INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Lack of willing insurance underwriters and skyrocketing premiums could force a pair of Kansas City-area wagon and carriage ride companies out of business.
Those local operators say it’s part of a nationwide trend threatening to destroy what’s been a fun and educational experience for generations.
Before Independence Square had cars, there were wagons and a whole lot of them heading out in search of gold.
“Horace Greely documented 1,000 wagons left this town in one month,” Ralph Goldsmith, owner-operator of Pioneer Trails Adventures, said on a wagon tour Tuesday around Independence Square.
Now the one remaining wagon that does several tours a day might be leaving town too. Unless Goldsmith finds gold himself.
Pioneer Trails Adventures got a letter from the insurance company informing them it no longer writes polices for animals pulling wagons on city streets. The policy expires October 21.
“I’ve got a lot of things booked all through Christmas. I’ve got ghost tours booked every Friday and Saturday night,” Goldsmith lamented.
FoxDog Carriage Company got a similar letter that made single mom Sydney Kotow give a similar expression as she commanded her horse as she approached a passing car Tuesday, “woah!”
“As soon as I got my certified letter my insurance agent calls me and is like ‘woah we we’ve got a big problem’ and I’m like ‘yeah we do,'” Kotow said.
She does mostly weddings and Christmas light tours and had planned to start historic tours in the West Bottoms. Kotow blames irresponsible operators in a social media age for insurance companies’ recent reluctance to insure them.
“We’ve preached for years online when we see companies doing this stuff and post pictures we say take them off. Stop posting pictures and doing things where your horses are putting people at risk,” she said.
Her insurance expired last week and now her only option would raise her rate from $2,000 to $10,000 a year.
“I’m like do I lose it all? Do I give it up? Horses are how I made my entire living my entire life. I don’t know what else to do,” Kotow said.
Tough choices Goldsmith is facing too, though he isn’t sure at this point he can even get that $10,000 premium.
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“It’d break my heart. I just love it. I meet people from all over the world,” he said.