horses.
From small beginnings, hard work, dedication and a lean income, the Home of Rest progressed until 1955 when a fortunate legacy provided the means to purchase 'Bulrhenny', a farm with 92 acres of pasture to the south of Douglas, where the home is now located. Since 1950, more than 300 animals have found happy 'retirement'.
Today, the Home of Rest looks after more than 60 horses and donkeys. It has 'first option' on taking in tram horses as they retire.
Normally open to the public from May through to the end of September (Sundays to Fridays, not Saturdays), then during the October half-term week and an illuminated festive fortnight in December. Please check with the Home of Rest to confirm actual open days and times before planning your journey and setting out. There is a tea room and gift shop on site.