Category Archives: “Carriage Driving”

The Carriage Horse Cortisol Stress Study – What If It All Means Something?

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ELISA testWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

A study of NYC Carriage horses by Western University is being promoted as the definitive study of carriage horse stress. Dr. Joseph Bertone, DVM, MS, DACVIM, WesternU College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) Professor of Equine Medicine, apparently approached the carriage trade to sample salivary and fecal cortisol levels in a selection of horses:

“The WesternU CVM group measured saliva cortisol from the animals at multiple time points in the workday. They also measured medial canthus temperature using a FLIR thermal imaging camera (IRT), and collected feces samples for fecal cortisol.”

Four time points were used during testing:

Time point 1: feces, saliva and IRT tests were collected an hour before horses went to work.

Time point 2: saliva and IRT were collected after the horses were harnessed and as the horses walked were hitched to  their carriages.

Time point 3: saliva and IRT were collected as the horses returned from working.

Time point 4: saliva and IRT were collected an hour after they worked, as they rested in their stalls.

As you might expect due to the contentious issues surrounding the horses, it has drawn both supporters and carriage horse NYCdetractors. I realize that what was posted on the WesternU website is a press release and not an abstract, but I was surprised that Dr. Bertone immediately set about politicizing the study by mentioning NYC Mayor Bill deBlasio.

Normally, scientists don’t concern themselves with political incumbents, because politics does not and should not drive scientific outcomes. He went on to state that “I’m also concerned over claims that could dismantle, or likely end, the lives of these grand horses,” and “the loss of an iconic New York City institution, the loss of the important human-animal bond the drivers have with these spectacular animals, [would] have a profound negative economic impact on the people whose lives this would touch.”  As a veterinarian, he probably can’t be equally concerned with both those issues. And why would the lives of the horses come to an end?  Would the owners send them to auction where they might then be shipped to slaughter?  If so, only the owners could be blamed for that.  Dr. Bertone then proceeded to draw animal-rights advocates into the conversation, apparently not understanding that animal-rights advocates also own animals including horses. So his politicized preamble is surprising as are the statements that followed. He needs to let his study stand on its own and either succeed or fail on its own merits.

What’s potentially wrong with this study?

It’s probably not possible for anyone to obtain a copy of the manuscript or even the abstract until publication. Authors submit their manuscripts to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association with the understanding that the manuscripts and their contents will be kept confidential until they are published. So until the study is published, no one can really know how well it was conducted. Framing the press release with comments about Bill deBlasio is probably not very suggestive of an impartial study,  which ideally should conform with frameworks for research ethics that demand that the researcher be able to show that their research is independent and impartial by:

  • Avoiding assumptions
  • Writing in a style that is formal and depersonalized, avoiding the use of personal expressions
  • Starting with a premise and impartially proceeding to the conclusion, which may or may not support your premise
  • Disclosing a professional or financial of interest by a study’s authors. Although such conflicts do not necessarily disqualify a reviewer, they should be considered when an editor or peer reviewer makes a decision about a manuscript’s disposition.
  • Including numerical results that make mention of standard deviations or 95% confidence limits and the degree of statistical significance.

Other characteristics of the study stand out:

  • Why were only 13 horses out of approximately 220 selected?
  • Why were all the horses chosen from the Clinton stable?
  • Were the horses tested on pasture these same 13 horses or different ones? If different, why? How long were they there before they were tested?
  • Why was the study period so short (August 3 – 5, 2014) By comparison, here is a salivary cortisol study that was truly longitudinal in nature. This study took place over six months, not three days, in an effort to analyze the subtle variations that take place over time.
  • Salivary cortisol follows a diurnal rhythm with the highest concentrations in the morning and a decrease throughout the day. How did Dr. Bertone control for these factors?
  • Why were none of the horses tested at the hackline or after arriving at the hackline after their trip from the stables?
  • Bertone tells us that “behavior associated with equine gastric ulcers was observed.” What behaviours did they observe for? But why not test for gastric ulcers while they had the feces samples? Fecal tests for pathological conditions of the GI tract is a simple ELISA test, which can detect most (but not all) gastric ulcers. Why not just take this extra step and know with reasonable certainty whether ulcers were a factor?
Fury

Apparently, this older NYC carriage horse named “Fury” escaped from his handlers and went on the lam on Friday. I wish someone had been available to sample his salivary cortisol levels so we could know whether he was stressed…

I’ve seen several comments about this study from pro-carriage people operating with the view that once it’s peer-reviewed it will be unassailable as to its accuracy.  There’s actually a lot of confusion about the “peer review” process and what a “peer-reviewed journal” is. There are plenty of impartial, scientific journals out there, whose peer review process is to guard scientific integrity. However, there are also as many journals founded and funded by an industry or a professional group, whose peer-review is intended to protect the interests of that industry or group.

The American Veterinary Medical Association is a professional group. Sometimes its journal publishes articles with scientific intent. Other times it publishes articles that are intended to protect financial interests of its members — and in those cases, its “peer review” is done by hand-picked “peers” who will reject anything that doesn’t support a purely political position the AVMA or other self-interested groups are protecting.  Furthermore,  many journals have been systematically pulling studies that were peer-reviewed once corruption or falsification was determined.  So peer review works great in theory and in practice most of the time,  but it’s hardly infallible.  It won’t make any study immune to critique.

John Ioannidis holds the C.F. Rehnborg Chair in Disease Prevention at Stanford University, and he is Professor of Medicine, Professor of Health Research and Policy, and Director of the Stanford Prevention Research Center at Stanford University School of Medicine.  In 2005 he wrote an essay, “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.” In this essay he describes the false positive findings,  biases,  conflicts,  and design flaws prevalent in modern research.  In his essay he identified several factors associated with research fields susceptible to false positive (or false negative) findings:

  • Samples are typically small (13 of 220+ carriage horses tested)
  • Effect sizes are typically small (we’ll know more about this once the study is published)
  • Large number of potential relations that could be explored
  • Flexibility in design,  definitions,  and outcomes (at what cortisol levels are horses considered “stressed?”)
  • Popular subject matter (carriage horses in NYC are a hotly discussed topic and the Dr. Bertone admits that he contacted the carriage trade in order to prove wrong the accusations that the horses were unhappy)
  • Topics have potential financial or political interest (tremendous political interest, financial interest if the carriage trade is discontinued, and apparent conflicts of interest with regard to the source of the funding for the study)

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.

Some 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.  That’s why the suggestion by Dr. Bertone that pastured horses *may* be under greater supposed stress than the carriage horses are in the city is ridiculous – horses were born to live on grasslands – they did not evolve to work in cities. Unless you stressed a horse by putting it in a pasture the day before with a bunch of unfamiliar horses, most horse owners would find that premise laughable.

It’s important that studies and their designers work through an impartial evaluative lens. Studies funded by a group that can benefit from the outcomes are suspect. They can never truly be impartial.

