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October 02, 2007

Talk Back: Compassion for Carriage Horses

In September, a 13-year-old carriage horse died after she was spooked and bolted onto a sidewalk near New York City's Central Park. Readers grieved the mare's death and criticized having the horse-drawn carriages in such a heavily congested area. Among the comments we received:

Horse-drawn carriages are big in Chicago too, unfortunately. It boggles my mind that anyone can enjoy a ride in one of these. There's nothing quaint about it: constant honking, cars zooming by, people everywhere on the street. It's a city, it's crowded, it's noisy, it's nowhere near relaxing. These people who are so excited to get a sample of so-called old world charm certainly aren't getting it, and at bare minimum they should be concerned about their own safety. Every time I pass by these poor horses, whether I'm on foot or in my car, I see the look on their faces and say a prayer. —Janet

I could not agree more. My husband and I were recently in New York, walking around Columbus Circle and Central Park. My heart went out to the horses lined up on this busy street. I am surprised more accidents do not occur. I wish New York would eliminate this practice. —Diane Levy

Thanks again, Wayne, for speaking up for the horses! As a lifelong horsewoman, I am keenly aware of how deeply engrained the "fight or flight" tendency is in horses. They are prey animals and their own defense is to flee when confronted with danger. Even the best-trained horses can react fearfully and violently given the right circumstances. How sad that this gentle mare died a painful, traumatic death all because of profit and a misguided notion of romance. Horses should not be subjected to the loud, dangerous and alien environments of big city life. If people truly cared about horses, they wouldn't patronize the carriage industry. It's time for caring people to close this industry down. If you want to tour the city of New York on a romantic evening, rent a hybrid convertible! Stop exploiting voiceless beings! —Susan Trout

Thank you for posting and bringing to light. As romantic as the idea of a horse-drawn carriage is in concept, the reality is often quite different. I do not live in New York City; however, I do live in the heart of a busy Southern city and, unfortunately, also have to witness the carriage horse business on our congested streets. It's always extremely unsettling and unnatural to me. And, I shutter to think about the faith of these beautiful majestic creatures when I see them on our streets, obviously so out of their element. —Andrea

A heartfelt thanks for elevating this horrible issue. Few tourists, and apparently few New Yorkers, are aware of the laundry list of horrible abuses in this unregulated NYC industry. Every day I fear reading of a horse dropping dead from heat exhaustion or being killed in an accident, such as the most recent one, which took place in September 2007. Two months earlier, a horse charged into a taxi. In January 2006, a horse named Spotty died a particularly gruesome death after charging a car at full gallop, on the way back to the stable. The list goes on and on. Thank you for galvanizing support to put an end to this shameful misery. —Mary

I am horrified to hear about this. I remember signing a petition about two years ago to put a stop to this. I guess nobody listened. Those poor horses. The bottom line with me is, if people would educate themselves and stop contributing to this misery, there would be justice for these animals. The drivers of the carriages should be ashamed, because also the horses are often abused or neglected. What year are we living in, by the way? —Marilyn Glasgow

I think with the changing times, New Yorkers need to limit and change the "pleasure" they have in the horse and buggy days. It is way overcrowded, the pollution of car emissions, noise, honking horns, airplanes, trains… it’s too nerve wracking and congested for the horses. They were needed for that long ago, but that needs to be let go of. Those horses need to be in comfortable pastures and open spaces. From my understanding—I have never been to New York—is there not nice, open country in nearby towns in New York? The buggy and horse rides are a wonderful pleasure, if the animal is well and happy. Could not these be moved to open country towns, for out of town getaways? Where the income of the owners could still be forthcoming? However the most important purpose is the welfare of the animal, first and foremost! New Yorkers, have a heart and be kind to these noble animals that have served so faithfully in the American history; let them go to pleasant pastures and living conditions that are needful and rewarding. They have served this long enough. Have a heart; free the horse from the crowed N.Y. streets, and dangers. —Carol Kyer

Nothing ever made me more sad on my visits to New York City than seeing the carriage horses... Too many people don't know what these horses endure in their existence. I am linking this entry to all my friends who still live in NYC. —Lisa Jenkins

I'm a New York City resident who is appalled at the horse-drawn carriage industry remaining in my city. I feel it necessary to clarify that what's needed is a ban on the industry, which you don't call for in your blog, although I cannot fathom why you wouldn't explicitly do so. There are dedicated organizations and activists in NYC currently working very hard to enact legislation that would ban the industry. Asking New Yorkers to contact their council members to complain about the treatment of the horses misses the point entirely, Mr. Pacelle. You say "The only way to protect the horses is to get them off the streets." Well, why not follow up that bold statement with the logical response of actually urging the City Council and Mayor Bloomberg to do just that? —NYCActivist

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