With horse-drawn caleches soon to become illegal in Montreal the city has set up a retirement program for the animals.

As of Jan. 1 the carriages will be entirely phased out as per a bylaw passed last year. On Saturday Denis Murray gave his last tour of Old Montreal with his Belgian mare Sissi after 17 years.

“People’s tastes have changed,” said Murray.

On Sunday Murray handed Sissi to the SPCA and Galahad, a horse rescue organization. Murray is the first caleche driver to participate in the new retirement program.

“She has been adopted by two veterinarians who live in the Eastern Townships who are extremely excited to welcome her home,” said SPCA spokesperson Sophie Gaillard. “She’s going to live out the rest of her life in the country with these two adopters.”

As part of the program Murray will receive $1,000 and the right to visit Sissi at least once a year.

There are 23 caleche permits given out in Montreal and roughly double the number of horses because they work in shifts.

“We’re not sure we’ll get all of them signed up but we’re hoping for at least half of them,” said Gaillard.

While caleche drivers have pushed for the bylaw to be rescinded, city councillor Sterling Downey said the city will stand firm.

“There are millions of ways to walk around and get tourists around rather than have them in the back of a caleche and put a horse in danger on the streets,” he said.

While Sissi was initially reluctant when handed over to her new owners, she eventually went along for the ride. Murray said it was an emotional departure.

“A horse isn’t just an animal, you become close,” he said.