 

 

There’s An App For That! Navigational Tools For The Equestrian Trail Rider

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mule photo by SÜREYYA GÜVENE SAKALLIOĞLUWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

This is my second review of smartphone apps for animal/horse people. This isn’t an exhaustive list – there are other mapping apps and emergency locator apps available, some with mixed reviews, and many of these are beyond the scope of this blog post. There are some other hack tracking apps available that are not free/have poor ratings, so I didn’t download or test these. I also wouldn’t test/use any apps that used any sort of automatically generated emergency alarm in the event of a fall, since these have a tendency to go off when unintended, and are likely to panic a horse and CAUSE an accident. If you use an alarm, it should probably be user activated, which is why I’ve always carried a whistle.  I tend to think that developers who use alarms in their apps probably don’t know that much about horses. And riding with a buddy is always smarter than relying on GPS that may not be able to signal your location if you have an accident.

There are also apps such as CoraVault which can store your EMR (Electronic Medical Record) in the event that paramedics need to identify you and reach emergency point of contacts, review medications, and other pertinent medical information. Of course, an app such as this is only useful if: 1) EMRs know that you have it AND look for it in an emergency, and 2) Your phone did not get busted in your riding accident. Sometimes a low-tech medic-alert bracelet is better.

Using any of these apps requires one to carry an expensive and sensitive gadget into the semi-wilderness, hoping it functions, and also Tevis 2012 - Cougar Rockhoping that you return without a cracked screen or the device irretrievably broken. So it helps to have your phone already secured in a case that is rainproof, dustproof, and shockproof. If you’re going to be out in extreme cold or unable to charge your phone, your phone is reduced to a useless brick unless you have a supplemental battery pack.

Common sense must be employed when travelling in the wilderness too, so while the magic GPS arrow or pre-plotted course is handy, you don’t exactly want to try to navigate a crevasse or steep cliff with your horse just because your device is urging your forward via the most direct (but not necessarily the best) route. There’s no shortage of stories about pedestrians trying to walk across 6 lane highways or drivers finding themselves on non-navigable roads in the middle of a blizzard because their GPS sent them down that path. Unless you’re a wilderness instructor or in the military, you should not let your GPS get you into a terrain for which you don’t have the proper skills.

Here’s some of the smartphone apps I thought had the greatest potential for usefulness. It’s nice to see that the equestrian market has been catered for too.

family locatorFamily Locator – Life 360

While this app was originally created to keep track of family members or “circles,” it’s useful to see when the riders in your family get to and from their destination while out with their horses. Also great for family members to keep track of horses being trailered to events, especially if weather is a concern. You can receive real-time alerts when circle members arrive or leave their destinations. It also has the added benefit of being able to track lost phones (with a premium membership). If your phone can pick up a cell tower while you’re trail riding, circle members can see where you are on the trail. It’s accurate, free and really easy to use.

Map My Tracks Ride Run WalkMap My Tracks – Ride Run Walk – Tinderhouse Ltd.

Map My Tracks offers you a Google Map and plenty of performance measurements such as speed, pace,  duration, elevation gain/loss, elapsed time, and top speed. You can share your activities on Facebook and Twitter including auto tweets when starting and stopping your ride. This application is tailored for runners and had no routes for riders. Upgrading to Map My Tracks PLUS provides more stats available for runners such as performance reports, detailed heart rate analysis, and training plans for $29 per year – all features that aren’t particularly useful for riders. Map My Tracks is easy to use with a simple interface but is not without some annoying adverts in the free version.

My TrailsMy Trails – FrogSparks

This app is free but offers in-app purchases for optional topo (topographical) or special-purpose apps (but most people would find it useful without special purchases). It also has an offline mode. Learning curve is much steeper with this app than some of the others, but it’s more feature rich (including over 40 stats), so it’s useful to plan your trip before you leave (and purchase the maps you need before you get to your destination) rather than try to figure out all the features in the field. While some other applications focus mainly on US and Canadian topo maps, My Trails also offers many European maps from Yahoo, Bing, Google and other global providers. Key indicators are available such as altitude, speed, and rate of ascent,  so it’s useful for measuring training for your horse.

My Tracks GoogleMy Tracks – Google

This is one of the lesser-known Google android apps, but it’s free, extremely easy to master, and very accurate. You can pause your recordings as well. Make sure that you don’t start the timer before your phone establishes a GPS signal, otherwise, the timing for your ride won’t be accurate. It’s good for conditioning a horse too, since it also tracks speed, distance, and elevation. You can view your live data while recording and make annotations on a Google map . Save your ride and access it afterwards at any time, or use the satellite playback, which “flies” you along your ride on a Google earth satellite image. You can share tracks with your friends and make them public via Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. Of course, with simplicity and an uncluttered map area and user interface come some downsides – if you need more detailed topographical maps then this isn’t the app for you, at least not with the current version.

Trimble Outdoors NavigatorMy Topo Maps (for Android Tablet, iPad, Kindle Fire, and iPhone) and Navigator (Android phone) – Trimble Outdoors

Trimble is really the “Cadillac” of navigational/planning tools. The mapping options are superior to other applications. You have the option of using enhanced overlay maps for public lands, property lines for private lands, forest roads, and weather. Over 68,000 US and Canadian map offerings include aerial, terrain, street and hybrid maps. Many maps are provided and updated by the US Forest Service, and are therefore helpful in locating forest roads and campsites.

Most of the features are far beyond the scope of this review, since I didn’t pay for the memberships that are pretty much required in order to use most of the services. So while I couldn’t evaluate all of the services provided, such as printed maps etc, I can say that if you’re competing in the Tevis 100, planning to ride through a ghost town, or are going to appear as a contestant on the Mantracker TV show, these are the apps for you. The time required to become competent with the various fee-based features provided means that it’s not cost-effective for anyone but the most serious back country aficionado.

The Trimble apps are best suited to planning your trip on your computer or iPad and then downloading/syncing with your phone, or loading them on to your memory card (an enhanced paid service) so that the possible lack of a cell phone tower won’t be an issue. Optionally, you can also download someone else’s pre-planned trip to your phone.

Trimble offers the most precise compass of any of the applications I looked at – you can choose between true north and magnet north. Trip Cloud allows you to access your trips on any of your devices. You can also record videos that are automatically geo-tagged for your location and send them to YouTube. Stat-tracking is also available for distance, speed, elevation, and more.

Other useful features include Smart Paste: Copy GPS coordinates from websites and instantly map their locations into MyTopo Maps. Trimble also offers the ability to order waterproof custom printed maps on paper – supposedly printed and shipped within 24 hours (although I didn’t test it!)

The downsides to these apps (there are a few) is that the learning curve is steep and there are lots of additional fees. You really need to go through the tutorials or YouTube videos in order to feel competent in using the app. Virtually everything comes at a cost – you must pay yearly or monthly to use most features. I was also annoyed by constant reminders to rate the app, which was not something I felt comfortable in doing after only a short period of use.

Viewranger GPSViewranger GPS – Augmentra

Viewranger GPS was voted “#1 Outdoor App” and “One of the Best Apps of 2013” (Google Play). It’s a free app with available in-app purchases for premium maps – I found it to be the most feature-rich free app with the most usability – most people will get by with the range of free offerings and won’t need to purchase anything additional. Viewranger has a massive library of expert and community generated specialty routes (created and uploaded by other users) which are free, while adding a premium map to your download may cost from $1.99 to $129.99. Most user experiences are walking trips, and although users can upload their maps for horseback riding, skiing, flying, canoeing/kayaking, hiking, and wheelchair accessible routes, most routes are for walkers. Plenty of stats are offered and your tracks can be stored on a free web account or shared on Facebook and Twitter, with the option to add Flickr photos. You can also share your location with PIN protected BuddyBeacon. This app has a good balance between the features offered (free maps, stats, compass) and won’t require as much time to learn as some of the higher-end applications.

