Myths, Half-Truths, and Lies of the Commercial Carriage Horse Industry

Standard

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

In 2007, Bill Thompson, then New York City Comptroller, announced the findings of an audit that cited numerous problems in the carriage horse industry. That same year, Queens councilman Tony Avella introduced a Bill to abolish the carriages outright. Several years later the carriage-horse industry and some of its opponents got together and hammered out a Bill raising carriage fares and mandating larger stable stalls and the five-week vacation for horses. It now became law that the working horses must fall between five and 26 years old, and they have been banned from traversing certain streets and from working from 3 and 7 a.m. But now, the carriage industry, long the subject of controversy, seems poised to end. The deaths and injuries of the horses and sometimes the passengers as well, has prompted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, to vow to eliminate them completely as part of his campaign promise.

City carriages are romantic

Dense traffic and on a phone

Many people feel that the carriages themselves are at odds with the dense traffic and sounds of the city.  Horses and cars do not mix well and when there is a collision it is always the horse (and passengers) who will be worse off for it.  The carriage trade likes to represent that there have been only three horse deaths due to vehicular traffic since 1985, but there is documentation for many more accidents even in the last few years.  There is no law requiring the ASPCA to release the details of carriage accidents and therefore it is impossible to know how many have occurred that have not been directly witnessed or documented by animal advocates such as those working with The Coalition to Ban Horse Drawn CarriagesNYCLASS,  and others.

Since the carriage industry has resisted reform in the past and insists on churning out falsehoods and half-truths, they’re fair game for some myth-busting. Disconcertingly, a small minority of industry supporters are also prepared to malign and harass horsepeople who dare to disagree with their stance.  There seems to be an unwritten rule that carriage drivers in particular MUST support this industry no matter what infractions are observed.  Anti-slaughter proponents will be dismayed to note that the industry, represented by the Teamsters union, have aligned themselves with a few characters from the United Horsemen’s group as well as the anti-animal puppymill promoters and horse-soring defenders, the Cavalry Group.  Working with a group that generally opposes any type of minimal animal protection as a rule will have animal lovers reject your position outright and fail to give you any support whatsoever.

I’ve always had a interest in debunking false lore and hoaxes.  Usually I’ve spent my time debunking pseudo science, near-death experiences, and alien abductions, but the same flaws in thinking/rationalizing that lead to those belief systems can be found elsewhere.  And the carriage horse proponents don’t disappoint!  They continue to be dogmatic in their approach and persist in their beliefs even after shown evidence to the contrary.

1.  Will Bill S5013-2011 Permit the Seizure of the Privately Owned Carriage Horses?

Carriage horse rear

This has the potential to become a bolt by the carriage horse.

Making it so that you cannot operate a carriage in NYC is not seizing your property.  The Bill does not require that horses be sold or donated, but the Bill does define the circumstances under which sale or disposal or the horse shall be deemed humane.  While it does attempt to control what happens to the horses IF they are sold, it does not compel  them to be sold.  The Bill attempts to restrict the sale or donation of a horse to persons or groups who will keep them as “companion” animals and not “work horses,” obviously, in an attempt to keep them from being slaughtered.  It doesn’t seem to bother the fanatical carriage supporters that their new friends in the pro-slaughter Cavalry Group,  who are now handling some questionable public relations for them, would put all their horses in an express lane to the slaughter plants either.

Elsewhere in the Bill the definition of “work horse” is given as one who is presented for paid work as a carriage horse.  “Companion animal” is not defined in the Bill, but there is no restriction given on using the horse personally as a riding or driving horse.  Most animal advocates would understand that a “companion animal” is a horse that is a pet and not considered livestock;  a great many of us will describe our riding horses as companion animals.  There is also a legal definition that describes such an animal as “an animal that serves as a domestic pet,” but goes on to provide examples in case law that may include or exclude horses,  depending on the evidence of the relationship between the animal and its owner.  In any case, there is no need to perpetuate the hue and cry that the carriage horses will be seized,  but it is worth noting that the whole Bill is open to challenge on several issues and is unenforceable outside of New York State.  Although the Bill states that horses would not be “employable” as carriage horses,  I don’t see why a carriage horse could not be subsequently employed as a livery horse outside of high-density city.

