UPDATE: I have received numerous emails, that by posting the arguments made below by a defender of the carriage horse industry in New York, that we support it. No, we are simply reporting it — not agreeing with it. We have heard lies from both sides of this issue. You can see this has not helped but hindered. The horses are all we are interested in.
Just when you think you have heard all the arguments — for and against carriage horses in New York City — we have this.
The following was published in the Opinion section of the New York Post. It was written by NYC carriage horse driver Christina Hansen. I have yet to see arguments on either side that are 100% accurate.
Lie No. 1: Carriage horses have half the lifespan of other horses.
Not even close: Carriage horses routinely work until their late teens or early 20s and live well into their 20s or even early 30s — the normal, full lifespan for horses.
If anything, because they get good steady work and lots of hands-on care, carriage horses live longer than other horses. Dr. Jay Baldwin, a veterinarian employed by the city Health Department, says he’s found zero evidence that carriage horses have shortened lifespans.
Lie No. 2: Carriage horses live in tiny stalls too small to turn around or lie down in.
Wrong again: All city carriage horses live in box stalls. The city Administrative Code [17-330 (c)] requires stalls to be at least 60 square feet with a minimum width of 7 feet, and to be “configured to permit a carriage horse to turn around and safely lay down within the stall.” If we didn’t comply, we’d be shut down.
Lie No. 3: Carriage horses never get any turnout or pasture time.
Uh-Uh. By law, carriage horses must get at least five weeks of turnout a year, outside the city, or else the city won’t renew the license. And vets who’ve examined city carriage horses, such as Dr. Harry Werner, have observed that the horses are very healthy and contented under their current regimen.
Lie No. 4: Carriage horses live in abandoned tenement buildings, warehouses or parking garages.
Again, not remotely true: Every city carriage stable was built as a stable, and each has a Certificate of Occupancy from the Buildings Department as a stable. All have the numerous windows, hay lofts and other architectural details that indicate they were built for horses to live in.
Lie No. 5: Asphalt damages carriage horses’ hooves and legs.
Sorry: Asphalt was designed for horses to walk on to make their jobs easier; the first asphalt in New York City was used on Fifth Avenue in 1872.
Carriage horses wear special horse shoes to protect their hooves and give them traction. Because they work at a walk or a trot on a firm surface, they generally have fewer tendon and joint problems than horses ridden or jumped on uneven, soft surfaces.
Lie No. 6: Carriage horses live a “nose-to-tailpipe” existence and suffer from respiratory problems.
Funny: Vets who’ve actually examined our horses, such as Dr. John Lowe, remark at their lack of respiratory problems, compared to other stabled horses. As it happens, the city announced recently that the air here is cleaner than it’s been since the 1960s, and some of the cleanest air in Manhattan is found in Central Park. The American Lung Association reports that New York County has cleaner air than Lancaster County, Pa., where the horses go on vacation.
Lie No.7: After carriage horses are finished working in New York, they’re sent to auction in Pennsylvania, then sent to slaughter.
No, we don’t send our horses to auction, let alone slaughter. We love our horses and want to have a hand in picking who’ll give our work partners their next home. Retiring city carriage horses make wonderful family horses or beginning pleasure driving horses, and are often sold or given to private homes or smaller carriage companies that have a lighter workload. We also have a carriage-horse retirement program through Blue Star Equiculture, a draft-horse sanctuary in Palmer, Mass.
Lie No. 8: Carriages are banned in London, Paris, Las Vegas, Toronto and Beijing.
Tell that to the queen. None of those cities has banned horse-drawn carriages. Do a Google-image search for “paris carriage,” and you see tons of carriages parked in front of the Eiffel Tower.
This is one of the most oft-told lies about our industry, an obvious effort to make an unprecedented ban here seem like New York is just following the (imaginary) herd.
This is a tired, old battle. Check out this article from March 2008 — “Can the PETA brigade force Central Park’s horse-drawn carriages to ride into the sunset?”; by Loyd Grove; New York magazine. That’s if you can stand to hear any more.
FROM OUR WEBSITE
See LIES AND DESPERATION — the NYC horse-carriage trade for a response by local carriage horse advocates.