Endurance 2

If you’re good at getting lost in general, I’d suggest reading GPS for Dummies. Not that I think anyone reading this blog is any sort of dummy, but reading a primer on GPS technology is a good start to knowing how to read digital maps and learn about waypoints, tracks, and just generally getting more out of your GPS device. Because some of us don’t want to bumble through hours of hard terrain with a paper map in order to find that pristine waterfall!

Mountain horse pack

 

 

Gotcha – Tackling The “Journalism” Of The New York City Carriage Trade

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Liam Neeson

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

I have to confess that I’d have no reason to read the soporific New York Daily News if it weren’t for their coverage of the NYC carriage horse industry.   For the past few months, the NYDN has been going into overdrive with a series of drama-loving, over-the-top articles promoting the carriage industry (when they aren’t also highlighting what Alex Rodriguez is doing in a Miami bathroom with a woman,  or the various people who have gone missing while swimming in the East River). The NYDNs’ spokesperson, Ken Frydman, is also advising the carriage industry, so I understand that they will of course take the side of the carriage drivers. What I don’t understand is how the paper can call its coverage of the issue “journalism.” I’m not sure what you can call it honestly, because you can’t exactly tease any logic out of any of the articles I’ve referenced below, which set the bar nice and low as any standard for “journalism.”

The following articles are all strongly reminiscent of The Onion-style parodies wrapped in lukewarm sarcasm. Except that they’re not parodies.   In May, the NYDN published an article claiming that, if the carriage industry in New York is abolished, the nation’s largest mushroom grower in Pennsylvania could go belly-up. This scare tactic fails the smell test however,  since there’s certainly no shortage of manure in Pennsylvania of all places. What’s next from the NYDN? Will carrots become extinct if there are no urban horses available to eat them?   Shortly afterwards, another article appeared, highly suggestive that, without the carriage trade in New York, the $7 billion dollar movie business will subsequently fail to thrive.   Rounding out the trifecta of crazy, the paper followed up with an article on the 70’s mentalist The Amazing Kreskin’s prediction that New York City Mayor De Basio’s Bill will fail (I guess the Long Island Medium wasn’t available). Somewhat shockingly, the annual predictions of Cuban Santeria priests contained no mention of the carriage horses or of Bill De Blasio’s tenure in New York. I can only assume that the paper somehow overlooked the venerable opinions of those followers of santeria….nor did they approach Miss Cleo for her opinion either…

Just a few days ago, a really well-written article on the carriage horses and the new Liam Neeson narrated pro-carriage film crossed my path. The video is here if your eyes need it. Refreshingly, the article, written by Jason Hribal, makes no attempt to anthropomorphize the horses, nor does it rely on Uri Geller-style magic tricks, flawed arguments, or unproven premises.  Also worthy of mention in the Neeson-narrated video are the warnings of imminent slaughter for deregulated carriage horses,  which is highly ironic and hypocritical considering that many proponents of the urban carriage trade in NYC are uncloseted pro-slaughter advocates.

NYC Horse Carriages vs. Carriage Horses (originally published on Counterpunch.org)

by JASON HRIBAL

Bill Maher

Bill Maher has recently been critical of the urban carriage trade.

Thirty two million dollars is a conservative estimate. This would be the annual revenue produced by the approximate 220 registered carriage horses based in Manhattan.  Rides start at $50 for a ¾ mile tour of Central Park. Reserved rides for 45 minutes begin at $165. During peak season with add-ons, expect to pay much more. Horses work nine hours a day on the line. There are 68 licensed carriages.  When you do the math, you see exactly why the carriage owners desperately want to keep their horses working for them.

The organization, Save NYC Horse Carriages, recently released a short film narrated by the actor Liam Neeson. In full support of the carriage owners and operators, what emerges from the film are essentially four themes. Each of these themes is significant and deserving of some consideration.

Neeson starts out at the very beginning of the film telling us that horses helped build the modern world. As a carriage driver later states, it was horses who built New York City. This is true. In the 19th century alone, there were tens of millions of horses working in every city, on every farm, and in every mine. They were global, everywhere you looked, and in sheer numbers that are hard to even fathom. Their work created our society and produced a level of wealth that probably can’t even be measured.

The film then goes on to describe this historical bond between humans and horses as one of companionship. This is not true.  For my dissertation, I researched a four hundred year period, roughly from 1600 to the present, examining the relationships between humans and working animals. For horses and those individuals who used them for their labor, it was very rare to find any sort of friendship or companionship. It was wonderful when I did come across such things but this was the exception to rule. Whether for farmers, loggers, wagon drivers, canal boaters, coal miners, or cotton millers, their primary relationship to horses was exploitative. The attitudes ranged from indifference to hostility to sadism. This was all about work and getting it done. These above individuals were the ones who oversaw that the horses did just that. This was the rule.

The Teamsters Union has just recently come out in vocal support of the NYC carriage drivers. This is most edifying because what you probably don’t not know is that “teamsters” originally referred the teams of horses who transported the goods across the United States. It was these teams who did the work and made the profit. The drivers were middle management and their job was to get the horses to work harder, longer, and faster. In fact, the drivers’ wages were dependent upon this arrangement. It is with a strong sense of irony that the drivers would eventually choose to take the name teamsters for themselves. Sure, two horse heads were featured on the union logo but the actual horses got nothing out of the deal.  They continued to work until they could no longer be productive. Their final job was to be made into glue. Significantly, the current Teamsters’ website contains a few historical photos of horses pulling wagons and such, but their history, their labor, and the wealth that they created are completely absent from mention.

This primary relationship has not changed. The NYC carriage horses do the work by pulling the tourists through Central Park and Times Square. The drivers manage this work. Their job, indeed their wages, come from making the horses work harder, longer, and faster. More rides equal more money, both for themselves and the carriage owners. This is not about companionship.

Keep on werking that middle finger!

Keep on werking that middle finger!

In 2007, the New York City comptroller office audited the city’s policies concerning carriage horses. It found that the city had abandoned most of its oversight duties towards the horses thus allowing the owners and drivers to maintain “substandard conditions.” The department of health, which was supposed to review and inspect the health of every horse, had not done so for a period of no less than 21 months.  The audit went on to state that the horses themselves were not being provided with enough water during working hours. At the Central Park South site, for instance, there were no designate water spigots, a general lack of shade, and no proper drainage. The horses were being forced to stand in their own waste. In addition, the audit found that the owners provided “lax veterinary care” and that they were actually falsifying certificates of health. In just over a one-year period, 57 of 135 certifications were incorrect. While the horses had the same license numbers, they differed “in age, color, breed, name, and in one instance, gender.” In other words, the owners were dumping worn-out horses furtively and switching them with fresh ones. This is exploitation. It is about keeping expenses at a minimum and production levels at a maximum in order to extract the largest profit possible.