Here’s the contentious passages in the Bill:

“B. A horse shall not be  sold  or  disposed  of  except  in  a  humane
manner,  WHICH, FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS SUBCHAPTER SHALL MEAN ONE OF
THE FOLLOWING:
  1. THE OWNER SHALL SELL OR DONATE THE HORSE TO  A  PRIVATE  INDIVIDUAL
WHO SIGNS AN ASSURANCE THAT THE HORSE WILL NOT BE SOLD AND SHALL BE KEPT
SOLELY  AS  A  COMPANION  ANIMAL AND NOT EMPLOYED IN ANOTHER HORSE-DRAWN
CARRIAGE BUSINESS OR AS A WORK HORSE AND WILL BE CARED FOR HUMANELY  FOR
THE REMAINDER OF THE HORSE'S NATURAL LIFE; OR
  2.  THE  OWNER  SHALL  SELL OR DONATE THE HORSE TO A DULY INCORPORATED
ANIMAL SANCTUARY OR DULY  INCORPORATED  ANIMAL  PROTECTION  ORGANIZATION
WHOSE  PRESIDENT OR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SIGNS AN ASSURANCE THAT THE HORSE
WILL NOT BE SOLD AND SHALL BE KEPT SOLELY AS A COMPANION ANIMAL AND  NOT
EMPLOYED IN ANOTHER HORSE-DRAWN CARRIAGE BUSINESS OR AS A WORK HORSE AND
WILL  BE  CARED  FOR  HUMANELY  FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE HORSE'S NATURAL
LIFE.
  3. RECORDS INDICATING THE NAME, ADDRESS AND TELEPHONE  NUMBER  OF  THE
PRIVATE  INDIVIDUAL, DULY INCORPORATED ANIMAL SANCTUARY OR DULY INCORPO-
RATED ANIMAL PROTECTION ORGANIZATION TO  WHOM  THE  HORSE  WAS  SOLD  OR
DONATED TOGETHER WITH THE ASSURANCE SPECIFIED ABOVE SHALL BE SENT BY THE
OWNER  TO THE DEPARTMENT WITHIN FIVE DAYS AFTER SUCH SALE OR DONATION. A
COPY OF SUCH RECORD SHALL ALSO BE MAINTAINED AT THE STABLE.”

2.  Quoting Celebrities Does Not Give One’s Point More Authority

Oreo's acident in NYC - here he has been tranq'd

OREO’s accident in NYC – here he has been tranq’d.

Quite a few celebs have stepped forward to either condemn or praise the NYC carriage horse industry.  Neither side is particularly compelling in my opinion, at least, no more so that the average person.  The carriage supporters all loathe celebs such as  Pamela Anderson,  Lea Michele, Kathy Najimy,  and Alex Baldwin,  but they’ve really embraced Liam Neeson, who apparently counts several carriage drivers among his close personal friends.  “They’ll die, you know, darlin,’ The horses are incredibly well-treated. They’re regulated up the wazoo. They get five weeks’ holiday every year.  Tourists love them.”   Along with former Mayor Bloomberg, Neeson also perpetuates the opinion that they’ll all be slaughtered too, and it’ll be the fault of meddling big city liberals,  according to him.  Well if that were to happen, responsibility for that action would have to lie with the owners of the horses and nobody else.

Of all the celebs peripherally involved in the carriage trade, few are more hypocritical than Neeson. I’m calling out Neeson as a hypocrite since he ate the meat of a trapped wolf  to get in character for a role in the movie “The Grey” and then tried to fearmonger about horse slaughter.  If anything,  maybe he should become an anti-trapping spokesperson?  I didn’t realize that actors had to directly experience something like this to be considered a true method actor.  If he needed help to channel his rage for the movie, somebody should have suggested that he stick his hand in the trap instead.   Eating trapped animals, especially for something as trifling as a movie role is not cool.

And since he’s Irish, I hope he also concerned about the fate of horses in Ireland and elsewhere in Great Britain, where it’s popular to race horses on the M4 highways and evade the garda (police),  often crashing the horses and abandoning them, injured.  What about the huge problems with fly-grazing, where horses are illegally grazed on private property without the knowledge or consent of the owners of the property?  Indeed, Ireland has a huge crisis of horses, with up to 20,000 of the animals currently needing immediate intervention by authorities for abuse and cruelty.  But the next time he’s in town and hanging with his buddies on 59th street, perhaps he can get in-character by eating some oats that have been spilled out into the street amongst the pigeon droppings, just for authenticity’s sake of course.

