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Friends of Animals Valentine's Day Horse Rally Rouses New York

February 14, 2008 | Horses / Horse Carriages

By Edita Birnkrant

The posters could be seen from afar, heart shaped, bright-red and bold, urging passersby:

horse carriage demonstrators
Showing strong support for a horse carriage ban

Give Horses a Valentine: Their Freedom

Have a Heart; Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages

Don't Break Cupid's Heart; Say NO to Carriage Rides

Our calls rose above the traffic and horns of midtown Manhattan: Ban carriage horses, there's no excuse for horse abuse!

This Valentine's day, tourists, families, New Yorkers on their lunch breaks, and couples heading for a stroll in Central Park were greeted by Friends of Animals supporters and horse advocates who lined a Manhattan block at Central Park South, the pick-up spot for horse-drawn carriage customers.

People cheered, gladly taking our pink flyers which asked New Yorkers to support Tony Avella's pending bill to ban horse-drawn carriages, and which urged readers to boycott the exploitative industry.

Helping us gain even more attention from the public was the horse-drawn carriage industry's counter-protest of our rally. This handful of people came ill-prepared with hastily scrawled signs opposing a different animal-advocacy group - whoops! They shouted obscenities, threats, and became physically aggressive. Parents with small children had to endure the stream of obscenities that a counter-protester relentlessly spewed. When these parents objected to the language, the industry rep became even more hostile, and called them "retards."

In contrast, Friends of Animals and our advocates were energetic yet dignified and respectful, and the public took note. The parents vocalized their support for the ban, and thanked us for being there. We received a stream of smiles, and the counter-protest was moved away by the police.

Nancy Rice, Outreach Coordinator for FoA, recalled a particularly memorable moment at the rally.

"Two men stopped on the corner, each one taking a flyer from me. A carriage went past us and one man said to me 'the horses look different to me now' and went on to say that he's lived in New York City his entire life and didn't think much about them, other than they've always been there. He thanked me."

Nancy Rice, Friends of Animals Outreach Coordinator, gets a kiss from a
carriage horse

It was an inspiring day as our gathering of supporters called for justice for the horses, in the face of a blunt backlash from the industry that exploits them. It's easy to stand strong and proud when your cause is one of respect and dignity for animals who have no other way to demand it. We watched as the occasional carriage pulled by a horse clomped by with passengers, and we envisioned the day that these horses would be in sanctuaries instead of between the shackles of their carriages, forced into a brutal existence that only ends with death. Watching the faces of the passengers in the carriages who rode by us, taking in our posters, our chants, our passion, I thought: It's a Valentine's Day they'll remember forever.

New York Times coverage of our rally.

horse carriage demonstrators

We are at a crucial point in our campaign to ban horse-drawn carriages. Support is building for Council Member Tony Avella's historic bill to ban the carriage horse industry. Other international cities such as Paris, London, Toronto and Bejing, along with many US cities, have banned horse-drawn carriages.

Please help us to add New York City to the list by writing or calling your Council Member and urging them to co-sponsor Tony Avella's legislation: Intro 658. To find your council member, all 311, or go to Non-New Yorkers can call 311 and leave a message for Mayor Bloomberg.


While I'm sympathetic with your concerns about abuses in the horse carriage industry, shutting them down completely isn't a step in the right direction. If your goal is to insure that these magnificent animals have a decent and humane life than focus on that while still keeping the carriages going. I think you underestimate the importance of their presence to the public and basically are looking for a quick fix which in this situation isn't the best solution. Fair treatment of the horses,the publics awareness of that is in my opinion better for your cause and is a win win situation for everyone involved including the horses. [Blog editors' note: Getting back to fair would mean leaving horses wild and free on public lands -- not privatizing them. Once they're in the system of ownership the best we can do is to take them out of commerce -- off the streets of NYC and onto sanctuary lands. That's the laudable goal. ]

There are laws to make sure they are not abused and I don't see it as that bad though it would be better for them to loving homes it is not as bad as the dog meat market in China or puppy mills or seal hunting the horses just have to pull caridges.

Lisa, The NYC Comptroller's office performed an audit of the horse-drawn carriage industry, and one of the many things revealed was that there is a major failure in the oversight of the horses by the agencies assigned to oversee them, resulting in lack of veterinary care and infrequent inspections. The ASPCA, the organization responsible for enforcing so-called humane laws for the horses , finally claims it fully supports the ban, and has stated that there is no way for this industry to operate humanely in NYC. It's not "just that the horses have to pull carriages," but that they are exposed to a litany of conditions and environments that are hostile, dangerous, and unnatural for them, resulting in a life of misery. It's unfair to pit one form of animal exploitation or harm against another and deem it inferior. Puppy mills, dog markets, seal hunting, and horse-drawn carriages all need to end. For each individual animal stuck in a cycle of suffering and death, there is no measure of better or worse. We can do our part by rejecting all forms of animal exploitation -- by allowing other animals the same respect we give ourselves.