Back to the film, it speaks of continuing a tradition. Neeson has said that horses are always “at their happiest and healthiest when working.” I have heard this a lot and from many quarters. For those of you who thought that the Protestant Ethic only applied to humans, you would be most mistaken. All working animals have to deal with this ideology. Horses, sheep, cows, and pigs have long since been domesticated. They could never survive on their own. Their very existence is predicated on them working for humans. But we have to ask, is this true?

The definition of domestication itself has undergone significant changes over the centuries. Originally it meant to make a member of a household. This would slowly over time become more defined as being attached to a home and duties. Our more modern meaning, to tame or bring under control, did not come about until 1641. Interestingly, it was first applied to the Irish people, as they were brought under British imperialist control, and only much later to sheep in 1805. None of these definitions, in fact, made any distinction between humans and other animals. All were included: men, women, children, horses, cows, and sheep. The division, wherein the word only applies to non-humans, occurred very recently.

But whatever definition we choose, none of them means the removal of agency. It has been the story of my life’s work to prove this: from discovering resistance to highlighting autonomy. It’s always been there. You just have to look for it. In the Appalachians of Kentucky, wild horses can be found. In Harlan County, they have been there for decades. More towards Pikeville, newer communities are beginning to be formed. All of these horses were domesticated and lived on farms, generation after generation. But at some point, they were let go or just left behind. After the most recent economic collapse, hundreds have been abandoned. The horses, though, figure it out. They, just like their far western counterparts once did, learn to survive. They form their own communities and develop their own culture. In the Danube delta of Romania, some 4000 horses live autonomously. When the communist regime collapsed, many farmers and villagers turned their horses loose. These working horses left their plows, wagons, and carriages behind and learned how to make it on their own. Without humans, they have thrived. Indeed, for every type of domesticated animal, there exists their counterpoint: maroon communities.

middle finger salute

Another carriage driver flashes the “digitus impudicus”

Neeson concludes the film by stating that there is honor at stake. I am not sure what he means. The carriage owners and drivers, for instance, like to point out the horses get five weeks of vacation per year, wherein they are sent out of the city to pasture. This certainly sounds decent enough but there are two major problems. First, these vacations were mandated by the city in 2010, after the scandal caused by the release of the comptroller’s audit. This decision did not come from the owners or drivers. Second, I doubt the horses are even getting such a vacation. Most of NYC carriage horses are former Amish draft horses. The Amish work them through their productive years, profiting greatly off their labor. Only then do the Amish sell, or possibly lease, them to the carriage industry. During these vacation periods, many of the horses end up being sent back to the Amish—who, I would bet, are either working them even more or subleasing them out. It has been observed that when the horses return from these supposed vacations they often look thinner and more worn out than they were before they left. When the horse’s carriage-pulling days have ended, most, if not it all, will eventually find their way to a kill buyer, who will sell them for slaughter. With an annual turnover rate at a steady 30%, this is quite a few horses per year. I don’t see any honor in this. There is only avarice.

Anthropomorphizing is a political act. We are always told not to do it and from all sorts of directions. In responding to the possible ban, Harry Werner, a former president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, warned that the critics of the carriage industry are guilt of anthropomorphizing. “They see a circumstance where they wouldn’t want to work in it, and think a horse wouldn’t work in it.” I can understand this fear, for it is from such actions that class relations can develop. Carriage owners have 32 million reasons to be afraid of such a development. So to New York City Mayor de Blasio, I say stand up to the industry and its supporters like Save NYC Horse Carriages. Tell them that carriages are just instruments of labor. Instead, you’ll take the side of those who actually do the work and pull those carriages. Horses have done enough for New York City. They built it. They suffered for it. They died for it. That’s enough. Each of the registered 220 carriage horses deserves a retirement to a carefully selected sanctuary. Who will pay for it? Let the carriage owners. The horses made that money anyway. This is the definition of honor.

Jason Hribal is a historian and author of Fear of the Animal Planet: the Hidden History of Animal Resistance (CounterPunch / AK Press). He can be reached at: jasonchribal@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

 

NYC Carriage Horse Supporters – Words and Pictures

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NYC Carriage Supporters banner

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Most people who oppose urban carriages are used to being told that they have “limited horse knowledge” or that they don’t live in New York City, etc. etc. and therefore have no right to render an opinion. But much of the propaganda being churned out in favour of the urban carriage industry is written by so-called journalists who are themselves seriously limited in their understanding not only of the business they are writing about, but of horses in general. Some authors are enviable in their ability to produce 10,000 words per day attesting to the carriage horses’ overall “happiness” and love of their work,  but again, they are also not “horse people.”  This observation does not seem to lend itself to criticism by the urban carriage trade though……

A great many comments I have seen over the last few months have been made by those who support leaving the carriage horses on the streets because they are active in the industry itself. They have made it sound as if a very small minority of animal advocates are the only ones who favour a ban on horse drawn carriages, and everyone else is in it for the big “Real Estate Grab.”

In a recent, blatantly promotional article, published originally on a pro-dog breeding, pro-kennel club website, numbers and statements about the carriage trade are regularly tossed about like pennies into a fountain.  I’ve chosen some of the more unverifiable and outrageous statements from the aforementioned article and provided some real-life context to refute them.  Sometimes,  the most damning statements come from the carriage trade themselves.  So here we go…

“They also have a mandatory five weeks annual vacation that must include unlimited feed and free run of green pastures.”

You can believe in the five weeks “vacation” or not. 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. And what is this ridiculous comment about “unlimited feed?” Haven’t the carriage peeps been telling us forever that horses shouldn’t be on grass or they will founder? Common sense would seem to dictate that you can’t give any horse unlimited feed either, which shows exactly how much the author of this article knows about horses (or has been spoon-fed). No one can say with any certainly that any of the horses are on a green pasture anyway – the pasture, if it exists, is just as likely to be a dirt paddock. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

If the carriage owners have farms as is claimed by this supporter,  then all the more reason to reject claims that they are all of very modest means.  Source - http://www.forbes.com/sites/vickeryeckhoff/2013/10/31/nycs-mayor-bloomberg-doesnt-know-manure-about-carriage-horses/

If the carriage owners have farms as is claimed by this supporter, then all the more reason to reject claims that horses who are no longer employed in the NYC carriage trade will be sent to slaughter.  Also a very strong reason to reject claims that medallion owners are all of such modest means and cannot afford to provide aftercare for their horses. Source – http://www.forbes.com/sites/vickeryeckhoff/2013/10/31/nycs-mayor-bloomberg-doesnt-know-manure-about-carriage-horses/

“Prices usually exceed $200,000 when they do. Most medallions are inherited. Families have carried on this business for generations, and no one is getting rich.”

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

Stop Lies,  See Truth indeed.  Being able to invest in real estate and other businesses implies an income that is at least middle-class or upper middle-class,  or perhaps largely tax-free?  Source - https://www.youtube.com/user/StopLiesSeeTruth/discussion

Stop Lies, See Truth indeed. Being able to invest in real estate and other businesses implies an income that is at least middle-class or upper middle-class, or perhaps largely tax-free? Source – https://www.youtube.com/user/StopLiesSeeTruth/discussion

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)

The problem is that the carriage industry may be talking out of both sides of their feedbag. Perhaps they didn’t anticipate that by arriving at the estimate of $15 – $19 million “investment” into New York City, that there would be people who could do basic arithmetic and figure out what the average gross income would be for 68 medallion owners (or half-medallion owners). So now, the claim that “nobody’s getting rich” is much harder for the average reader to choke down. Especially since the vast majority of that income is cash. To further throw shade on the claim that the medallion owners are just working class people struggling to earn a living in this cash-based economy, we have the testimony of ”StopLiesSeeTruth,” a prolific YouTube videographer and carriage owner, who claims to be earning an exemplary income that affords him the opportunity to invest in “real estate and other businesses.” There seems to be a lot of variation in terms of income, depending on whether one is bragging about it, or declaring it for taxation purposes.