3.  Is the NYC Carriage Trade Really a 155+ Year-Old Historic Occupation Built by Working Class Heroes?

Disclaimer:  The video below is NSFW (Not Safe for Work – due to language. Well,  it may be SFW if you work in an office where the “eff”word gets spit out more than any other word (examples: Bill O’Reilly’s office, Alec Baldwin’s office,  etc…)) Otherwise it’s headphones material. And we should be clear – it is not a criticism of the Irish or of immigrants in general.  I don’t know what if anything preceded it,  but it is not exactly characteristic of the pastoral charm that tourists envision when they think of Central Park and carriage horses.

But over 100 years ago, everyone was driving a horse and carriage in New York.  By the twenties, the horse-drawn carriage had been almost entirely replaced by the automobile.  So the current industry can hardly say that they harken back to those days,  since the current medallion ownership/licensing scheme is much more recent.  It’s rather analogous to saying that the airline industry is 87 years old as a result of Charles Lindbergh’s  flight from New York to Paris in 1927.  While it’s true that many of the carriage drivers (who are employed by the 68 medallion holders) who drive approximately 220 horses could probably be described as “working class,” the business operators in their primarily cash based business (no one knows exactly how much the industry contributes to NYC tax revenue) are hardly in that category.  They own the stables in which the horses reside in NYC and in my opinion, are living quite well.  Several of them own more than one lucrative medallion.

It’s unclear what a medallion (license to operate a carriage business in NYC) is actually worth in present value terms. Some drivers said they paid $30,000 for their medallions 25 years ago. So obviously they are worth a considerable sum of money, given what the average income must be for the 68 medallion holders bringing in an estimated $15-$19 million dollars to the economy – an amount that has been corroborated by the Communications Liaison for the Horse and Carriage Association of New York City.  Therefore, to determine how “working class” the industry is as a whole, a little arithmetic can be applied as follows:

$15,000,000/68 medallions = average gross income of $220,588 per medallion owner (low-balling the industry estimate)

$19,000,000/68 medallions = average gross income of $279,412 per medallion owner (applying the upper limit of the estimate)

Not holding onto the reins while getting out of carriage

Getting in and out of a carriage and hitching the horse to the carriage are the most dangerous times. At least hold onto the “reins” – don’t let them fall onto the wheels either. And don’t let passengers get in the carriage when you don’t actually have control of the horse and are not in the box seat!

That’s per medallion,  so if someone or a corporation owns more than one or half a medallion,  the calculations can be adjusted accordingly.  As a comparison,  the NYC tourism industry as a whole, in 2011, brought in about 34.5 billion dollars  Therefore, statements made in some of the glowing pro-carriage trade articles to the effect that the carriages are the main tourist attraction in NYC would seem to be unsupported.

So, in my opinion, the medallion owners, some of whom appear to be corporations or don’t even reside in the US,  are doing very well for themselves and their incomes are hardly typical of what we would consider “working class.”  I’m hardly opposed to any entrepreneur who can earn a comfortable living, but let’s be honest at least about what a “working class” income really is and what it is not.  The medallion owners are contractors or licensees,  and not actual employees of the city.

4.  How Restorative is the Mandated Five Weeks Vacation for NYC Carriage Horses?

There are many reasons why,  in my opinion, this mandated “vacation” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Especially if it isn’t actually a holiday if horses are  sent to Amish country for their R&R,  where they are, unbeknownst to the average person,  used as work horses on farms they are loaned to.

Many drafts and draft-crosses, the breeds typically used by the carriage trade, have some heritable muscle problems, such as equine polysaccharide storage myopathy (EPSM),  which has been confirmed or suspected in virtually every draft horse breed, draft cross-bred,  and draft mule.  The disease is responsible for severe muscle wasting and weakness, causing poor performance and abnormal hind limb gaits.  Afflicted horses benefit more greatly from daily turnout and structured breaks at regular intervals, and not all at once.  If they are furloughed, it also becomes more difficult to treat them for this condition as well, and they may tie-up when they come back to work.  Also, since the vast majority of furloughed horses go to New Jersey and Pennsylvania or upstate NY – disease control may not be optimal when they come back.

This study suggests that pastured horses maintained a similar level of fitness as stalled horses after 14 weeks.  However, the research, by Dr. Patty Graham-Thiers of Virginia Intermont College, involved comparing two groups of horses to horses turned out on a hilly 100 acre pasture.  It could be relevant if the carriage horses were turned out on similar circumstances and property and not standing in small paddocks or sent to work on Amish farms, as has often been cited.  And the study doesn’t exactly support ASPCA Veterinarian Dr. Corey’s comments about furloughing horses, as she has said that when the horses return from furlough, they often look worse than when they first went on vacation – “We have observed some horses returning to New York City after furloughs on a farm in worse condition than when they left.”  If the study concludes that these pastured horses were able to maintain a similar level of fitness as the stalled, exercised horses, in addition to having greater bone mineral content at the end of the study, then why do the carriage horses tend to look worse, in the words of Dr. Corey?  How are they maintained on the “holiday” paddocks?  Or are the draft crosses tendency to have metabolic issues not being addressed?  Or are the paddocks not large enough to facilitate the exercise that was observed in the study? Lots of questions with no answers,  as the horses aren’t monitored while away from the City.

