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Why Mules?

Posted by on July 07, 2017

All throughout the day and night, when the carriages are lined up at Jackson Square waiting for riders, the drivers frequently hear passerbys argue whether or not the animals pulling the carriages are horses or donkeys. Most are incredibly shocked to hear that the animals are neither horses or donkeys, but a blend of both animals. Most people have no idea that mules even exist, which is CRAZY because they are so important to humans and our history!


What is a Mule?
A Mule is the offspring of a donkey and a horse (strictly, a male donkey and a female horse), and are typically sterile. The only way Mules exist is because people began breeding these two species together ages ago, but why?


Why Mules?

  • As it turns out, Mules are actually one of the hardiest animals on the Earth, known to be smarter, stronger, and more surefooted that their horse-counterpart. That in itself is amazing! Don’t you agree?
  • Mules also have much thicker skin and denser muscles than either of their parents, meaning they are largely unaffected by biting or stinging insects!
  • Mules can out-perform both of their parent in almost every field that makes them useful! One specific category that mules won’t exceed in though is speed! We’ll leave that one to the horses!
  • Mules are extremely well-adapted for desert travel! We can thank their desert-dwelling donkey fathers for this one! They are more resistant to extreme temperatures and can survive far longer without a drink than either parent animal. Mules are very much like the camels of the equine world in many ways!


Mule-Drawn Carriages in New Orleans
Royal Carriages in New Orleans, Louisiana began in 1941, using a mixture of both mules and horses for the first 30-years. In the 1970’s, Mr. Jimmy Lauga visited The Reese Brothers at their farm in Gallatin, Tennessee. Mr. Lauga was more than impressed with the quality and care of these extremely large Belgium draft mules. He soon replaced his entire herd with mules instead of horses, and it’s been that way ever since!
Years later in the 1980’s, Mr. Lauga and Dr. Beirhman DVM worked with the City of New Orleans to establish the current laws and regulations regarding the commercial carriage industry that are still in effect to this day. Together, they fought for the use of mules over horses, and to this day, all of the various animal-drawn carriages that you see in the French Quarter are all pulled by these amazing hybrid animals!

Royal Carriages currently employ 68 working carriage mules! Why so many? Our 75-year-old family-owned business is actually one of the largest commercial carriage operators in the United States and we employ about 25 professional, licensed carriage driving tour guides! ...and it’s totally true, we treat our mules better than we treat our drivers! While our carriage drivers receive just about 2 weeks of vacation each year (which is pretty standard amongst most employers), each of our Royal Carriage mules receives 3-6 months of vacation on one of our farms, plus paid healthcare, dental, housing, food, shoes...you name it, they got it!

A Day in the Life of a Carriage Mule
Early in the morning, before the sun rises over the city, our stable crew is hard at work making sure the mules receive their feed on time each day! It’s a fun thing to experience, seeing these mules run around in circles as they are just excited as pet dogs are to eat! The mules are given ample time to eat their fill and digest their food before the carriage drivers arrive hours later. Once the carriage drivers arrive, each driver retrieves it’s mule, providing that mule a nice soapy bubble bath. Bathtime and grooming provide the mule and the driver the opportunity to bond with one another prior to their day of work. After a driver has harnessed it’s mule, staff members assist one another with putting the mule to the carriage, and then the driver and mule are off to work! In New Orleans, an average shift is about 7 hours long.

Throughout the 7-hour shift, carriage drivers and mules do an average of 2-5 hours of actual tours, totaling anywhere between 8-15 miles of moderate exercise and. Mules also work NO MORE than 5 days each week, and absolutely cannot work a night shift followed by a day shift! These are examples of our city regulations which we are more than grateful for. At Royal Carriages, our mules work in the city between 6-9 months each year, receiving an immediate 3-6 months of pasture vacation. This rotation provides mules a lot of time to enjoy both work and muleling around!

