A Levin man has turned back the clock with a tried and true mode of transport as the price of petrol soars – horse power.
Don Bell often heads to town in a cart powered by pony Chow Chow for those little trips that can guzzle gas, like to pick up a loaf of bread or a bottle of milk.
To be fair, the petrol savings were a byproduct of what had become a routine hobby for man and steed anyway, but Bell said he was definitely aware of the savings lately.
“If the price of petrol keeps going up I think I’ll be doing this as much as I can,” he said.
Fuel prices around New Zealand and the world were rising sharply due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, hitting record highs.
In Levin, the price of 98 octane petrol had hit $3.50 at some stations this week, and diesel almost $2.35 a litre. Prices were tipped to likely climb to more than $4 per liter by the end of the year.
Some petrol stations around the country ran dry in recent days as motorists clamber to fill up and beat further price hikes.
Bell was taking in all in his stride. He had owned Chow Chow, a 6-year-old gelding, for three years now and initially bought him so his granddaughter could learn to ride.
He had only recently bought the cart, and in a short time Chow Chow had taken to the trips to town like a duck to water.
Chow Chow got a bit “fresh” if he wasn’t exercised regularly. It made sense then to combine his walks with a trip to the dairy or the supermarket, and in the process Bell was saving money at the petrol pump.
“He absolutely loves it. It’s a piece of cake for him,” he said.
He tied Chow Chow up outside the store while he collected his goods. Should he have a yearning for fast food, you could see Chow Chow lining up with cars at the drive-through.
Bell said people were tooting in their cars and walkers were stopping to pat Chow Chow, who gets fed carrots and apples wherever he goes.
“There would have been 30 people stop and wave yesterday. People stop and pat him and give him apples,” he said.
“He’s making people smile and it’s a good feeling.”
To date, there had been no issue with Chow Chow spreading manure about town. The horse simply preferred to do his business in the corner of a paddock at home.
“He’s never gone to the toilet when we’re out and about,” he said.
It was still legal to ride or drive a horse along the road in New Zealand, provided you kept to the left of the road where possible and didn’t ride more than two abreast.
Anyone riding animals at night has to wear reflective clothing, while horse-drawn vehicles have to have a white light on the front right of the vehicle or load, and a red light shining to the rear.