 

THECAVALRYGROUPimage003-1

5.  How Can an Association With the Cavalry Group Be a Good Thing?

Think “Waterloo” and immediately the phrase,  “catastrophic failure” comes to mind…… On its website, the extreme right-wing Cavalry Group declares that animal rights “extremists” are working to advance a “vegan agenda.”  They have opposed several “animal rights” measures around the U.S., including a ballot question in Missouri to crack down on puppymills and a referendum in North Dakota that would make it a felony to maliciously and intentionally harm dogs, cats or horses. They also oppose the SAFE Act to stop sending American horses to be slaughtered, and they have resisted anti-soring legislation for Big Lick horses, and they resist pretty much any and all efforts to upgrade anti-cruelty laws.  It should come as no surprise that The Cavalry Group is based in Missouri which has the worst puppy mills in the nation. Even the Better Business Bureau refers to Missouri as the “capital of puppy mills in the US.”  Any group that aligns themselves with people who find Big Lick soring in any way acceptable and who mount a charge to OPPOSE the passage of this Bill deserve failure. Here’s a list of what they oppose.

Anti-animal Cavalry Group tweetstorm

Cavalry Group Tweetstorm – where the NYC carriage industry gets infused with Teaparty insanity.

Wayne Pacelle, President of the Humane Society of the United States, added, “It’s a very bad selection by the carriage horse drivers to associate with a group of zealots that oppose the most basic animal welfare standards.”  Utilizing an anti-animal lobbying group shows that they are not the animal lovers that they claim to be and are more interested in promoting the status quo.

The Cavalry group made a laughing stock out of itself the last time it went up to Washington to lobby against HR 1418S  In their “USDA Approved” campaign to resist legislation against horse soring. The Cavalry Group saddled up and put a Big Lick horse, Mr. Heisman, on its poster, and proudly proclaimed he was “USDA APPROVED.” Mr. Heisman is trained by Brandye Mills and he is owned by Randall Baskin. It just so happens that Brandye Mills and owner Randall Baskin have HPA violations! Trainer Mills has been cited numerous times for “foreign substances, scars, unilateral sores, low chains,” etc. on multiple animals.  Violation of the Horse Protection Act is already a crime, so Mills and Baskin are anything but USDA approved.

Just as stupid is the carriage horse association with the various cast-offs from United Horsemen, who live even further away from NYC than I do – several of them parroted false information about colicking Salt Lake City carriage horse Jerry, whose illness and death was concealed for several days/weeks,  unbeknownst to those who personally attested to him being alive,  days after he had died.  This just goes to show that you can’t expect members of the pro-slaughter group United Horsemen to have knowledge of anything that requires them to READ.  If you’re still not sure that the Cavalry Group is anti-animal, check out these ridiculous tweets,  compiled by Buzzfeed and made during their “Tweet Storm” campaign.

6.  Is the Stabling for the NYC Carriage Horses as Adequate as We’ve Been Told?

West Side Livery BEFORE renovation and Clip Clop NYC

West Side Livery BEFORE renovation and Clip Clop NYC

These are NOT pets of the carriage operators – they are tools of a business. By law their stalls must be a minimum of 64 square feet, which is pretty small by most people’s standards unless you own a pony or a couple of minis.  The horses do manage to lie down though, not that they have much room to spare.  But the smaller the stall the greater the risk of getting cast in the stall too.  Prior to conversion,  the West Side Livery stables had standing stalls that made it difficult,  albeit not impossible,  for horses to lie down.  While photographs of the Clinton stables reveal that the operators are very good at managing small spaces,  I don’t believe any of the buildings have sufficiently large enough stalls for these larger breeds of horses.

7.  Are the NYC Carriage Horses Really  “The Most Regulated Horses in the Country, if Not The World?”

This is the same facile argument that pro-slaughter use to justify the continuation of the slaughter industry.  Regulations on the books mean nothing if they are largely unenforced.  Anti-cruelty regulations provide few safeguards for horses, and many humane authorities just don’t have the resources or the time to monitor the carriages in order to ensure that horses are not being overworked and that operators are following regulations.