After 7 hours out of the stable, the mule-drawn carriages return to the stable, where other mules and drivers are ready to begin their night! Worked mules are rinsed and brought back to their large box stalls where both hay and grain are waiting for them! No matter how hard these giants work, they always skip the water and head straight for that sweet feed! Some of them like to roll around, covering themselves with dirt and shavings immediately after work! This is typical mule behavior! They do love to roll! 

Well, well, well, we hoped you learned a little bit about our mules!
They are indeed incredible animals and we are so thankful for the opportunity to work with mules and share them with the public each and every day!

If you are a fan of these long-eared lovers like we are, we’d love to meet you! Consider making a visit to New Orleans, Louisiana, and let us show you around! We have so many tour options to choose from, including tours of our stable where visitors can meet, pet, and learn about our mules a little bit more!

From our family to yours, thank you for reading and sharing our story!
 

Save BIG this Summer with the French Quarter Passport to Savings

Posted by on June 09, 2017

Will you be visiting the French Quarter in New Orleans this summer? If so, save BIG with the French Quarter Passport to Savings presented by the French Quarter Business Association! 

Discover an affordable adventure in New Orleans’s oldest neighborhood. Throughout the summer, dozens of French Quarter businesses—from hotels, bars, and restaurants to retail shops and cultural attractions—are offering discounts on meals, beverages, shopping, tours, and more.

Visit www.FrenchQuarterPassport.com for full details!

Please keep in mind that all discounts, including the one for Royal Carriages, cannot be applied after you purchase a tour. If you have any questions, give us a call ay 504.943.8820 and we'll help book your tour for you over the phone! 

How to incorporate carriage transportation into your New Orleans Wedding?

Posted by on April 26, 2017

Whether you want a unique exit to express your style or a fun way to give your bridal party and even your guests a lift too, there are lots of hot options for your wedding wheels. Wedding planners and brides enjoy thinking outside of the box with Royal Carriages. Our mule-drawn carriage company provides guests with an unforgettable experience for weddings and other special events.

Royal Carriages has specialized in carriage tours and transportation in the New Orleans area for over 75 years. Our authentic carriages can accommodate between two and eight passengers, so you can even bring your honor attendants, along, or rent multiple carriages to lead the entire wedding party on a royal-style procession. Royal Carriages can transport 85 guests at once with our fleet. Make your New Orleans wedding truly authentic with Royal Carriages.

With the costs of second-line bands, permits, and police escorts, many wedding couples are choosing to let the good times roll by using authentic carriages as a celebratory activity for the wedding guests. Imagine your own mule-drawn procession through the old streets of New Orleans. By doing so, our carriages provide all guests, no matter the age, the opportunity to share in the excitement of your special event.

 


 Graphic Design: MidnightBoheme.com | Photographer: ArtsyPhotographer.com 

 

CARRIAGE RIDE TO THE CEREMONY: The bride can share this special moment with her father or her bridesmaids, as the carriage transports her to the church or ceremony. 

CARRIAGE RIDE TO THE RECEPTION: While the guests arrive at the reception, enjoy a carriage ride, or even a carriage tour, of the French Quarter. This allows enough time for your guests to get to the reception and gives you a grand entrance to the party. 

AFTER RECEPTION CARRIAGE RIDE: Wedding Carriage Transportation after the reception allows the bride and groom to rest their tired feet, allowing the newlyweds the opportunity to cuddle up and enjoy a relaxing and romantic midnight carriage ride, ending at their hotel. 

Royal Carriages is available for: 

  • Wedding Carriage Transportation
  • Rehearsal Dinners
  • Bachelor/Bachelorette Parties
  • Family Familiarization Tours
  • Wedding & Anniversary Gifts
  • Ceremony/Reception Venue Rental
  • Bridal Photo Shoots
  • Surprise Engagement Proposals

The Story of Royal Carriages: A Family Tradition

Posted by on April 22, 2017

In the early 1940's, Clem and Violet Lauga purchased one horse and a cart from Aunt Sally's Pralines to sell rides in the French Quarter in New Orleans, La. Shortly thereafter, he purchased a carriage and began giving tours around the French Quarter. He quickly realized that the carriage tour business was possible, and Royal Carriages (originally Gay 90's Carriages) began. 