“Horses are kept at four stables in Manhattan. All are currently cooperatively owned and managed within the industry. Even so, expenses for each horse run about $20-$25,000 annually.”

Source - http://www.forbes.com/sites/vickeryeckhoff/2013/10/31/nycs-mayor-bloomberg-doesnt-know-manure-about-carriage-horses/

For the average person yes,  perhaps many could not afford this type of monthly expenditure.  But it’s been pointed out elsewhere that the largely cash income derived from operating a hackline carriage is not “average.” Apples to oranges. Source – http://www.forbes.com/sites/vickeryeckhoff/2013/10/31/nycs-mayor-bloomberg-doesnt-know-manure-about-carriage-horses/

A feature of this blog post is obviously to quote the carriage people back to themselves and point out the ridiculousness of both their overstated claims and the claims of their propagandists. So again I’m using the assertions of a NYC carriage supporter who obligingly provides estimates of the basic costs of looking after and providing stabling for an urban horse in the city. Obviously, the supporter providing these numbers has omitted many other expenses in the operation of a carriage business, such as Insurance, wages, haulage, and other potential medical expenses, but even with the addition of these other costs, the cost for caring for one urban horse in no way approaches $25,000. And these costs are gross expenses from business income (again, predominately cash) while people such as myself who have taxes deducted at source, pay for board and veterinary expenses using after tax dollars. The minimum requirements for insurance coverages are also very modest:

$25,000 for bodily injury of any one person resulting from any one accident

$50,000 for bodily injury of two or more persons resulting from any one accident

$50,000 for death of any one person resulting from any one accident

$100,000 for death of two or more persons resulting from any one accident

$10,000 for destruction of property resulting from any one accident

These are not high liability coverages by any stretch of the imagination. Coverage for only $50,000 for the death of one person is ridiculously low.   By comparison,  I have an all-perils liability policy for $5 million,  at a cost of about $200 per year in premiums.  God help any carriage owner who has the misfortune of being the cause of serious injury or death of a young, professional, high income earner in a carriage accident,  someone who has a young family or years of income earning potential curtailed by a disabling injury…..

Despite having insurance,  this carriage driver might have been worried about an insurance claim, since he apparently left the scene of an accident without providing details of his insurance coverage to the other parties in the vehicle:

From the same source, we also get an idea of the various permit fees required, which again, will not bring the total expenses anywhere near $25,000. Carriage Operators of North America – CONA also has sourced out several equine insurance providers that can cover mortality, business insurance, life insurance, excess coverages, and insurance against crime. Again, most business people pay for these (with the possible exception of equine mortality) off their pre-tax income, so the carriage trade is not really any different from most other sole-proprietor businesses or partnerships (but apparently would like most people to think their expenses are greater than other comparable businesses).

Other incidental permit fees may be referenced by viewing the  List of Permit Fees.

  • $100: License Fee for applicants who file for a new Horse Drawn Cab Owner License from April 1 of years that end in an even number to September 30 of years that end in an even number.
  • $75: License Fee for applicants who file for a new Horse Drawn Cab Owner License from October 1 of years that end in an even number to March 31 of years that end in an odd number.
  • $50: License Fee for applicants who file for a Horse Drawn Cab Owner License from April 1 of years that end in an odd number to September 30 of years that end in an odd number.
  • $25: License Fee for applicants who file for a new Horse Drawn Cab Owner License from October 1 of years that end in an odd number to March 31 of years that end in an even number.
  • 2.49% of credit card payment amount: Non-Refundable Convenience Fee for paying with a credit card
  • $100: License Renewal Fee
expenses

From the carriage supporter’s basic estimate, we can see that, per horse, basic housing and feed for a horse would be anywhere from $4,740 – $7,740, or possibly more. Neither figures are out-of-line with what horse owners pay to board their personal horses.

Some carriage operators have benefited by subsidized rents as well. In 2001, the City of New York leased a stable on W. 45th St. to a carriage operator and his partner charging him a rent of only $5,000 a month while a comparable stable could easily have brought the City $60,000 a month.   Even if you consider that the city played a role in displacing the original tenants of this stable, this is a very advantageous cost savings for the carriage operators, but not so much for the City.

“Central Park as a rare car free oasis….”I love horse shit

I wonder what tourist brochures the author is looking at? Cars are allowed in Central Park at certain times. I daresay this writer hasn’t been to New York City (the hue and cry of the carriage supporters, many of whom haven’t been there either). Not only is the park not vehicle-free, the route to and from the stables is teeming with cars, taxis, snow removal vehicles, buses, and emergency vehicles.

“Despite AR rhetoric to the contrary, these owners love their horses and dread the thought of surrendering them to a city-appointed agency for adoption. “

There is no requirement to surrender any horses to anyone. I may be wrong but I’ve never heard of a “city-appointed agency” that has been established for surrendered carriage horses. 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.  And since one supporter’s comment included here asserts that the carriage operators have farms, one can only wonder, if true, why they would need to rehome any horse anywhere else?

“New Yorkers, long accustomed to the horses, are horrified by the possibility of losing their only direct contact with this beloved species. “

INS?  Immigration and Naturalization Service?  Probably not a good idea to display too much braggadoccio about the IRS and the INS as it relates to the carriage trade.  Source - https://www.youtube.com/user/StopLiesSeeTruth/discussion

INS? Immigration and Naturalization Service? Probably not a good idea to display too much braggadoccio about the IRS and the INS as it relates to the carriage trade. Source – https://www.youtube.com/user/StopLiesSeeTruth/discussion

Perhaps, or perhaps not. Don’t forget that, for more than a year, until a week to 10 days before the mayoral primary, the same Quinnipiac polling had a certain former City Council speaker as a “sure thing.”

The “right” of the carriage horse operators to use any city streets is one that can be revoked. The carriage owners and drivers, who enjoy one of the last cash businesses in the city, need to wake up and smell the road apples.  Stop lies,  see truth indeed…

“It is the certainty that they possess the truth that makes men cruel.” ― Anatole France

Irish Spring horsie

 

 

Atlanta Carriage Conference Highlights Huge Conflict of Interest for Police Department

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Glitter on the toes cannot hide the fact that this horse is very underweight.

Glitter on the toes cannot hide the fact that this Atlanta carriage horse is very underweight.

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Recently,  CONA  (Carriage Operators of North America) which is supposed to be a professional organization for carriage operators,  held their 2014 convention in Atlanta, Georgia.  CONA represents the interests of both special events livery operations as well as the hackline carriages in NYC and elsewhere, although now with two NYC Board of Directors, it would seem that the group’s interest is evolving more towards hackline operations.   Both Nottingham Shire & Carriage  and Fantasy Carriage of Atlanta run curbside operations waiting for fares in downtown Atlanta.  Neither carriage operator’s website depicts what the horse and carriage accommodations really look like, and the Fantasy Carriage website doesn’t even show a pic of a single horse.  There’s a good reason for that.