Furthermore the ASPCA has recently dismantled its Humane Law Enforcement Division in NYC.  Over the past few years, the ASPCA’s humane law enforcement division has handled about 4,000 investigations annually and made about one arrest per week (for all species of animal).  The agents wore uniforms, flashed badges, carried guns, traveled in blue-and-white squad cars, and for years starred in “Animal Precinct,” but now the ASPCA has laid off almost all of its 18 law enforcement agents and is now leaving those responsibilities solely to the New York City Police Department.  Without a team focused on animal abuse, enforcement will almost certainly be given a lower priority by officers dealing with the full spectrum of human crimes.

Horse needs help to riseSince the ASPCA is not obligated to share information about the general health and well-being of the carriage horses in New York, we really have no idea how healthy they are, or are not.  And yet it was not the Teamsters Union, nor the carriage people, or even the ASPCA who spotted a lame horse driven by Saverio Colarusso, but the police, who ultimately charged him with cruelty to animals.  Apparently the horse, who had thrush, had been driven for several days before being spotted struggling.  Now, it’s difficult to keep a horse’s stall entirely dry at the best of times, but thrush is predisposed by moist, damp, dirty stable conditions. But it is treated by scrubbing with anti-fungal/antiseptic and by moving the animal to a DRY stall.  Whoever was cleaning the horse’s feet should have been alerted to the condition by the smell and/or discharge, which makes me wonder how often they all get their feet picked out and how mucky the stalls are.  Several photographs, of the West Side livery in particular, don’t show much of a base of shavings that would absorb a lot of urine.

It’s also not the first time Mr. Colarusso has gotten in trouble either. In 2010, he was charged with drinking while on duty after being spotted with a beer while standing next to his carriage (I guess we should be gratified that a driver was actually standing near their carriage though). Two other bottles of liquor were found inside the carriage. He has also been fined for driving his horse through city streets at unauthorized times, failing to keep a daily log and not turning on the lamps on the side of his carriage after dark.  The urban carriage people sure don’t like to talk about Mr. Colarusso,  because now the fact that he’s been charged is a huge problem for them – they can’t exactly tout that no one in the industry has ever been charged with abuse!  But it was correct procedure to suspend him,  since the horses and tourists both deserve to be driven about by someone who is not likely intoxicated.

What’s also odd is that  Colarusso was arrested by for animal cruelty not by the ASPCA,  but by the police.  It seems probable then that the ASPCA went  easy on the drivers in the past because they had the “protection” of Bloomberg, who is now gone.  Therefore,  it’s not necessarily true that the industry is upholding any great standard,  only that some individuals have never been caught.

Horse looks ready to bite driver

8.  Will a Ban On City Carriage Horses Mean That There Will Ultimately be a Ban on all Privately-Owned Horses?

A classic slippery slope fallacy made by the true property-rights fanatic dedicated to creating a pandemonium that doesn’t exist.  That slippery slope fallacy they love involves constructing a scenario in which one thing leads ultimately to an end so extreme that the first step should never be taken. For example: Eating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream will cause you to put on weight. Putting on weight will make you overweight. Soon you will weigh 450 pounds and then you will die of heart disease. Therefore,  eating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream leads to death. If you want to live,  don’t even try it.  And even though horses were declared a dangerous species in Connecticut, it’s not exactly a foregone conclusion that people will rise up to ban private ownership of horses across the continent.  Just because many people don’t want circuses,  aquariums, zoos, rodeos (there are valid reasons to eliminate many aspects of these things), there is absolutely no sign that pleasure horses will be eliminated as some sort of ever-present vegan conspiracy.

9  How Well Can Two Grain Meals During a Work Shift Suffice for Working Carriage Horses?

With the exception of Przewalski’s horses (who have a different number of chromosomes) domestic horses and wild horses are genetically exactly the same animal. That means that the horse living in your back yard or at a stable somewhere is genetically the same as the horse who evolved in the wild and those still living in the wild. It makes no difference that most horses we have were all born in captivity.  Our horse’s genetics are still the same as those horses who roamed across North America thousands of years ago.

GridlockSome people believe that a few hundred years of selective breeding can change all that, but we know that it takes a few thousand years to even begin to change the genetics of any species. Which means the horses in our back yard have been programmed for hundreds of thousands of years to live in wide open spaces where they can see predators coming, eat grass and other forage for 18 hours a day, move 10 miles a day on unshod feet and spend the day with multiple other horses for safety and security.  Of course, it’s not just the carriage horses who live a lifestyle at odds with their genetics – virtually all companion horses do.