Clem and his wife, Violet, ran the business until the early 1970's. Their son, James Lauga Sr., was a fighter pilot and served in the Vietnam War. James Sr. had plans to follow his dreams of flying commercial aircraft after he completed his combat tour in 1971, and had already applied to various companies. Upon returning to his home in New Orleans, he found his father was very ill and he began managing Royal Carriages to assist his family's business. 

"My first day at work was on a Friday night shift, and when I arrived at the stable, I was surprised to see that the crew of carriage drivers were nowhere to be found!" said Jim. "I was perplexed because Friday night is always an ideal time to work, but I believe word had gotten out that the owner's son was going to show up to manage the shift, so they decided to protest this intrusion and have a 'sick out.' That was the start of my 45-year career with Gay 90's...now Royal Carriages."

Most other businesses in the New Orleans Carriage industry used retired racehorses from the nearby track in Gentilly. In 1972, Jim Sr. saw an article about Dick Reese of Gallatin, Tennessee. He and his sons were in the mule business and sold most of their mules for the Grand Canyon Trail concession. As someone who grew up watching mules work in New Orleans, Jim flew up to meet Dick and his family and was astonished as to the quality of draft mules he was shown. Shortly thereafter, Reese shipped six sorrel draft mules to New Orleans and Royal Carriages has used mules exclusively ever since. 

Mules are stronger, smarter, eat less, don't get sick as often, and are more suited to work the hot semi-tropical climate conditions of New Orleans. Jim compares mules and horses to diesel and gas tractors. "The mule is like a diesel tractor and the horse is like a gas tractor, and well, we all know the diesel tractor is the better tractor!"

In the late 1970's, New Orleans suffered particularly brutal summer heat and the retired race horses owned by other carriage companies suffered greatly, but the mules owned by Royal Carriages were unwavered by the extreme conditions. Nonetheless, the City of New Orleans wanted to eliminate the horse-drawn carriage industry fearing that there was no hope for the horses to survive.  Jim Sr. and Dr. Biermann DVM spoke to the New Orleans City Council about the amazing attributes of the mule and assured the council that these hybrid animals were much better suited for this climate that horses. Weight was even a concern to the City Council, and Jim Sr. loaded a handful of men and women aboard one of his carriages and pulled the carriage full of councilmen and women down to the street to prove that if a man can do it, so can a mule. Thanks to Jim Sr. and Dr. Biermann's dedication to preserving the tradition of mule-drawn carriages in the French Quarter, the carriage industry remained and the city of New Orleans created a regulation requiring only mules to be used during the summer months. 

There are currently four carriage companies in the City of New Orleans. Royal Carriages remains to be the oldest of the original surviving companies and celebrated its 75th Anniversary in October 2017 at its stables, located at 1824 North Rampart Street, just a few blocks outside of the French Quarter. The stable was originally built in the 1850s and was originally owned and operated by a local undertaker. Spare stalls and yard space where rented to horse-drawn vendors, like Clem in 1941. The Lauga Family purchased the stable property in the 1970's and have operated their mule-drawn tour business from this location since 1941.  The Royal Carriages Mule Stable is considered to be the oldest operating stable in New Orleans and Royal Carriages is considered to be the oldest commercial carriage operator in the United States. 

Although the stable was not damaged during Hurricane Katrina, the carriage business suffered greatly. The natural disaster in 2005 nearly bankrupted the 75-year-old family-owned and operated carriage company. The Lauga Family still had to maintain its stable property and farms while caring for over 50 carriage mules but the absences of visitors to New Orleans for nearly three years proved that surviving this economic crisis may not be a possibility for Royal Carriages. Many employees were lost in the floodwaters or scattered across the United States, and Royal Carriages nearly lost its entire workforce. A few drivers returned to the city to help rebuild homes and reestablish their former careers as carriage driving tour guides, but the lack of business was not easy for anyone to deal with.  Jim Sr. and his son James were forced to take out a very large SBA loan to keep the company in business, using James Sr.'s personal residence as collateral. It took 10.5 years to pay off the loan, but Royal Carriages survived and it finally back to where it was before Hurricane Katrina. 

