Every visit to New York City causes me to reflect upon the misery that befalls those poor old racetrack castoffs, Amish cart-pullers, and other worn-down horses who end up between the shafts of a heavy carriage, pulling loads of tourists—and some uncaring driver—through the dirty, noisy streets of New York City in all weather. Seeing them out there in the winter is particularly upsetting: A few weeks back, I saw one horse still lumbering along in traffic, head down, at 9:30 p.m.
Even when they aren’t working, horses need lots of water, yet the “carriage” horses’ water troughs are often bone dry. People report seeing the horses standing there, unbending in their traces and unseeing in their blinders, unable to take a drop of water. And, when, late at night, they finally end up at their “stables”—which are actually decrepit fire-trap walk-ups—they cannot even take their weight off their aching feet: The “stalls” are boxes or bars that fit just around their bodies, like sow stalls on factory farms.
Oh, there’s so much more that stinks for these poor horses, including the traffic accidents that spook, hurt, and kill them. (I’ve seen a driver, obviously anxious to go home to his comfortable house, whip and race his horse, chariot-style, pounding along the road; this must have added to the horse’s pain.) PETA and local concerned citizens are working hard to make this business go away. We want to see it switch to something humane—perhaps to a new, environmentally friendly tourist vehicle that doesn’t bleed, ache, and die. It may take another year of hard work, but what can we do in the meantime, other than tell people never to ride in the carriages?
Perhaps you’d like to contact the ASPCA—which is charged with enforcing the anti-cruelty code and regulations on horse-drawn carriages—with your thoughts and questions. Please share with us the answers you receive. The horses can’t ask why someone doesn’t order their owners to allow them to lie down at night, for example, but we can. And, in my opinion, local law enforcement can compel the owners to let them.
Written by Ingrid Newkirk