We feed them diets of grain and molasses which are converted to sugars once eaten.  The horse’s gut is programmed to release digestive acid around the clock – not just when two small grain meals are offered. It’s a scientific fact that hay is digested by gut microbes and bacteria which generate heat during the process and actually helps keep horses warm.  The problem is that horses working a shift of 9 hours do not get the opportunity to eat hay and are offered a couple of grain meals instead until they return to the stable where they will be given hay.   A horse needs more forage when the temperature drops, so it follows that two grain meals per shift,  especially in winter weather,  will be insufficient. And when grass or hay is not available, stomach acid has nothing to process but the horse’s gut itself, hence a reason for ulcers.

Things that make horses most at risk for ulcer disease are sporadic feeding with periods of an empty stomach, or irregular feeding with long periods of no intake, high starch diets, exercise at speed, concurrent illness, especially of a gastrointestinal nature, and use of NSAIDS,” notes internal medicine specialist Carol Clark, DVM, Dipl ACVIM, of Peterson & Smith Equine Hospital in Ocala.

Charlie, a middle-aged NYC carriage horse who died enroute to work,  had a cracked tooth and ulceration of the stomach,  as revealed in his necropsy.  Horses need to eat free choice.  And if they drink too little because they’re working a 9 hour shift,  they can be both underfed,  cold,  and susceptible to colic.

Now if you listen to many commercial carriage supporters, they’ll tell you that two grain meals are perfectly fine and natural, and horses probably shouldn’t spend too much time on grass anyway because they will founder.  Of course,  there are exceptions to being on grass,  especially rich spring grass…….already laminitic horses,  overweight horses, certain pony breeds,  cushinoid/pituitary pars intermedia dysfunctional (PPID) or insulin-resistant horses may have to be dry-lotted or dry-lotted part of the time, but these are the exceptions that must be managed.  For more info on horses’ natural diets,  check out the eBooks  Horses Were Born to Be On Grass and Horses Without Grass.

The horse’s body uses food in order of importance.

  • Maintenance for body temperature
  • To renew the body’s tissues
  • Maintaining body condition and weight
  • For energy for movement and life

10.  As an Alternative,  Could the Horses Live And Work Only Within Central Park?

Chris pinned under the carriage

Chris is down and pinned under the carriage.

There are more than 200 carriage horses – stabling them in Central Park,  providing storage for the carriages,  storage for hay,  straw,  and temporary storage for manure, in addition to space for turn-out would require taking at least 100 acres of public green space and turning it over to this small, private industry.   And the horses could not realistically spend all their time in the park either, even spread out over several shifts.  The medallion holders own the 4 stables that the horses currently live in, so who would pay for the land use and the construction of a stable and paddocks? Would they sell their properties in order to finance such an undertaking?

11.  Will a Ban Mean That the Carriage Horses in NYC Will All Go to Slaughter?

We do not have enough rescue space in this country for the horses we have now.” At a press conference that day, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg took the Daily News story and ran with it. “I assume all the horses will go to slaughter,” he said.  Bloomberg fueled the story, and it’s been picked up continuously since, with many news outlets — from TIME to Metro to, most recently, The Daily Beast – claiming that the horses may go to slaughter after the ban.  And so too did Liam Neeson.

Why do they have to go anywhere?  As I stated early on in this blog post, the owners are not compelled to sell them.  But seeing as they are assets of a business that could be eliminated,  most of them probably wouldn’t keep the horses anyway.  Elizabeth Forel of the Coalition to Ban Carriage Horses, has said that the threat is a scare tactic done to persuade people not to support a ban.  “If any of the horses go to the slaughter auctions, make no mistake – it will be the drivers who bring them there.” The carriage owners claim that they do not send their horses to auctions or kill buyers.  But they certainly do sell them to the Amish on occasion, and the Amish are often middle men or kill buyers themselves who work these horses hard and then send the old and/or unsound horses directly to auction or sell directly to a kill buyer.  The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition has in its video library, numerous examples of draft and draft crosses being slaughtered in Canada after being shipped from New Holland auction.

