The sad lives of carriage horses

I love New York, but one of the things I don’t like about the city that never sleeps is the carriage horse industry.

Many cities, including the one I live in (Seattle) and one I visited this spring (Savannah), offer horse-and-carriage rides. Approximately 1000-2000 horses are used across the country. These hansom cabs, might evoke an old-world feeling but they’re anything but romantic. Carriages belong in the history books.

sad horse

Horses in the carriage industry are often castoffs from the harness racing industry or from Amish communities and come to the city with pre-existing health problems. They develop further health issues from walking on pavement all day and breathing exhaust from trucks, cars and buses. They work all day in freezing cold and scorching heat and they’re stored in warehouses at night.

They’re never sent out to pasture, and have no government protection. Carriage owners are legally allowed to work their horses 9 hours a day, seven days a week–whether horses like it or not.

don't take a ride

The average working life of a carriage horse is only four years. In fact, about a third, or approximately 70, of the New York City carriage horses are eliminated from the Department of Health horse registry every year. When they’re spent, they’re usually auctioned off for slaughter or rendering plants for dog food companies or zoos.

stuck in traffic

The horses suffer and people are endangered too. Horses get spooked easily and can run into traffic. In New York there have been more than 18 accidents involving horses in the past two years. It’s a largely unregulated industry.

It’s a half-hour ride for patrons, but it’s a lifetime of misery for the horses.

Toronto, Paris, London, Las Vegas, Beijing and many other cities have already banned carriage horses. A fun horseless carriage idea is brewing that could replace horses in New York and still be fun and romantic.

In Savannah, I opted to take a pedicab ride. The man peddling told me he enjoys the job and that it’s paying for his college.

pedicabs instead

What to do?

  • Never patronize carriage rides, and tell your family and friends why they shouldn’t. From newlyweds to tourists, it’s the people paying for the rides that keep this industry in business.
  • If your city allows carriages on city streets, urge your legislators to propose legislation that will ban it.

Update (Jan 2, 2014) – New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has vowed to ban horse-drawn carriages in the city and retire the horses to sanctuaries. Money to help the horses is probably still needed and horses in other cities still need help. This promise is great news, and a good way to keep momentum going for the horses.



12 thoughts on “The sad lives of carriage horses

  1. Unfortunately, we also have them in Montreal, in the old historic part of downtown, Old Montreal. I always believed it is a true shame and have never gone on one. I always feel so terrible for the horses. Luckily the people around me feel the same way. If only we can ban these once and for all.
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. I have shared your post on my FB. Thank you for addressing this urgent need.

    While in NYC, I looked into the eyes of one of the horses as I stroked his nose. I saw the sadness in his eyes and I spoke softly, and said, “I’m so sorry.”

    We cannot be silent, let’s put a stop to this. Sign petitions, get the word out – horse-drawn carriage rides are cruel and outdated!

    • Thank you for spreading the word! I’m glad you showed a horse a bit of kindness.

      For people who want to justify this industry, it’s largely cash-based and doesn’t do anything to bring in tax revenue for the city. The risk of danger outweighs any benefits. I included the paragraph about pedicabs and horseless carriages to give alternatives that still provide jobs. We can still employee people in the tourism industries without abusing animals. The mere idea of a horse not being able to scratch an itch, breathe clean air, or feel grass under his feet is, to me, not worth a few jobs.

  3. I commented earlier on a blog by you or Carmen that sadly, in retrospect, I can recall having had 2 horse drawn carriage rides but I won’t again. In the Domincan Republic we actually for sorry for the horse and got out of the carriage early.

  4. Pingback: Das Ende der Kutsche in New York City | kopten ohne grenzen

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