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A carriage horse doesn’t need a “vacation.”  But they do need daily turnout to pasture, which they are denied in New York City.

“A needed neigh-cation” by NY Post’s Candice M. Giove, which ran on June 26th, made no pretense at objectivity and read like an advertisement for the controversial NYC carriage-horse business.  The article highlighted a few NYC carriage horses who were on “vacation.”  No opposing viewpoints were included and Senator Tony Avella was described as someone who “misunderstands” this business. An opponent of horse-drawn carriages since 2007, when he introduced the historic bill to ban the trade, Avella recently introduced a similar bill in the NY State Senate.

The word “vacation” is a human concept, so it was disturbing, but not surprising, when the City Council voted in 2010 to require that carriage horses get five weeks of “vacation” a year … perhaps better than nothing, but not the daily turnout they need.

“Persuaded” by Speaker Christine Quinn, who wields ultimate power and is a big supporter of the industry, most Council members voted for the industry bill with no real understanding of equine needs.

Some of the members expressed concern with how this clause would be enforced since it appeared to be on the honor system.  But that was as far as their concerns went.  There is no way of knowing if a horse is truly relaxing or working on an Amish farm.

One of the problems with this window-dressing legislation was that it did not provide the necessary daily turnout to pasture, which requires 1 to 1 ½ acres per horse and cannot be accommodated by NYC stables.   As social herd animals and not machines, horses need to interact with their own species, to graze, run, buck, roll and play, to scratch themselves, stretch and engage in mutual grooming, which is a great stress reducer.

They have none of this for 47 weeks of the year.  Humane?  I think not.

Snow job on the public?  Absolutely.

The few horses at this “retreat” in the Catskills are the same ones who lug tourists around for the other 47 weeks and never get to roll in the grass of Central Park as they pass by,  encumbered by blinders, barely able to get a glimpse of the grass that is denied to them.

Legally allowed to work up to nine hours a day, seven days a week, the horses return to their stables down traffic-clogged Ninth Avenue, mixing with vehicles going to the Lincoln Tunnel, as they breath in exhaust fumes.  It has been referred to as a “nose-to-tailpipe” existence.

There are over 200 horses living in four multi-storied warehouse stables.  Stalls are legally required to be a minimum of only 60 square feet  – less than half of what experts recommend, which is 144 square feet for standardbreds and at least 196 square feet for the larger draft breeds.  The stable for police horses on 12th avenue has 12’ x 12’ stalls and an indoor ring for exercise.

Is this business popular like some in the media like to claim? And what about the use of the public relations word “iconic?”

Some say the word is overused.  A writer in the Liverpool Daily Post called the word “iconic” a word “pressed into service to describe almost anything” and that it was “a word that makes my flesh creep.” The Christian Examiner nominated “iconic” to its list of overused words.

Let’s stop referring to this inherently inhumane business as “iconic” as if it were something sacred – as if saying it enough times would make it so.  It isn’t and it should go the way of gas lamps.

But “iconic” aside, we have thousands upon thousands of signatures on petitions of people who want to see the industry shut down – from all 50 states and over 55 countries.  Every time there is a poll  – whether from EXTRA, Crain’s NY Business or WCBS TV, about 75% of respondents vote in favor of a ban.  I would say that “popular” is not an accurate description.

Carriage horses are not things to be exploited for monetary gain.  They have no voice and no choice.  As long as the industry continues to be politically connected and the media supports a myth, the truth will not get out.

CLICK HERE to find out what YOU can do to make a difference for NYC carriage horses.

Horse in NYC Traffic Image Source: Donny Moss

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117 comments on “NYC Carriage Horses Don’t Get What They Really Need…”

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3 Months Ago

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5 Years Ago

Harry, I like your comment! Make Central Park car-free and let the horses rule!