Complaints about these two operations include, but aren’t limited to inadequate housing facilities for the equines – terrible windowless dungeon-like accommodations or run-in sheds only, as well as….

  • Bad shoeing
  • Lame horses
  • Paddocks filled with deep mud
  • Diaper bags that constantly leak the contents down horses legs
  • Horses in downtown traffic
  • Driving infractions
  • Horses that are retired as unfit being seen on the street shortly thereafter
  • Lack of identification for individual horses
  • Drivers hired and expected to perform their jobs without  general horse knowledge…
  • …and a lack of available water troughs anywhere in the city beyond the confines of the stables themselves.  (Water supplies having been turned off to prevent homeless people from accessing them – speaks volumes about the attitudes towards the homeless too, doesn’t it?)

But one of the most critical problems with the horse drawn carriage industry in Atlanta is lack of enforcement of the laws that govern the carriages and protect the working horses. In Atlanta, the horse drawn carriage

The back of Fantasy Carriage Stables.  Not exactly taken from a page in Martha Stewart Weddings.

The back of Fantasy Carriage Stables. Not exactly taken from a page in Martha Stewart Weddings.

regulations are supposed to be enforced by the officers of the Division of Taxicabs and Vehicles for Hire, a department headed up by someone who also spoke on behalf of the carriage industry at the CONA convention.  Cedric Burse, a public sector employee working in the police force, has delivered a segment on “dealing with annoying animal rights activists.” Here’s how his talk was described in the CONA agenda:

“CEDRIC A BURSE, Director, Bureau of Taxicabs and Vehicles for Hire, City of Atlanta Do you need inspiration when it comes to dealing with annoying animal rights activists in your town? Ever wonder about improving communication with your city and your carriage business? Cedric Burse will be discussing these topics among other subjects as he discusses Stakesholders in Atlanta. Included in his conversation he will be discussing his challenges with animal rights activists regarding the horse drawn carriage industry in Atlanta and his unique approach to address the issues regarding both sides. His experience will help you prepare to handle potential problems that may arise in your town. Burse brings twenty years of leadership and management experience to the Atlanta Police Department’s Taxicab and Vehicles for Hire Section.”

Nottingham Carriages Stable after a rain.  The carriage storage area is far superior to the area where the horses have to live,  which is only a run-in shed. Note the raised railway or interstate.  I'm sure they must have fixed it up since the CONA people were going to tour the place - but I guess this is what it looks like when visitors are not expected.  By law, for the care of these horses to comply with the definition of “humane care” they must be provided with shelter from the elements.

Nottingham Carriages Stable after a rain. The carriage storage area is far superior to the area where the horses have to live, which is only a run-in shed. Note the raised railway or interstate. I’m sure they must have fixed it up since the CONA people were going to tour the place – but I guess this is what it looks like when visitors are not expected. By law, for the care of these horses to comply with the definition of “humane care” they must be provided with shelter from the elements.

What is a member of the police force doing advising a private group how to handle lawful protesters and possibly, avoid the law?  And why not counsel these two members of CONA in raising the standards of living for their animals and putting some decent weight on many of them?  Voluntarily fixing a lot of these issues would mean fewer complaints from animal activists,  would it not?

Aside from being an all-around bad idea, Burse’s talk appears to be a rather problematic conflict of interest.  His impartiality and the impartiality of his department now becomes suspect.  In a worse-case scenario, conflict can become misconduct.

Burse holds a position where he may be required to mete out criticism or enforcement to carriage owners, which apparently hardly anyone ever does, because those charged with enforcing the laws are either unwilling or unable to recognize violations or health/lameness issues with horses.  Judging by the agenda description alone, Burse’s little talk does not appear to be any sort of “conflict resolution” themed presentation, but one of dealing with people who make justifiable criticisms of their industry.  The Atlanta Police do have a code of ethics where they are expected to disclose incompatible interests, even though it is better not to allow such conflicts to present themselves in the first place.

Overall, there seems to be a disturbing amount of confusion as to who has the responsibility of enforcing the ordinances relating to the horse drawn carriages. On multiple occasions, officers of the Atlanta Police Department have ignored or refused to respond to calls if the subject of the call was the horse drawn carriages. The Department of Taxicabs and Vehicles for Hire does not staff an officer at all times the carriages are in operation. On occasions when someone from that department has responded, officers have stated they are not comfortable issuing citations to the carriage drivers because they lack sufficient training and/or knowledge to enforce the ordinances as it relates to equines and/or the equine drawn vehicles.

The issue of enforcement for infractions has been a longstanding problem for Atlanta’s urban horses.  Naturally, all public sector officials have a duty to put the public interest above their own personal or private interests when carrying out their official duties.  They cannot put the interests or individuals or groups ahead of that of the community, or in the case of Atlanta carriage horses – the animals themselves.  If officials have conflicts that are unavoidable, they need to be totally up-front about those conflicts, be they financial, ideological, or personal. Even the appearance alone of a conflict is detrimental to law enforcement activities.

Liam Neeson – High-Horse Hypocrite

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hollywood hypocrisy

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Let’s face it, Schindler’s List would not have been the same calibre movie with say, Kevin Costner in the lead role.  Liam Neeson is a commanding presence and a great actor. But I’m not feelin’ it for Mr. Neeson any longer, and don’t see myself watching any more of his movies.  Truthfully, I think he’s a bit of a doofus.

The_Grey_PosterNeeson fell out of favour with me starting with his role preparation for the movie “The Grey,” filmed in Canada with British Columbia subbing in for Alaska.  While other actors may prepare for a role in harsh climate or conditions by showering every day for 10 minutes in a cold shower, Neeson prepped for role immersion by eating the meat of a trapped wolf.  At a press conference to promote the movie, Neeson, who was born in County Antrim, said that while some cast members had been sick after eating the wolf meat, he was not fazed by the experience. “I’m Irish, so I’m used to odd stews,” was his attempt at explanation.

In January 2012, British Columbia’s The Province featured an article about the movie’s buying four wolf carcasses from a local trapper, two for props for the movie and two wolves for the cast to eat. Naturally, this act angered environmentalists and animal activists, who were already irate that the movie depicted wolves in a negative light, specifically at a time when gray wolves had recently been removed from the Endangered Species Act in many western American states.  But Sarah Palin gives it five stars! Both the film’s director and Neeson knew, or should have known, that leghold traps are one of the worst ways to kill an animal.  Most animals caught in these traps end up chewing, or nearly chewing off their ensnared limbs in order to escape. Miscellaneous species of animals,  caught in traps intended for fur-bearing targets are killed and then discarded because of their lack of value.  I think leghold traps should be illegal everywhere due to the suffering inflicted, so the ensuing criticism that was heaped on both men was perfectly valid, IMO.

