Shyla Paradis is the most recognizable driver on the road in downtown Moscow during the farmers market. Not because of who she is, but what she drives.
The past three months, the 34-year-old Viola woman has offered people free rides around the farmers market in her red and black horse-drawn wagon.
Paradis, led by her 12-year-old palomino quarter horse named Honey, picks riders up on Washington Street near the Moscow Food Co-op, proceeds north on Washington, turns west on Third Street, south on Jackson Street, east on Sixth Street and north on Washington to complete the rectangular loop. She said the ride takes five to 10 minutes depending on traffic.
Paradis started offering rides at the farmers market in June and has only missed two or three of the markets.
“I’m a stay-at-home mom and I love my horses and I love doing things with them and challenging myself, and so I thought it would be really cool to try and start making a business out of doing this sort of thing,” Paradis said, as Honey led her around the farmers market Sept. 21. “And so I like doing the farmers market because it’s a good way for me to get exposure and for people to meet me and stuff.”
She said she is in the beginning stages of her business, which she named Equine Connections.
Paradis said she offers riding lessons and rides like she does at the farmers market for special events, such as weddings.
She said the farmers market rides allow her to be with Honey, whom she has owned all of Honey’s life, and to interact with people.
Paradis said she receives a great deal of comments from drivers when stopped at traffic lights, and plenty of drivers and passengers take photos and videos of her and her horse with their cellphones.
Last Saturday, a driver stopped at the Jackson-Sixth streets light jokingly asked Paradis how many miles to the gallon her horse gets.
She said she does not need a license or permit to operate her horse and wagon because she is not charging people to ride. Paradis said a law enforcement officer pulled her over earlier this summer near the food co-op, but she and the officer did not know if she needed one at the time.
Paradis said Honey handles the city noises and thousands of people who swarm the farmers market well. The horse received exposure to Moscow last year when Paradis brought Honey through neighborhoods. She said the horse was also accustomed to traffic from spending a few years in Boise.
Paradis said the horse experienced bagpipes for the first time Sept. 21 and did not panic. The horse’s blinders also help keep her focused straight ahead.
“I’m always kind of on the alert and I keep pretty good contact with the reins just in case she kind of diverts herself from something,” Paradis said.
Honey’s biggest adjustment was learning to be patient at stop lights.
“I think being a prey animal, she wanted to keep just moving forward because she felt maybe, like, something couldn’t get her if she just kept moving,” Paradis said.
Her wagon can hold a few people on the back bench seat and a child or two can sit on the rear luggage rack.
She said she tries to offer rides the entire length of the farmers market, or from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and she would love to continue the farmers market service next year. She accepts donations from riders.
Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.