Atlanta Carriage Horse - shoe needs reset

This Atlanta carriage horse needs new shoes or a reset – the toe has grown over the shoe. Of course this can happen with any horse, but working carriage horses must have adequate foot protection due to the number of hours on the pavement.  And this did not happen overnight either – farrier care is overdue

Allie Feldman, Executive Director of NYClass,  said that several organizations, including The Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA and her own group, are dedicated to providing homes for the retired horses. In a recent blog post, Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of HSUS, offered Cleveland Armory Black Beauty Ranch in Texas as a sanctuary for some of the horses. He believes he can reasonably place 40-50 of the horses.  And Matt Bershadker, CEO of ASPCA, did the same in a statement: “We would gladly get involved — including tapping into our network of rescue partners and resources — to help with the transition.” Jackie Beckstead, Director of Accreditation and Field Operations for the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries has also publicly stated that she has contacted her network of sanctuaries that take draft horses and found space available for horses as well.

And since we know that the horses have regular veterinary care, this will occasionally mean that they are given drugs that make them ineligible for slaughter, such as phenylbutazone.   Apparently former Mayor Bloomberg hasn’t heard about the prohibitions against sending drugged horses into the food chain!

12. Is it True That a “Land Grab” by Real-Estate Tycoons is the Primary Reason to End the Industry?”

Salt Lake City carriage horse Jerry colics while at work and is unable to rise. Later, he became the subject of a "bait and switch" campaign by the owners, who substituted another horse as him, and concealed his death for several weeks until challenged as to his whereabouts.

Salt Lake City carriage horse Jerry colics while at work and is unable to rise. Later, he became the subject of a “bait and switch” campaign by the owners, who substituted another horse as him, and concealed his death for several weeks until challenged as to his whereabouts.

This doesn’t explain why people like myself and others who have no vested interest in NYC real estate would like to see it end.   But this accusation has finally been debunked.  Steve Nislick, president of NYCLASS and a real estate developer, has answered the charges made by the carriage trade and the media that he wants the stable property.  He not only said it is not true but that if the property were  ever to come onto the market, he pledges that he will not bid on it.  He further goes on to say that neither will anyone from his company or organization.

The media has presented the carriage driver as a poor, marginalized, struggling blue collar worker whose business is being taken away by people who know nothing at all about horses and who covet their stable property. While I think that provisions need to be made for any drivers  who are employees of the medallion holders, some of the medallion holders own the buildings that house the horses, and two of the four stables happen to be sitting on prime real estate across from a Convention Center, near the Hudson Yards development.  Under the circumstances, cries that they would be victimized if they are sold ring hollow.  If the owners wanted to sell these properties, they would get market value for them and nothing less,  and they cannot be forced to sell them either.  So there is no “land grab.”

13. Should Mayor De Blasio be More Concerned That Horses are Dying at Aqueduct Racetrack?

Horse racing, like other gaming activities, is under the jurisdiction of the State of New York, not New York City.  I suspect that Mayor de Blasio has very limited, if any, input into the legislative/judicial actions of NY State. That is Governor Cuomo’s domain.

14. Are Most Complaints About the Carriage Horses Made by People Who Don’t Live in NYC or Haven’t Visited the Stables?

I’m sure that this is true,  but social media has made it irrelevant.  First of all, scheduled visits are worthless to see the true conditions for these animals. If you think scheduled inspections look the same as unscheduled inspections, try making a surprise visit to a nursing home.  Photographic evidence is abundantly available to allow others to judge for themselves.  Check out photos of the West Side Livery,  BEFORE the stalls were enlarged and it was added to the Clip Clop NYC Tour in 2013.

15.  There Is An Active Carriage Horse Trade in Toronto

Sorry,  this is just wrong.  We have no urban horses here.  Still,  some people will insist that we do,  and will google and find a half dozen or so carriage companies that provide LIVERY service in the Greater Toronto Area but do not stable horses here.  The horses are all stabled outside Toronto,  in most cases at least an hour’s drive away – in the country.  The fact that people can google “carriage horses Toronto” and find anything at all is a testament to the carriage companies’ use of Google Adwords campaigns driving internet searchers to their businesses.  Also,  some companies advertise their limousine services as “carriage livery” and they actually have no horses at all. 

16. How Safe is the Industry?

Jerry is hoisted back to the barn

Salt Lake City carriage horse Jerry is lifted back to the barn. You knew this was not going to end well when you saw the thin straps under his colicking belly.