Fast forward to 2014, Neeson has become the unofficial and much vaunted (hat tip to Glen) spokesperson for the NYC carriage trade, whose existence is threatened by Mayor DeBlasio’s edict to remove the carriage operators from New York City.  His ad-hoc discussion of the urban carriage trade wasn’t exactly endorsed by Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show,  where Neeson appeared earlier this week.  Interjecting the issue of the carriage horses was a risk that didn’t quite pay off for Neeson since Stewart rejected his position.

In case the video goes away, here’s a transcript:

NEESON: He wants to close this horse and carriage industry in New York. And there was a poll last week, over 60 percent of New Yorkers want to keep the horse carriage industry in Central Park.

STEWART: Maybe if they put it in the park. I feel bad – we actually live right next door to them. And I always feel bad for them on the streets. It seems like they and a lot of the van traffic don’t get along. The horses –

NEESON: The horse carriage industry, they made the roads in New York. I just want that to rest there.

STEWART: They made the roads? What, are the roads made out of horse (bleep)? What do you mean they made the roads? Construction made the roads. What if they moved it into the park, so the horses wouldn’t have to walk the streets? Maybe that would be the –

trapped horse dies in Ireland

SPCA workers in Offaly spent around eight hours trying to save a horse that became trapped in a drain. The horse was rescued from the water but was extemely weak and suffered from hypothermia. ISPCA fought to save the horse, which initially looked as though it could be successful. Veterinary first aid was given and the horse was dried off and kept warm, even eating some food. While the animal made attempts to get to her feet, she soon weakened and was euthanized.

STEWART: If DYFS – if the Division of Youth and Family Services ever found out that they are keeping their children in 60 square foot stalls and feeding them twice a day buckets of grain, that is not good parenting as far as I’m concerned. No, you feel passionate about this. But it’s – I think there probably is – I think the two sides do not trust each other at all. And unfortunately the horses –

NEESON: He won’t even take a meeting with the horse carriage industry. He is supposed to be representing the New York people.

STEWART: You’re –

NEESON: Dammit!

(Laughter)

STEWART: Is this a job you’ve done? Have you been in that industry before?

NEESON: I know a couple of the guys. I’ve been in the stables quite a few times eating.

(Laughter)

Sulky horse death and abandonment

Irish horse racing is typically done by the “travellers.” They have no licences and no insurance and this type of activity, done on the main commuter roads between Cork and Dublin, is a public liability. It compromises the safety of drivers, pedestrians, and animal welfare. Five men were jailed for racing horses through commuter traffic on one of Ireland’s busiest roads in May 2012. Why don’t we ask Jon Katz, author of the Bedlamfarm blog, to find out if these horses “love their jobs?”

NEESON: It is, Jon. It is a fulfilling life.

STEWART: Well, we don’t know.

NEESON: They are. They’re trained for this.

STEWART: Unless it’s Mr. Ed, you really don’t know. They may look at you and say “neigh.”

Smithfield Horse Market

The Smithfield Horse market is extremely controversial. City council and various animal welfare organizations have campaigned tirelessly to shut the market down for abuses to animals. Traders and buyers have continued using the cobbled area once a month to sell their animals and prices as low as 10 Euros – around seven dollars.An ancient by-law giving traders the right to use the market means that there is little police or council officials can do to remove the horses.

STEWART: Well, they could be trained to sit in a field and eat fermented oats

“The guys,” as Neeson puts it, are the drivers, many of them transplanted Irishmen like himself.  This includes Colm McKeever, a native of County Meath and a friend of Liam’s, who met the actor when McKeever’s wife served as midwife in the birth of the actor’s first son.

They’ll die, you know, darlin,’ says Liam,  of the NYC carriage horses. “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.

I hope Neeson will somehow find a way to highlight the fate of horses in Ireland and elsewhere in Great Britain, where it’s popular to race horses on the commuter highways and evade the garda (police), often crashing the horses and abandoning them, injured.  Ireland also has an ongoing problem with fly-grazing, where horses are illegally grazed on private property without the knowledge or consent of the owners of the property.  I realize that the incidents of cruelty depicted here can and do happen everywhere,  but Ireland,  which has the highest horse population per capita in the whole of Europe, has a huge crisis of horses, with up to 20,000 of the animals currently needing immediate intervention by authorities for abuse and cruelty.  Unlike Neeson,  the horses are not actors and can’t walk away from these situations.

Every animal welfare charity in the country would probably say that Ireland is unique in terms of the volume of abandoned horses all over the country. Although there are no official figures, animal charities estimate that up to 20,000 horses could be owner-less and fending for themselves. So it’s a good litmus test of what’s happening elsewhere in the EU, especially as concerns large, expensive-to-keep animals such as horses, who might be the most disadvantaged four-legged victims of Ireland’s recession.  Bought as trophy-pets during the Celtic Tiger boom years, homeless horses now run wild in their thousands across the Republic, most abandoned by owners who have no money for their upkeep.    A total of 2,969 stray animals were seized in 2012 of which 72% were euthanised. In contrast, 2,936 horses were seized in 2011 and 54% were slaughtered. There are reportedly 3,000 horses in Dublin alone who need urgent care.

horse+death

The horse was one of eight being unloaded into a field (probably for flygrazing) when she refused to co-operate. After repeatedly trying to coax the mare out of the box, a group of men got extremely violent with her, said a spokeswoman for the Irish Horse and Welfare Trust. She said: “When it refused to get out, the car drove off which sent the horse shooting out the back and it collapsed on the road. They then beat it to get up and it was beaten quite badly because it was so distressed it wasn’t able to get up.” Here the poor foal stands over its mother, his or her own fate looking very bleak.

So why is Neeson seemingly unconcerned about these horses being abused, neglected, and slaughtered?  Does he do anything at all to expose this crisis? Sure, he’s not obligated to do so,  but it’s not like the horse industry couldn’t use his help as a spokesperson. Canadian singer/songwriter Jann Arden is speaking out on behalf of Canada’s wild horses.  The Irish Farmers’ Association has been calling on the Government to introduce a scheme to provide financial assistance to horse owners to tackle the growing problem of unwanted horses. Maybe Neeson should advocating on behalf of these horses?  I imagine someone his stature could lend a credible voice to these concerns,  as Jann Arden is trying to do for Canadian horses.

So why does he speak up for horses who, according to the industry, are loved and would never be slaughtered, whilst ignoring horses who ARE being slaughtered in his native country? A potential explanation turned up on the Tuesday’s Horse blog, the official blog of the Horse Fund.

Vivian Farrell commented on her own blog post:

“This is not about the horses with Neeson. It’s like the Hispanics who scream when you try to ban their cruel horse tripping events that it is a personal attack on them and their rights to be in the US, blah, blah, blah. I was married to a very mild-mannered Irishman who worked with horses all his life; gentle soul. Yet he said during the troubles that he would hide IRA members even if they had killed children because no true Irishman would turn against his brother . . . I was stunned. So no surprise here about Neeson.”

Horse beaten and mowed down

This horse was mown down by a quad bike and reportedly beaten to death with a wooden plank in a council estate. The garda tried to intervene, but were deterred by locals throwing bottles at them. Anyone else think the garda are the most ineffective police force anywhere? How bad can it be for animals who live here when the police are too afraid to intervene on their behalf?