5 Years Ago

I think it would be a better use of your time to try to get the cars out of the park and leave the horses alone... From what I have heard from friends that have visited the stables, the horses are treated quiet well... These horses are usually older horses that have not been about to carry the workload of... say a farm... So this is their second carria.. If not for this they would probably be sent to slaughter..

careers in sports medicine
6 Years Ago

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7 Years Ago

As a horse owner for over 45 years I am qualified to comment on the inhumane treatment of NYC carriage horses. Any reasonable, caring horse owner knows that working a horse 7 days a week for 47 weeks straight is punitive and abusive, especially under such harsh and stressful conditions. I disagree on the 1 acre of turnout needed, a smaller area would serve the horses need to roll/ play and relax. Horses that have a monotonous or highly stressful job have to have a daily turnout if they are kept in stalls, 20-30 minutes would suffice. From what I have seen of the stalls in the multi level buildings, the horses have no flexibility of movement as they are tied and only able to stand. If a larger type horse could lay down he would surely cast himself up against the walls. In addition to being confined in a narrow stall for 12-14 hours, the horse is then confined between the slats while hitched up to the carriage. At what point in the horses day or night is he able to scratch an itch or do what horses need to do? It appears that the horses are also standing on cement floors in their stalls in addition to working on freezing or very hot pavement. One issue I have not seen mentioned is that on a 90 degree day with very high humidity, how much more heat is radiated up off the pavement? Surely that moves the temp. above 100 degrees. Horses that are worked on pavement do develope orthopedic problems and road founder (Laminitis) due to the concussion sustained troting on pavement. This is often fatal or at the very least renders the horse useless. We need to treat these noble animals with respect, we are their stewards and protectors.

Eva Hughes
17 Aug 2011

Wow, Sheryl - you were able to pack in even MORE inaccuracies than the others! Good job! ‎1) 7 days a week, 47 weeks straight (um, no chance) 2) Horses are tied, only able to stand in stalls (wouldn't they eventually just FALL down? lol) 3) Horses must have daily turnout (wrong) 4) Horses cast themselves easier in smaller stalls (the opposite true!) 5) No slats on a carriage lol 6) Horses standing directly on cement in stalls (all carriage stalls have rubber flooring with bedding on top) DING DING DING!! We got a winnah!! Most ill-informed "horse owner" of the month! LOL

Carriage Horse Lover
16 Nov 2011

"SLATS?" "Confined between SLATS WHEN HITCHED?" It is obvious you don't know about carriages or carriage horses. There are SHAFTS on a carriage set up for a single horse and a pole on a carriage set up for two or more horses. And horses DON'T NEED daily turnout-- that has been proved by decades of horse keeping regarding race and show horses. There are thousands of race and show horesse in the USA who do not have daily turnout even though as hot bloods or even warm bloods, their dispositions are much more forward and "active" than the cold bloods, which the draft horses breeds are. Ideally, a horse should have "work" or turnout everyday, but that is the ideal that is hardly followed at most show and racing barns. Why single out the NYC carriage horses? The stalls in the multi-level stable buildings are mostly 12X12 box stalls, just like those found in many show and race barns. They are the same modular stalls one finds in pre-fab barn packages sold by Morton and other companies. The stalls all have autowaterers and the buildings have sprinlkers systems in case of fire. they are also equipped with fans and a misting system for hot days. I have been in many big name training barns down here in the South (where it is hot almost 6 months of the year) and they don't have such cooling systems.

Short skirt, long jacket
7 Years Ago

http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2011/07/26/2011-07-26_central_park_horsedrawn_carriage_smacked_by_taxi_cab_four_people_hurt.html Shame on Mayor Bloomberg for allowing the dangerous and inhumane carriage industry to continue in New York City. What a disgrace. His arrogance is pathological. All of you lawyer wannabe commenters here should take note that the liability from horse-drawn carriages in city streets is HUGE. I hope the injured people give the city hell for this. Putting a horse into city traffic is a recipe for disaster, whether it is a consequence of car-versus-carriage or from a spooked horse. I'd venture to say that the geniuses at American Girl Place are very glad that they pulled the store's wretched promotion that, for $75, would have fed young girls breakfast and then sent them out into the streets of New York City piled into flimsy horse-drawn carriages, which offer no protection at all in a crash. How stupid is that?

Short skirt, long jacket
7 Years Ago

And @ Elizabeth replying to Graham... regarding the July 16 spooking accident, it is also ILLEGAL to leave a carriage horse unattended. And the reason, obviously, is safety.

Short skirt, long jacket
7 Years Ago

@Jane, I support an outright ban...and I know horses. ;)

25 Jul 2011

Care to share your experience? Not being snarky - but Lizzie obviously has none, or she'd be crowing about her expertise. Does your experience include the cold-blooded types, or is it based on the warmbloods or hotbloods? Drafts have a different metabolism. What is your plan for the re-homing of these horses? Based on your experience, what do you think it costs to keep a draft horse on an annual basis? I know the figures - wonder if Lizzie and company have any idea. Or perhaps you share the sentiments of a certain real estate developer who thinks the horses would be better off euthanized?

