Firstly, thank you for your apology. I’ve never before been called gutless or a coward and I was not about to allow that to stand. As for my opinions on the carriage industry, they are backed up by personal experience and research. I am not merely a knee-jerk protestor.
Please allow me to respond to specific portions of your well-thought-out and educational response.
I too have personally come under fire from animal rights activists and thus have the experience of being accused (unfairly or not–I have yet to make a decision on this) and I know well that they are coming for me, as they already have. Foxhunting and its attendant countryside alliances and preservation acts in the UK and America are suffering the onslaught of animal rights activism as we speak. They HAVE come for me. But this is a topic for another post.
Do not assume that just because someone is an educated horse person that they do not have their own agendas and opinions. That’s why we are bloggers. My own perspective is clear from my subtitle: mindfulness in all aspects of horsemanship. It still strikes me as uncommonly UN-mindful to purposely put a horse in a dangerous situation. And I feel strongly that putting a horse in NYC traffic is dangerous. I understand that the paths in the park were made for carriages, and that’s great–it’s the getting to and from that I have a problem with. It’s the onslaught of eager and uneducated hands of tourists, just plain mean people, bus exhaust, crazy drivers, heat, cold and long days of hard work without turnout that I object to.
This objection is not limited exclusively to carriage horses. There are many other situations in which horses are put to “use” in the modern era where I feel they should be retired in favor of more modern methods because the surrounding world has changed. I just haven’t blogged about them yet. For example (not horse-related) I have strong feelings about gun rights, and this topic has privately gotten me in hot water already. Guns belong in the wild west of the past, where the second amendment to the Constitution of the United States had true value. In the modern world, I believe that the right to keep and bear arms is less applicable to personal safety and more applicable to mayhem and murder.
The same outdated logic, in my opinion, allows horses to be used for tourism in modern cities. If it isn’t strictly necessary for survival and could harm a horse, why do it? And no doubt you will object here by bringing up jumping, barrel racing, etc. And I might agree with you.
I applaud your history and your safety record. The same cannot be said for thousands of horses each year in more traditional equine pursuits such as eventing. I only wish it could. But what you haven’t addressed are the owners and business people who are less savvy and conscientious than you. And you know they are out there. Drivers paid minimum wage who know little about the mind of the horse they must drive and care for. There are more of these can you care to admit. And there are more accidents due to handler error and carelessness than you care to admit. I understand that you cannot take personal accountability for the actions and mistakes of others. I’m just saying that these things exist. And for that reason, plus the fact that I don’t think horses should be locked up, I don’t support carriage driving in cities.
No, I don’t think horses should be locked up. And that extends to dressage horses and horses near metropolitan areas who live in stalls 24/7. To me, denying the essential nature of the horse, who needs fresh air and grazing territory, is just wrong. It’s not a matter of the privileged with acreage against the underprivileged forced to live in the city. It’s a matter of grasping what’s best for the animal. I would no more keep a greyhound in a NYC apartment than I would ask a chihuahua to herd sheep. It’s a question of suitability.
I congratulate you on your stance and your ability to communicate your beliefs. I caution you to keep your temper so that others may listen to what you have to say and really hear it.
First, my apologies for the knee-jerk reaction to thinking you removed my post; unfortunately, this has been my experience many, many times with our detractors.
But I have to say that I don’t mind that you experienced the sensation of being ‘shocked’ by being unfairly accused – now you might have some idea of what a kick in the teeth it is for me to see us disaparaged by horse people.
For 27 years, I have endured and countered and fought the lies, slander, and ersatz, worthless opinions of uninformed humaniacs without getting very excited – but hearing the same from horse people is very, very wounding and beyond frustrating.
As for this comment: “Please don’t assume that all horse bloggers are witless hay-chewing country folk and nothing more.”…Um, I have no idea where this defense is coming from, as it never entered my mind, and I follow a dozen horse blogs from all over the country, finding some damn fine minds along the way. (and JFTR, I don’t find hay-chewing country folk “witless”, quite the opposite, I find them refreshing and possessing a wisdom all their own.)
Your assertion that
“There are places that horses belong, and there are places that horses do not belong. Where they do not belong is slogging through hard and noxious city streets, jostling for space and safety with automobiles who would as soon bump each other as change lanes.”
is purely fascistic, and a very slippery slope indeed. While you think urban horses have no place, there are others who think racing has no place, and still others who don’t think horses should be bred specifically for breed. Then there are those who don’t believe horses should be put to jumps, or used in disciplines like dressage, or used in eventing. Others think they have no place in circuses, or for barrel racing, or in parades or for the mounted police. Then the bottom of the barrel is populated by dregs like Ingrid Newkirk, founder of PETA, who doesn’t believe that people should even RIDE horses, and that actually the human-horse bond is a horrible, unnatural situation that should be forced out of existence.
I fail to see how your opinion differs from any of the above; they all want to restrict the freedoms of responsible horse owners from pursuing whatever equine endeavor they choose.
