'While You Were Sleeping': Horse-drawn carriage crew stays on move into early morning hours

Driver Jackie Verna often works until 2 a.m. putting horse to bed

By Katrina Webber - Crime Fighters Reporter, Tim Stewart - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - If life for Jackie Verna were a fairy tale, she’d often end up with a pumpkin on her hands at the end of her work shift.

Instead, you often can find her cleaning and putting away her horse and Cinderella-style carriage well after the midnight hour.

“I love meeting people from all over the world, which I have, and I love the night life, love being out here at night,” she said.

Verna is one of several drivers who work for the Yellow Rose and HRH Carriage Companies.

With the help of her equine partner, “Rusty,” she carries sightseers on guided tours of the downtown area in her carriage, which is decked out with yellow roses.

“Rusty has no sense of urgency. This is the speed he likes to go. He does not like to hurry unless there's food involved,” she said laughing.

After two-and-a-half years, Verna is used to her horse’s leisurely pace.

During summer months, the days, themselves, can get off to a slow start.

They have to wait until after dark to head out to the streets in order to avoid the day’s heat.

On weekends, they often are on the move until as late as 1 a.m.

“I think you can ask any driver down here. It's almost like a passion of ours,” Verna said. “You've got to love this job.”

For Verna, the job is a dream come true.

She has been a lifelong horse lover and is excited about working with them for living.

However, even after the last trip of the evening ends, Verna’s work with Rusty continues.

She then begins the lengthy process of getting the horse ready for bed.

That includes taking braids and glitter out of his tail and mane, giving him a bath, and feeding and watering him.

Only then can Verna breathe a sigh of relief.

“We're done for the night,” she said. “And that's, kind of, heaven.”

At some point in the middle of the night when all her work is done, Verna heads home.

But she says she doesn’t always hit the hay right away.

She prefers to say awake while most other people are sleeping.

As for Rusty, after spending most nights in the barn, he starts his days running free on a ranch.

Verna picks him up for work around 3 p.m., and whenever she has a day off, Rusty gets a break too.

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