A. Chappelle
7 Years Ago

I think if you wanted a green planet it wouldn't be populated by lithium-ion powered batteries which are horrible for the environment, but maybe if there were more horses and the land that is used to feed them isn't being developed into mcmansions and parking lots. Maybe we could get horse or mule drawn garbage trucks, like they have in France.

7 Years Ago

Thank you Ms. Forel for your wonderful article as well as your tenacity and determination in ending the atrocious horse carriage trade. Anyone who has been by the hack line and seen the dejected, under-hydrated horses with their tails braided knows what dismal lives they lead. Eva, I could tell you about how I grew up around horses in rural Missouri, was employed in caring for trail horses throughout my teenage years and so on (because you'll ask), but there seems to be little point since you dismiss everything everyone says that doesn't agree with your opinions. Even from experts such as Ms. Cheever. Who, from my research, seems to be an extremely reputable source no matter your blase and insulting statements about her. I also find it interesting that Ms. Forel has asked you repeatedly about carriage horses not receiving turnout for 47 weeks out of the year and you continue to ignore that particular issue in your responses. You also stated that horses breathe the same air we do. Do you really walk the streets all day with your nose within inches of car tailpipes? Funny, I think after living so many years in NYC I would have seen or heard of you.

Elizabeth Forel
25 Jul 2011

@ Graham: thanks for your words of support. No one should ever feel they have to answer to any of these so called "harse people." They are nobodies and we do not allow them to redefine the argument. They can pressure and prod and try to provoke us - but it flies over my head. I know I am right, which makes Jane/Eva so crazy their heads are about to pop. They are both are no better than school yard bullies. Look at some of the words they use in their posts; notice how they taunt and insult in such a childish way. I can't help but wonder what these kinds of personality traits do to their own horses. I wonder if they hit or yell at or even bully them - because i can tell you that they sure ain't no horse whisperers. I have seen carriage drivers in NYC treat their horses like crap. They are unkind and rough. They pull and twist the bit just to show who is boss. I have heard them curse their horses out. I once saw a driver allow his horse to drink from the trough. When the horse had a few gulps, the driver pulled his head back roughly and said to his passengers - "I'll show him who's boss." There might be people who care about their horses in this business but there are many more who don't. They just want you to think they care. The horse who spooked and ran into traffic on July 16th was attached to an UNMANNED carriage. If the "equestrian expert" was paying attention, he would have been close to his horse and aware of what was going on. He would have noticed the carriage in front getting too close. Instead, he was probably shooting the breeze with his cronies. That horse could have been injured or he could have hurt or killed someone. Just because they own and/or drive horses does not mean they care about them or know how to properly care for them. After all, Michael Vick has dog experience. So what does that tell you. When someone makes their living off the back of an animal, by the very nature of that relationship, the animal is exploited. Earlier today, a horse was seen near the park with a leg/hoof problem. He could not walk. A trailer had to be sent to take him back to the stable. If these very knowledgeable equine specialists had been paying attention to that horse , they would have noticed a problem before they hooked him up to the carriage. Instead, they made him drag the carriage to the park and probably forced him to do a few rides before the horse gave out. This is horse knowledge? Please. The horse-drawn carriage biz is inherently inhumane. Most people would agree and it is only a matter of time before it is shut down. This is from my piece above: But “iconic” aside, we have thousands upon thousands of signatures on petitions of people who want to see the industry shut down – from all 50 states and over 55 countries. Every time there is a poll - whether from EXTRA, Crain’s NY Business or WCBS TV, about 75% of respondents vote in favor of a ban. I would say that “popular” is not an accurate description. Every poll that has been taken confirms this. And I might add, it is the same for polls in Montreal, Rome and whereever else they are taken.

Carriage Horse Lover
16 Nov 2011

Give me a break! NO carriage horses in NYC or anywhere else walk around with noses within "inches of tail pipes" unless they are MINI carriage horses!! Carriage horses, most of whom are Drafts, draft crosses or Standardbreds are just plain TOO TALL to have their noses down that low while walking or trotting. FACTS, please, just the facts.

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