New York's Carriage Horses: The First Step Down a Bad Road

If they prohibit carriage horses, what's next? Eventing, polo, trail riding?
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If they prohibit carriage horses, what's next? Eventing, polo, trail riding?

I don’t know how many of you are aware of the situation with the carriage horses of New York City. Their jobs, and in reality their lives, are on the line. Amazingly the newly elected mayor said his first priority would be to rid the city of the carriage horses! Really?! Not drugs, low-income housing, health care, street plowing or violent crime? Nope. Those darn carriage horses.

New York City carriage horse.

New York City carriage horse.

Rumor has it that the stables of the carriage horses happen to occupy some land that wealthy benefactors of the mayor would just love to develop. Hmmm, maybe there is a method to the madness. Combine that with some of the serious anti animal, supposedly animal rights, animal caring people and you have a dangerous situation.

I have not personally seen the carriage horses for quite a few years. My trips to New York City don’t often take me near their routes. What I do know is that those horses are highly regulated. Think of them as having a top-notch union. They don’t work if it is too hot, their hours are limited and their care is stipulated. There is much more oversight of the carriage horses than there is of most of our horses.

On a hot day, do they sweat? Yes, they do. So do most of the people in the city. Think of what the animal rights folks would say looking at a team of miniature horses finishing the marathon competition at a driving event.

Do you think it will really be all that long before these people turn to all equine activities? Western pleasure, trial riding, eventing, open jumping. The carriage horses have strict guidelines for their use and care. They are observed by thousands of people every day. You can bet that if any questionable care is noted, that some one reports it. New Yorkers don’t tend to be shy about things.

Are there occasional abuses? Probably. Just as there are occasional abuses in pretty much every facet of life. But keep in mind that these horses ARE in the public eye. It can’t be easy to get away with any blatant abuse when you are right out there in front of thousands of tourists and native New Yorkers.

Let’s look at what happens if the mayor wins and the horses are kicked out. Already other cities are thinking about following up with their own evictions. How many horse crazy little girls will miss their one daily chance for equine interaction? How many people who had one chance during the day to pause and interact with another living being, a creature so fabulous it has partnered with mankind for thousands of years, will now lose that opportunity? There is a quote attributed to Winston Churchill that says, “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

What will become of the horses themselves? The activists say things like they will all live happily ever after on peaceful farms with green meadows and wonderful, loving care. Really? Where are these farms? Who is going to pay for that care? Most horse rescues are already strapped for land, help and cash. Suddenly dumping a large number of horses on the rescue scene is not going to work out well.

To me, the bottom line is that I am not convinced these horses are doing all that poorly. Most horses enjoy working and love a routine in their lives. Think of the Marguerite Henry story, “Five o’Clock Charlie”. Throwing these horses out of New York City will endanger their lives. It will put many people out of work. It will remove something wonderful and special from Central Park. And I firmly believe, it will be the first step towards ending all human interactions and partnerships with horses.

Go online, sign a petition. Send a message to the politicians involved. Let them know that the tourism industry of New York City will be badly damaged by the removal of the carriage horses. Remember, Edmund Burke’s quote, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

Read the New York State Horse Council's statement on carriage horses.