James Sr. is now semi-retired and says that his favorite thing about his mule-drawn carriage tour business is to know that it is in very good hands since his son James Jr. has taken over as General Manager. James Jr. is committed to excellent tours and hospitality in addition to superior animal care and training. With the recent addition of two new beautiful girls to the Lauga Family, James Jr. can only hope that one will choose to be the 4th generation of Royal Carriages to keep the family legacy and mule-drawn tradition alive for another 75 years.

 

French Quarter Carriage Ride in New Orleans

Posted by on April 14, 2017

The French Quarter has always been a unique destination for travelers and our mule-drawn carriage rides allow visitors to discover the old world charm in the most authentic way. While walking tours and bus tours dominate the modern day market in New Orleans and in most other major destinations, our mule-drawn adventures provide an unparalleled experience that allows visitors to ride through the historic neighborhoods while interacting with a local and professional guide offering his or her own unique, personal presentation of each historically accurate tour, all while comfortably seated on a mule-drawn carriage ride. Each carriage holds no more than eight passengers, ensuring an intimate small group tour experience each and every time. I assure you that our carriage ride provides a very different perspective compared to other previous horse-drawn tour experiences you may have had in other cities.

Many visitors to New Orleans are shocked at the relaxed neighborhood feel of the French Quarter, the abundance of gingerbread architecture, and the "looseness" of the pretty much everything. I guess that's one of the main draws to our city besides the historic importance. As someone who drove carriages for two years, from my experience I have learned that one of the best aspects of a tour experience for visitors is having a meaningful connection with someone like a warm and hospitable tour guide. It's like making a new friend in a new city. I have many fond memories of all of the wonderful people that have positively impacted me during my time as a driver, like the one time I let an 80-year-old Swedish former horse-drawn buggy racer take the reigns. "Oh what a joy it is to drive a carriage in old New Orleans," he said to me.

Our mules are one of the primary reasons that the carriage industry is so unique and different from other carriage industries in America. Instead of horses, we use the original hybrid, an animal created by man that is known to be one of the hardiest animals on Earth. Mules are considered to be smarter, stronger, and more sure-footed than horses. Mules are also extremely well adapted for desert travel (think Grand Canyon mules) meaning they are more resistant to extreme temperatures like the humid subtropical climate of New Orleans. You may have heard rumors that mules are stubborn, but we assure you that is actually a sign of their superior intelligence. 

Our carriage driving tour guides are another differentiating aspect for our industry. Instead of monotone fact-tellers that you may have encountered with your own previous tour experiences, our carriage driving tour guides are passionate storytellers who focus primarily on historical entertainment, weaving the stories of the former glory of the old French Quarter with modern day life in New Orleans. If you don't believe us, check out our excellent reviews on Trip Advisor. Who said history has to be boring? A mule-drawn carriage ride is so much more than a historical introduction to the French Quarter. A carriage ride with Royal Carriages is an immersive experience where visitors time-travel to an era that they did not know existed, hearing stories of New Orleans most influential characters, be it a voodoo priestess, womanizing politician, millionaire toddler, or well-known celebrity. In addition to historical stories, discover other fascinating news such as real estate prices, movie filming, and recommendations for restaurants and attractions. 

So next time you visit the French Quarter in New Orleans and you are searching for a fun way to sight-see, consider taking a mule-drawn carriage ride with Royal Carriages. We promise that you'll fall in love with the experience, the mules, and the carriage driving tour guides. 

I booked this tour for my mom and dad (the haunted evening tour) because of all the great reviews! My parents are picky but they had nothing but great things to say about their tour. They said their driver/guide was friendly, knowledgeable and gave them some inside stories about the hotel they were staying in, and that personal touch made them feel special! Looking forward to booking my own tour when I visit NOLA again.

TripAdvisor Member: Kelly M of Chino Hills, California

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