Riding around Burbank the old-fashioned way

Dave Hoch, dressed in a shiny green paisley vest, string tie and cowboy hat, swung bridles onto his two horses, Ethan and Patrick, one recent morning.

“Ready to hook ‘em up?” the 68-year-old Rancho resident asked his wife, Diana Hoch.

“Yup,” she said, guiding the horses out of their barn while her husband hooked them up to their 1895 Rockaway carriage.

It’s normal to see equestrians in Burbank’s Rancho district, where 82 horses are registered with the city and some intersections have signal buttons raised for riders.

But a 19th century vintage carriage led by a pair of horses is rare. Theirs — which they purchased about three years ago from Morgan Carriage Works in Oak View — is likely one of the oldest carriages in Burbank.

And it’s popular among city residents.

Twice, Burbank Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy has ridden in the carriage during Burbank on Parade. And when City Manager Mark Scott moved to Burbank last year, they used it to give him a tour of their neighborhood.

“There is no better way to see the Rancho area than with Mr. Hoch,” Scott said in an email.

For a neighbor’s wedding, Dave Hoch drove the bridesmaids in the carriage, and took another neighbor’s mother out for a ride on her 99th birthday.

But mostly, carriage driving is something the couple can do together. Every weekend, they take a three-and-a-half mile ride through their neighborhood.

“It’s good for the marriage,” Dave Hoch said, while driving the carriage pulled by Ethan and Patrick through the Rancho.

But it’s not the only piece of history in their barn. The Hochs used to take their two children to McKinley Elementary School in their vintage wicker seat buggy. Its previous owner actually drove it to pick up her husband from the Burbank airport after he’d returned from World War II.

The Hochs have deep roots in horseback riding — it’s actually how they met.

At 24, Dave Hoch was a medic in the service stationed at Fort Carson.

As a kid, the Los Angeles native had done stunt work with horses on the television series “National Velvet” and the movie “This Happy Feeling.” His father, Winton C. Hoch, was a Hollywood cinematographer.

So the bartender at his local bar in Colorado Springs asked Dave Hoch to help him train a horse he bought for his daughter that was giving him trouble. But when he hopped on, the horse was fine. The owner must have been doing something wrong, he thought.

Hoch grabbed a pair of spurs and thought he’d try those to rile the horse. But instead, he broke the spurs.

Later, he told the bartender he owed him a pair of spurs. But the bartender said they belonged to the redhead sitting nearby with her father. And that’s when Dave Hoch made his first move.

“‘Hi I’m Dave Hoch, I broke your spurs, but I can’t do anything about it ‘til pay day,’” he remembers telling her. “Next thing I know, she’s sitting in my lap, and two years later we were married.”

Eventually, he got her a decent pair of spurs.

“I wasn’t all that impressed at first, but he grew on me,” Diana Hoch said, gently squeezing his shoulder from the back seat of the carriage.

Shortly after, the pair returned home, where they cleaned and fed the horses.

“It’s entertaining for the folks, and I enjoy making people happy with it,” Dave Hoch said of their hobby.

But at the end of the drive, they’re usually exhausted.

“At the turn of the century, they did this every day…that was over hills and mountains and rough terrain,” Diana Hoch said. “Those horses truly did help build our country.”


Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.


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