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August 24, 2012 — Sadie & Bella Say

A Horse and Carriage Ride, It Ain't No Walk in the Park

Our mom and dad were in New York City last weekend.  On Saturday they spent their afternoon speaking for the carriage horses.  Their goal was to help educate tourists and locals about the truth behind the horse & carriage industry.  Doing this only 10 feet away from the line of waiting carriages and their drivers was a bit tense but it was a successful day and they got hundreds of signatures for a petition backing a bill that would ban horse & carriages in NYC.  Here’s a little insight about the life of the over 200 NYC carriage horses.

Horse & carriage rides have always been portrayed as quaint and romantic.  Usually they take you on a meandering ride through a park or through downtown streets.  Your ride lasts about 30 minutes and costs you a pretty penny.  But have you ever wondered about what happens in the days and hours before and after your ride and what that horse’s life is really like?  “They charge so much money for this they must really take great care of those horses”.  “They probably live with their driver in a great big old barn or in a pasture”.  “I’m sure they don’t mind pulling a carriage full of tourists all day, horses are meant to work and pull carts”.  These are all things they said they heard from both tourists and locals when advocating for the horses.  Most of them were shocked and horrified when they learned the truth.  Here are some facts about this industry and there is nothing romantic about it. 

Many of the horses used to pull the carriages are not traditional workhorses .  They are usually smaller breeds, retired from racing or given up by owners and are not physically built for this type of labor. They work long days.  A typical shift for an NYC carriage horse is nine hours, seven days a week.  Their 15 minute required breaks are not enforced and are often bypassed in favor of a waiting fare.  They spend their nine hours confined with the rigging, wearing blinders and a metal bit in their mouth which is so restricting they have virtually no freedom of movement.  When they’re not physically pulling the carriage, they stand in the hack line.  There are times when they stand there for hours on the asphalt in soaring heat, during thunderstorms and snowstorms.  They are frequently caught working during weather emergencies even when ordered to suspend service.      

Horses as a breed are very social and intelligent requiring mental and physical stimulation.  They are also prone to being skittish, meaning they spook easily.  All traits that don’t go hand in hand with being a carriage horse, especially in an urban setting.  The loud noises of a city (horns, sirens construction, loud engines, etc.) are perfect catalysts for spooking a horse.  Their hack lines are often in high tourist areas, i.e. the most congested areas, which mean they are walking alongside cars, tour buses, limos and pedestrians. They stand or pull carriages for hours with no social interaction or unrestricted movement/exercise.  All of this makes the industry ripe for accidents.  There have been 8 incidents in just in the last 12 months alone of horses getting spooked and bolting through traffic, getting hit by cars and even one NYC carriage horse named Charlie dropping dead on a busy NYC street.  This has resulted in injured drivers, passengers and horses.

The horses live in one of five major stables that are located along the west side of NYC.  There are conflicting reports about the conditions of these stables.  They said they didn't get to see them so they refrained from passing judgment.  However, horses are animals that need room to run, get proper exercise, graze and interact socially with other horses.  Whether the stables are acceptable or not, the fact still remains that these horses are denied the basic needs of the species.

Thankfully, there are many major cities around the globe that have banned horse and carriages for entertainment for these very reasons.  Some of those cities include London, Oxford, Paris, Toronto and Beijing.  Numerous smaller cities throughout the United States have also banned them due to safety and humane concerns.  The bottom line is, horse & carriages are nice to haves (by some) and are not needed in our modern day.  Is their safety and their suffering really worth a 30 minute ride through the park? As with all animals, we must be their voice and continue to learn, educate and create change until we can ensure they live better lives.


How can you help? 

  • When you’re in a city that offers carriage rides opt not to ride.  Instead, choose a pedi-cab which is a growing industry all over the country or rent a bike and pedal through the park at your leisure.  Or there’s always the tried and true method…walking!

  • Learn about how you can be a voice for the carriage horses in some of our major cities by following organizations that are currently working to help them and learning about any pending legislation.  Here are some places to start.


                  NYCLASS; Horses Without Carriages International; Coalition to Ban Horse Drawn Carriages; Equine Advocates

                  Petitions to ban Horse & Carriages:

                  NYC; Philadelphia; Chicago; Flagstaff; Victoria; Montreal; Melbourne; Care2 petitions

                  Pending NYC legislation:

                  Bill S5012; Bill A7748 

  • Do your own investigation to see if your city has horse & carriages.  What are the rules governing them?  Is the industry following those rules?  How many accidents have occurred?  Where they being stabled and what are the conditions?  If you don’t like what you uncover, start your own movement to educate tourists and locals about what you learned.


Woof, Woof!  

Sadie & Bella


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