The industry and its supporters like to tell us that there have been only 3 horses killed as a result of vehicular accidents in the last 30 years.  But smartphones haven’t existed for 30 years have they?  Most accidents that happened before smart phones and social media platforms existed were cleared before the media could report on them.  But now that we have smart phones, you’ll find there are a lot more accidents being revealed.  In any case,  there have been many injuries to both horses and people in the last 30 years,  and some horses were killed even though other vehicles were not involved.  On September 27, 2013 there was another widely-reported accident where a frightened carriage horse bolted and ran into traffic on heavily trafficked 57th St. Fortunately no one was in the carriage which slammed into a car, flipped and landed on the horse pinning his legs. Pedestrians helped to  lift the carriage off the horse who was not seriously injured.  Prior to this incident, this driver had been cited for over-charging customers in addition to operating the carriage for more than 12 hours within a 20 hour period.  While no horse activity is completely safe,  the potential injury for both horses,  passengers,  as well as property damage to other cars and the carriages themselves is greater due to the density of traffic, the noises of the city, and the number of things that in the city that a horse and carriage can collide with.

Source:  http://www.all-creatures.org/articles/act-c-shdc-acc.html

(Not all incidents occurred in NYC or even in North America)

17.  Some Commercial Carriage Drivers  Get Really Upset When They Perceive That They Don’t Have Support of Other Carriage Drivers or Horse People.

Well this is certainly not a myth!  They will try to convince you that whatever you are doing with your horse, it is more dangerous than what they are doing in NYC.  If you wear a helmet, you should stop that shit because you are a wimp.  Real horse people aren’t afraid of traumatic brain injuries.  If you prefer not to work your horse into a lather after riding or driving, your horse is a pansy.  At the very least they will make personal attacks about people’s character.

If caring for not only my own horse but other horses makes me a “loony” then please throw me in the bin.  Nobody cares if professional bloggers threaten to use the Huffington Post platform to write about us – it’s not news to anyone but a dozen or so harassers.  However,  maybe the people setting up fake Facebook pages pretending to advocacy groups should get some (professional) legal advice before they start interfering with the private business of people who disagree with the concept of urban carriage horses.  Harassment is not a protected form of speech.

*

You may recall the scene in Manhattan where Woody Allen and Mariel Hemingway take a romantic, private, horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park, quipping their way through the leafy quiet. We regret to inform you that your carriage ride will be nothing like that experience. The horse will seem tired, the driver’s patter will be even less entertaining than Mia Farrow’s memoirs, and you’ll spend the entire ride crawling along the park’s main drives, staring at the back of another carriage, and enduring dirty looks from locals and animal lovers.—Siobhan Adcock

*

This trough is dry and full of crap

About Heather Clemenceau

Hopefully as I've grown older I've also grown wiser, but one thing I've definitely become cognizant of is the difference between making a living and making a life. Frequently outraged by some of life's cruelties, and respect diversity. But.....I don't suffer fools gladly, and occasionally, this does get me into some trouble! I have the distinction of being the world's worst golfer - no wait, I do believe that there is a gypsy in Moldavia who is a worse golfer than I. Nor am I much of a dancer - you won't see a booty-shakin' flygirl routine from me! I'm also not the kind of cook who can whip up a five-course meal on a radiator either! And I've never figured out how to get an orchid to bloom a second time. I love to discuss literature, science, philosophy, and sci-fi , or even why Seinfeld is funny on so many levels. Words move me. I'm very soft-hearted about most things, especially animals, but I have a stoicism about me that is sometimes interpreted incorrectly. I do have a definite edge and an often "retro-adolescent" sense of humour at times. I'm a big advocate of distributed computing projects to advance science. Check out http://boinc.berkeley.edu/ if you want to find out more. I'm an eclectic (but not crazy) vegetarian, and as such, it's a personal practice of mine to seduce innocent meat-eaters into cruising the (salad) bars at every opportunity. You would be powerless to resist. I was recently surprised to find that a computer algorithm concluded that I write like Dan Brown, which is funny because I didn't think Dan Brown could actually write. Check out your own style - http://iwl.me/ Oh, and I love impractical shoes and funky hats.

4 responses »

  1. Heather,

    Excellent blog, I hope the information you’ve assembled educates people who have fallen for the carriage industries lies.

  2. Jeez, the photo of the light, as opposed to draft, horse who has his ears back shows him to be a Standardbred. You can see the tattoo although it’s not clear enough to read. My God, hasn’t this horse suffered enough?

  3. Thankyou for this enlightening article. I was unsure of my stance on this topic . I bought the story about the realestate grab and hoped the stories of how well these horses are treated was true. I am set straight. What should have convinced me earlier was the support given of course, by Calvary Group, and others of that ilk.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s