Tucked away behind trees off of Erda’s Droubay road sits the Flying M Clydesdales Motel, a horse motel run by Alyssa Coombs and her mother, Mickey Falkner.
The mother-daughter duo originally collaborated to make a successful run at horse competitions and have now opened a business, the first of its kind in Tooele County.
In 1995, Falkner decided she wanted to raise her twin daughters, Alyssa and Shelley, on a farm instead of in Salt Lake City. Never having been to Tooele County before, Falkner saw an ad in the newspaper for six and a half acres that came with animals.
“The land was pretty bare, but as soon as we got here, we just knew this is where we should be,” Falkner said.
“It came with a horse, rabbit, dog, and too many cats to count,” Coombs added.
It took the move to Erda for Falkner to discover her interest in horses, even though she had grown up on a farm in Iowa. But the breed she became interested in is not your common riding horse — the tall Clydesdale.
The twin girls grew up trying a little bit of everything, from rodeo to English riding, but the family didn’t get into driving Clydesdales until Alyssa had left for college.
Falkner had a friend help teach her to drive her feisty Clydesdale. After Coombs moved back home, they started to show their horses at different competitions.
Their first horse passed away but now they own two Clydesdales: Strutt and Annabelle. After taking them to Wisconsin last year, Falkner decided to look into starting a horse motel since they had used one on their drive to and from Wisconsin.
“Horse motels have been very popular for a number of years for all those traveling state to state for horse shows, buying and selling horses and other trips,” Coombs said. “They are quite unheard of by the general public, though. We are virtually an AirBnB for anyone traveling with their large animals.”
The cost per animal is $20 a night. There is no lodging for owners, but they are welcome to stay in their trailer on the property.
The horses are required to be in good health and have vaccination papers. Yet at no time are Falkner’s and Coombs’ horses allowed to go nose to nose with visiting horses.
Their horse motel is the only one within hours of Salt Lake City.
“A professional horse shipper just said she is thrilled there is now a horse motel in our county,” Coombs said. “It’s great for show season, or buying or selling. A lot of people are having horses shipped state to state.”
Every stall comes with fresh bedding, but each customer needs to bring their own feed and water buckets.
Their first guest horse traveled from Hawaii.
This year they were invited to escort the Grand Marshal and his grandchildren at the Bit n’ Spur Rodeo held at Desert Peak Complex during the July 3 and July 4 shows.
Clydesdale horses don’t rodeo, but have their own shows. Last October, Falkner and Coombs drove to Madison, Wisconsin, where they participated in the World Clydesdale Show.
“It definitely takes a team,” Coombs said about what she has learned from participating and supporting her mom.
Many people are needed to help assist in getting all the equipment, horses and everything prepared for a show. People will often hire help.
“It’s a really high equipment sport where you have to bring feed, harnesses, vehicles, cleaning equipment, rakes, brooms, and more to every event,” Coombs said.
At the shows families rent out stalls for their horses, a stall for equipment, one for their own personal use — and sometimes even more stalls.
“Everyone works so well together,” Coombs said. “We share a lot and are willing to help other families out if their child needs something to enter a competition.”
In Montana, Coombs’ son, Declan, participated with her in the Pleasure Driving category where they took second place. That day it was windy and Coombs’ hat kept trying to blow away, so she had to hold it with one hand and try driving at the same time. They lost to their friend’s mares, whom Coombs claims are the best.
Next year they plan on letting Declan participate. Her youngest son Quinn, age 5, already loves being around the horses and Coombs trusts the Clydesdales more than a standard-sized horse, especially since Strutt and Annabelle are so easy going.
“I love their personalities,” Falkner said. “They’re super cool and sensible.”
One of the competitions they enter Strutt in is the obstacle course.
“There’s a lot of tight turns and it’s a speed event,” Falkner said.
Participants aren’t given a trial course beforehand but a piece of paper that shows where the obstacles are.
At the Wisconsin show, Coombs won the costume competition, beating out 40 entries. Coombs, an accomplished seamstress, had sewn her horse Strutt and herself skeleton costumes.
When Coombs is not helping out with the horses she can be found sewing. A customer in Grantsville hired her to sew a three-piece suit for her horse to wear for their family pictures. There are no patterns for horses.
“I had to go do fittings and come up with it out of my head,” Coombs said. “I got all of this scrap fabric all over the horse and then made cuts. We’re all excited to see how the pictures turn out.”
For the last three Aprils, Falkner has hosted a clinic at Desert Peak to teach how to drive horses. A seven times world champion has participated and taught the students to drive better. Participants have come from as far as Colorado, Wyoming and Montana.
“Draft horse people are genuinely very nice and open to teaching and welcoming,” Falkner said. “They want more people to be involved.”
Looking back on their experiences, Falkner and Coombs see that it takes teamwork to drive horses and now run a business. Together they make a pretty great team.
Check out Flying M Clydesdales Horse Motel on Facebook.