But her comment was met with disdain when urban carriage supporters retaliated by questioning the status of the charity behind the blog by asking about the status of The Horse Fund’s 990s.  Of course, this is a common tactic of Humanwatchers and their ilk, when someone writes something they don’t like – they set about attacking the credentials or status of their charity. They start poking through Guidestar and see if they can dig up any dirt on the person making the “inflammatory” post.  And Ms. Farrell no sooner wrote those words making a comparison to Mexican rodeos than the quintessential horse tripper himself, Randy Janssen made an appearance to support urban carriages,   denounce the ASPCA, and promote horse tripping on a different site.  Ms. Farrell is not only wise, but she’s psychic! And that about rounds out the support for the NYC urban carriages –  Humanewatchers, the Cavalry Group,  United Horsemen,  and now eaters of wolves and charreadors!

I try not to take offence at the politics in movies, and I don’t really care that much whether James T. Kirk was inspired by John F. Kennedy or whether Zero Dark Thirty fails to point out that torture is immoral.  I don’t think we need political correctness in movies or television, because they often portray periods where societal attitudes or government policy were controversial.  So, it doesn’t bother me that Neeson has taken a stance in favour of urban NYC Carriages, only that while doing so, he has seemingly ignored the chaos in the country of his birth.  He apparently does so out of allegiance to the Irish, rather than casting a critical lens on the industry.  Would he speak out if the drivers were predominately Serbian or Italian?  I don’t know, but I rather doubt it.  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.

And next time Neeson comes to Canada, instead of eating an inhumanely trapped wild animal, I hope he would speak out for them instead.

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

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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 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.  In addition,  several horses died of heatstroke,  and one horse died crashing into a tree,  but the industry typically excludes these from their “death count” because they don’t consider them “traffic related.”  But if a carriage horse dies while in harness and put to a carriage – it is indeed a carriage industry death,  and to parlay it otherwise is just obfuscation on the part of the industry.  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. Also consider that these horses have no grass during the majority of the year – transferring them suddenly to any sort of pasture and onto grass that they are not used to eating can have serious consequences such as colic or laminitis.

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.

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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

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This trough is dry and full of crap

Putting the Cart After the Horse

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Main Ring at TraleeWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

All photos except interior of Tralee by:  Heather Clemenceau

Photos at Westfield Heritage village by Robin Burkimsher

It is hard to imagine a more diverse (or more beautiful) property than the Tralee estate, which, as an operating horse farm, has hosted international events in dressage, eventing, and carriage driving and also is home to a significant special events/wedding venue.  For several years it was host to the Canadian Carriage Driving Classic. Set on 110 acres, the estate features multiple houses, stables, office, indoor arena, a working veterinary surgery, outdoor sand rings, and beautiful grounds with multiple ponds.  Tralee was the property of Dr. George Raymond Cormack, a veterinarian who was a lifelong collector and major benefactor of equestrian sports in Canada.  Dr. Cormack had 2 impressive display buildings built to showcase Tralee’s fine carriage collection, which were auctioned off about 2 years ago around the time of his death.

Small covered bridge which forms part of cross-country courseTralee has long been admired as one of the best maintained horse farms in Ontario.  It is a carriage driver’s dream, as it features many groomed carriage driving trails which wind picturesquely around several large ponds.  No doubt the Dr., of Irish descent, felt that the outstanding Caledon property was just as magnificent as its namesake town in the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland.

Dr. Cormack served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II, completing twenty-six overseas missions.  He graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in 1949 and opened his practice and clinic in his parent’s home in what is now the City of Mississauga.  The young veterinarian’s business flourished and within a year, he purchased a 352 foot by 140 foot piece of property, upon which he built a house and worked from there until he further expanded into a 19 room hospital behind his home – the Cormack Animal Hospital –  which was opened in 1956. His business continued to expand until he had seven clinics in operation in Lakeview, Agincourt, Rexdale, Scarborough, Oakville, Newmarket and Caledon.  Dr. Cormack was also the veterinarian for the Toronto Stockyards, the Canadian National Railway, the Canadian Pacific Railway and Hartford Insurance Company.  He was active in the College of Veterinarians of Ontario and chaired its Building Committee for the construction of a new head office in 1992.

Dr. Cormack’s practice expanded to include the ownership and/or operation of several farms and other businesses, including the Burdette Gallery in Orton, Ontario.  The gallery holds the artwork of many Canadian, American and European artists. The Gallery, purchased in 1999, is located on 70 acres of a natural sanctuary that harbors woods, ponds, trails, picnic areas and wildlife.

On September 29th, Dr. Cormack hosted the Tri-County Carriage Association’s fall driving show posthumously.  The show included reinsmanship classes, cones, and a cross country course for horses, ponies and VSE’s (Very SmallA view across the small lake Equines), and was filmed for a documentary show on the carriage association produced by Rogers Television. It was well attended by both Tri-County club members as well as some members of my former driving club, the Central Ontario Pleasure Driving Association (COPDA).

Drawing on the tradition that envelops the sport of driving, the various classes evaluate everything from the shine on the buckles to the grooming of the horses and the gleam of the carriage.  The event also gives spectators an opportunity to have a close look at the numerous variations of horses and equipment that carriage driving bring together.  The precision and elegance of carriage driving can be likened to the required movements of figure skating or dressage. The goal is to produce what appears to be an effortless test despite its difficulty. Driving a horse involves a combination of verbal commands, light pressure on the inside and outside reins appropriately, and the use of the whip, which replaces the pressure of the leg in a horse under saddle.  A “made” driving horse becomes used to doing the same type of movements that he would do under saddle, but “remotely” from behind, a skill that requires a horse to become comfortable both in a closed bridle and without a rider on his back to guide him.  When all these aids are used properly, we see the horse arch his or her neck, round the back, and come “on the bit,” engaging the powerful hindquarters to reach underneath his/her body and really propel themselves and the carriage forwards with power and grace. The transformation from horse to “show horse” is immediate and amazing!

Competitors in the Cones phase of competition must drive through up to twenty sets of cones with balls set on the top. Hit a cone and dislodge the ball, and you draw penalty points. The course is timed, therefore the driver must be fast as well as accurate.  The most challenging and exciting phase of combined driving is the cross-country marathon,  which at Tralee today features water hazards,  hills,  covered bridges, and other visual obstacles.  Many drivers change from the lovely carriage and formal clothing they used in the other classes to a marathon vehicle equipped with disc brakes and short turning radius. Drivers must carry a groom/navigator for this segment of the competition. The groom/navigator helps to stabilize the carriage through tight turns in the obstacles and helps the driver on course with directions and time.

The courtyard showing the main barn entranceDr. Cormack’s enthusiasm put Caledon on the international driving map during the Canadian Classic period, when competitors came from everywhere to participate in the annual event. Now, the focus at the estate, which is offered for sale at $3,300,000, has been on the Tralee wedding facility. In the summer months, the Tralee facility manager can be found hitching Tralee’s horses to the estate’s classic landau, an elegant four-wheeled convertible carriage, after which he transports brides between the chapel and reception hall.  The participants to Sunday’s events enjoyed them all the more knowing that,  perhaps with short notice,  the estate could be sold or its 110 acres subdivided,  therefore becoming unavailable for public carriage driving events in the future.  So today,  we make the most of the unhurried welcome Tralee offers…….

“Horses make a landscape look beautiful” ― Alice Walker