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BOTH SIDES: Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides Tours Safe, Humane Or Mistreatment?

August 25, 2007 | Horses / Animal Rights / Horse Carriages

Excerpted from:

The Hartford Courant

Courant Staff Writer

...."Recently, the state Office of Policy and Management gave Wethersfield a $25,000 grant to provide horse-drawn carriages in the town's historic district, slated to begin this fall. The project has been billed as a way to accentuate the rich heritage of Connecticut's "most ancient town." A more progressive perspective, however, would suggest that buggy rides are an exploitative and dangerous tradition that should be left in the history books.

...To expect horses to serve as vehicles in any traffic is unreasonable. The health and safety dangers inherent in the animal-drawn vehicle business have sparked a growing momentum for bans in many cities across the world, including Key West and Palm Beach, Fla.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Camden, N.J.; Toronto; Beijing; Paris; and London. Even when confined to light or pedestrian traffic, as in the Wethersfield plan, horses and traffic can be a deadly mix.

...There are more enlightened ways to herald and preserve Wethersfield's heritage than returning to the days when horses were forced to pull people through the streets."

Priscilla Feral, president of Darien-based Friends of Animals

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This subject is obviously controversial, even among 'animal lovers', but the sad truth is that if an animal's worth to a person is strictly financial, then they probably only care about the animal so long as that animal yields those financial rewards. When they don't, the animal becomes irrelevant and is generally sent to an even worse situation. That's the world we live in. A perfect example of this (and very similar situation to horses) is racing greyhounds. It's a similar basic set-up, right? The dog owners only make money when their dog is well kept and in good health, etc. so the Owners should be taking great care of their dog, right? But we all know the reality is that those dogs lead horrible, secluded, loveless lives... and that's when they're winning. If they slow down a little, they're cast off. Thankfully there are rescue organizations to help some of them but most are not so lucky. If an animal's worth is strictly financial, you can bet that there are plenty of owners who could care less about the animal except as a moneymaker. Walking on concrete and asphalt, breathing in fumes, being startled by traffic noise... not good. An animal as a tool is guaranteed disaster... an animal as a friend and companion and even willing helper is a recipe for success. Carriage rides walk a fine line between tool and helper but I think stray too far toward 'tool'. It begs for overwork in bad conditions to make a buck. I think carriage rides should be a thing of the past, but as they probably won't be, we should DEMAND better regulations and oversight to prevent abuse.

Teresa, deeming an animal a "willing helper" is indeed making her into a tool. The other animals of the world did not and cannot consent to being our helpers, nor should we expect them to. In many cities and towns across the world, horse-drawn carriages already are a thing of the past; as people have understood them both as dangerous and wrongly exploitive, they have been banned.  The activists and supporters of Friends of Animals believe that the only thing worth striving for is what’s right and respectful: an end to the horse-drawn carriage industry, and, simultaneously, the freedom for horses and other animals who aren’t captive to live their lives without human management. Imposing more regulations on carriage businesses will only serve to tighten the reins that have enslaved these animals for too long. It’s time we let go and show the horses some respect. Edita Birnkrant, NYC Campaign Coordinator, Friends of Animals

I fully agree that it is not right to see horses being used as a carriage.I have always felt this way about it.I do not like it.I think this should be banned permamently.

It is total animal cruelty!!!

Today my family was in the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area and took a horse-drawn carriage ride. The Amish use horse and buggies on a daily basis to get around. It's their way of life. The horses (ours were two sisters) were in remarkable condition, well taken care of and friendly. Yes, traffic poses a problem to horses and buggies. But don't drivers also have to contend with crossing pedestrians who sometimes don't use good judgment when crossing or cyclists who expect all motorists to "share the road". So, why not horse and buggies? People only need one thing: "patience" for slower traffic and there won't be a problem at all. It is not a matter of mistreatment. I've been on several rides and have never seen an act of mistreatment towards the animals. I grew up with a horse academy very close by and went to alot of horse shows. I'd know if an animal was mistreated, such as a neighbor with her dalmation dog (who was later reported). I am a pet lover and take good care of them all (fish, birds, guinea pigs, rabbits, cats and dogs) My daughter had horseback lessons for years as well and learned much about equestrian responsibility (how to clean and brush them, etc.) Please don't always assume the worst. Many people are neglected, overlooked and down on their luck. Sometimes, animals are better treated than them (and sometimes they don't have the given opportunity to better help themselves). It just depends. Anyway, thank you for your input. Just shedding a different light on the matter, that's all.

When someone is riding in a horse-drawn carriage, it's easy to overlook the reality I've experienced: horses don't want to be ridden; they resist riders. To ride a horse, one has to get them under control. I was never keen on doing that, nor did I feel competent or justified as a 10-year-old kid -- the last time I was coersed to try to ride a horse at summer camp. Twenty years ago, I adopted a horse from an upstate New York sanctuary that had collapsed under the weight of 1,000 homeless dogs and an aging caretaker who lacked a support system. That horse had ended up at the sanctuary since it kept throwing the rider who trained the horse for dressage. I took the horse to a family farm that included 12 acres on which horses were turned out, and the horse was never ridden again. Other such places and sanctuaries exist. Ultimately, the horses now enslaved in the carriage trade will end up in sanctuaries if we all stop tolerating this industry and making excuses for it because we enjoyed a ride, and didn't know how to argue against human domination over horses and others -- privatized and bred for commercial folly and human selfishness. Priscilla Feral Friends of Animals

I think people often assume animals enjoy an activity because they themselves enjoy it. So it's essential to distinguish our interests from what we've imposed on animals. Why ever would a horse want to wear a bridle, and keep a metal object in his or her mouth? Why would a horse want to carry heavy loads; run when we say run; jump when we say jump? Horses are not born with an interest in helping or entertaining us. When we make them dependent, they are forced to submit to our control. Let's instead respect their right to live on their own terms, and in their own natural habitats.

That's so true, Ellie. These people who say they are "horse lovers" don't truly love the horses. Genuine love for another person or creature does not hinge on limiting their rights and freedom. What these people love is the feeling they get from being around horses, from riding them or being pulled behind them. And that simply amounts to a form of selfishness that is conveniently ignored - a far cry from "love".

When I take my horse his lunch time mash, he whinnies at me and when I walk up to him with it he gives me a "kiss" with his upper lip. So you are telling me I don't love my horse and he hates me? I'm sorry but I don't buy that. I respect your right to your opinions on this but I don't believe that man is not supposed to have animals of any kind. My cat's are well taken care of and wait at the door when they hear our car drive up. They lick our chin and meow when we pick them up and get mad when we don't do it first thing. Are you saying they should be let go free to wander the streets? I don't necessarily agree with carriage rides just for the sake of carriage rides but I don't see that the Amish are doing anything so terribly wrong. I don't believe that you will print this but I could be wrong. This is just my perspective.

If all I knew from life was one person who brought me my food and scratched behind my ear and took me out of my enclosure for some exercise, of course I'd have a deep affection for them. Gauging the moral value of a relationship based simply upon one's reaction to the other is not valid. Otherwise, what should we think of the relationship between a kidnapper and the kidnapped when the latter is suffering from "Stockholm syndrome"? alaskanni, I am not suggesting you are a cruel person on par with kidnappers or dog fighters. However, I simply wish people would challenge their own assumptions that they "love" the animals that they care for. In many cases, their feelings of love depend upon their possession of the animal; for, like any other prized possession, they love the feelings they experience when using and viewing and being in the presence of said possession. And this critique of love isn't limited to situations with non-human animals. I suppose the simplest test for your love is this: If you knew that someone you love would have a more enjoyable life without you, would you let them go?


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