Maybe because they haven’t come for YOU yet that you think you can afford to have what I see as an elitist and discrimanatory attitude. But believe me, YOU are on their list.
Of course, you are entitled to your opinion – however uninformed or wrong-headed it is. BUT your opinion stops at my ability to live my life as I see fit, and to use and live and work with my horses as I see fit, of course with there being no abuse, neglect, etc.
I have been working with horses since when, at 14 years old, I sought out one of the onlt stables in Queens NY, and traded mucking stalls for riding lessons. At age 20 I found the carriage business, and have been in love with it ever since. Horses are my passion and my life.
The welfare of the horses is what the decent-minded, casual observer is truly interested in, and for good reason. The horse-drawn carriages are a New York City icon; they are ambassadors to our visitors, and the horses themselves are working animals that are entitled to proper care and good handling.
Fortunately, our record reflects exactly that. Our horses lead exceedingly reasonable and content lives. They each receive a superior, formulated diet, occupy roomy box stalls, receive vet & farrier care, and are groomed and bathed regularly. This amounts to food, shelter, and medical care – which many CHILDREN in this city do not have.
Beyond these basics, they are loved by their owners/drivers; they receive affection, treats, and human interaction everyday.
The horses all wear special shoes for pavement, either borium, Drilltex, or rubber.
Every stable has a sprinkler system in case of fire, and every stable has 24/7 stablemen. We are overseen by 5 city agencies, and not one WEEK goes by (and sometimes, day) that our horses are not checked by the ASPCA or the Dept of Health. (Let’s see Child Protective Services match that record)
The horses receive rotation turnout several times a year on farms in both Upstate NY and PA.
When the time comes, we retire them to loving, forever homes; some of the owners retire them themselves on privately owned land. I personally have retired 3 horses, one of which is still living the life of Riley after being retired 6 years ago in South Jersey at a bank president’s home.
Our safety record is STELLAR – 68 carriages operating approx 300 days a year /25 years = over 2 MILLION trips in traffic back and forth to the stables. (this does not even include all of the actual rides done!)
We have had THREE equine fatalities due to traffic accidents in those 25 years.
NO equine pursuit can claim a similar ratio (500 horses died onracetracks just since the Kentucky Derby last year – hell, 100 HUMANS were hit by cars and killed in 2008 in NYC alone)
While each of the three horse deaths was a tragedy (I knew each one – Chester ‘85, Tony ‘90, and Spotty ‘07), there is nothing in life with no risk, & certainly not in human/horse activities. Many, many more horses are injured or killed in eventing, jumping, racing, polo, etc. The humaniacs would eradicate all horses in order to eradicate all risk – something I do believe they could live with, & indeed, it’s something that many of them actively seek. They drag out the same ghoulish pics from these accidents on every website & at every demonstration, sometimes even using pictures of dead or injured horses from other parts of the country and saying they were in NYC!
Anybody hell-bent on putting carriages out of business should hop on down to the auction & buy a slaughter-bound horse and care for it for the rest of its natural life. That would actually be doing something to help the horses, not hurt them.
The epidemic of abandoned horses across the country is due to what is being called a “perfect storm” of a slow economy, highfeed prices, &recent national outlawing of slaughterhouses. This is a mammoth crisis – 1000s of horses being left to waste away in fields & paddocks, or surrendered to over-crowded rescues. Closing down a business where horses lead content & exceedingly reasonable existences will only ADD to this problem.
A well-loved, cared-for horse with a job is a lucky horse, and yes, that means an urban horse, too.
Not all of us are blessed to live on lovely acreage in the country.
As far as my blog goes, the link to Michael Gross’ article is available in the second paragraph. You are welcome to follow it and read his take.
And this is a buddy’s Youtube channel, with videos of our horses at work & at rest, the stables, etc
I searched my spam folder and found no second comment from you. If you care to re-post, that would be fine. Also, if you care to post from your blog about Michael Gross, that would be fine, too.
I would relish some earnest discussion on this topic.
This is the first time I have been on my blog since yesterday afternoon. I AM shocked. I’ve never before been called a gutless coward.
I did not remove your first comment. My guess is that wordpress tagged it as spam due to content similar to the second. I don’t know why they didn’t remove the second one, too.
I am well aware of the facts concerning this industry, having seen with my own eyes hundreds, possibly thousands of so-called romantic carriage rides and carriage and horse pairs in New York City and Chicago. Please don’t assume that all horse bloggers are witless hay-chewing country folk and nothing more.
There are places that horses belong, and there are places that horses do not belong. Where they do not belong is slogging through hard and noxious city streets, jostling for space and safety with automobiles who would as soon bump each other as change lanes.
I’m going to go and find your other comment now, and de-spam it.
Don’t imagine for one moment that I fear your slurs. In fact, I welcome opposing points of view as long as they are back up by fact and they are expressed in a civil manner. You are welcome to respond further if you keep in mind that this is a blog about mindfulness: the well-being and awareness of my readers is paramount and I won’t have it stained by rage.