As the owner of the largest fleet of horse drawn carriages and a stable owner, I feel that there are many well meaning horse lovers fogged by the myths of these horses being mistreated. There is no possible way to reasonably think these horses are anywhere in the condition that these extremists say they are. The health dept does many street inspections and stable inspections as well as the nyc mounted police and aspca, there is no way they would even allow these horses to work if they were actually in the condition these activists claim. If anybody wanted to see our monthy feed bills for hay, grain, supplements, salt bricks, bedding, shavings this would prove the amount spent to properly care for our horses. Oh yes almost forgot the equine dental vist and vet bills too. FoA comments: Even giving them the best treatment, does not justify the enslavement of another being -- not for your financial profit nor for your entertainment and recreation. Whether these horses are getting the best treatment is certainly open to question -- despite your denials, but ending the exploitation of these horses is why horse carriage rides must be banned.

That very statment ''that even if the horses had the best treatment''you still wouldn't be satisified with having horses working,so to really debate this issue falls on deaf ears to foa.Its funny that as Pink states she isn't afer the police horses yet,they will be targeted i suppose since they too in your eyes''are enslaved'' as well.Horses have built this city as many others and enhances every city they arein,Philadelphia is no different,Boston is no different,we have rules and regulations,and guidelines to follow.Speaking for my stable and my 20+plus horses and staff,I go way beyond what is asked by law to ensure my horses health and wealfare.Even though i don't have to justify my policies to this website or anybody else,my reputation stands for itself,which i am very proud of.We are Blessed enough to live in a Country where we can agree to disagree,it is wrong to be accused of ''abuse'' or mistreatment,cause some people are against working animals,and i [as many other carriage companies across the usa] choose to have a business that includes horses.Even though its not as ''media grabbing'',its more moral to say ''you don't like working horses'',if thats your opinion,as unless you want to get a hoof # and actually accuse somebody,you should make the claim of your opinion rather than accuse.

I'm not really too familiar with Pink or what Pink has said; this person is not involved in the Friends of Animals campaign and doesn't speak for it. I believe this person arrived on the scene once the carriage trade became a public issue. In any case, from what you say here, Pink sounds inconsistent. Although the issue before us is the carriage industry (a particularly frivolous custom in 21st century New York City, surely you'd agree?), horses do not belong in situations where they are made to carry out human wars or crowd control either.

For everyone that is against the horse-carraige industry, I would just like to know this... how many of you are true horse lovers? Have ever ridden a horse? Or been around them more than just watching them walk by you? I'm guessing not very many, because if you had you would know that horses often enjoy their jobs, and in your ingnorance you may say there is no way that is possible, but you wouldn't know unless you've been a part of the horse industry. Horses and humans hold a unique bond in which the human must be the dominant being. This is what horses are used to... even in a herd of wild horses there is a herd hierarchy and the stallion and boss mare push all the others around and tell them what to do. There isn't even equality within the species and you're trying to say that horses and people should be equal? Also, do you know the history of the horse? If you do, you know that there would be no America as we know it today without them. They were used in agriculture, transportation, firehouses, police forces, wars, manufacturing industries of all kinds, and the list can go on and on. The horse has been domesticated since 4000 B.C. and you're saying that we should just stop using them after everything they went through with human beings? That my friends is ignorance. And what do you propose we do with every horse that is in the carraige business? And if you're against the carraige business, then you're probably against racing and showing and the police force, movie industry, and well, if you want humans and horses to be equal and horses to be free then yes, you would even be against pleasure trail riding and ranch horses. So we would have to stop using all of these horses, which by the way is a total of about 7 or 8 million just in America, and is a total of over 54 million in the world. So should we start tearing down homes and building pastureland so we can turn these millions of horses out in "sanctuaries" where it would be impossible to maintain an adequate living conditon for them? Or maybe you'd actually say we should turn them out in the wild after thousands of years of domestication and breeding for favored traits, like desensitiviy of stimulus, and loss of adequate instincts to survive. Not to mention that since our world is so populated that horses in the wild would become known as pests and people would start shooting them like in Australia or hunting them like before domestication, and I'm guessing you'd be against that too. Oh yes, that would be so much less cruel. I'd just like to say that I'm a horse admirer and have been around and worked with and observed the horse all my life and it is really brave of you all to try to eradicate the horse's involvement in modern civilization when it was the horse himself and his unique and strong bond with human beings that created the modern civilization. I think you may need to go learn a bit more about what you all are fighting against and come up with a reasonable plan before you start having a movement for it. FoA comments: I happen to know horses. But I have always known them as friends and not exploited them for commercial or recreational use. I have seen them in the fields with their own family and friends living a life that is denied carriage horses. You know horses? Horses enjoy running free and playing with each other -- something carriage horses cannot do. And please don't blame horses for creating modern civilization. That was done by humans at the expense of horses and other free-living animals.

It is a known fact that horses need to exercize or they become moody and their muscels cramp and they get really hungry. So is it ok with you if I show horses or ride one in a rodeo? These are companions but they are being used for enterainment and sport value. Will you target those areas to? [Blog editors'note: What don't you understand about leaving horses alone on public lands? Once they're rounded-up and privatized, they're left at our disposal. Then we hear a host of excuses about why horses should be kept under human control. It's all nonsense.]

hey i'm kirsten and 11 who loves horses so freaking much id die for one. it's a true story mom and i adore horses and fully support what youve been protesting about and i for one fully agree!

As to whether or not horses should be allowed to work in nyc is up for debate- using horses to pull carriages in normal- rural settings is one thing. Using them on the busy streets of nyc is quite another- and yes, horse are exploited in the racing & shping industry- just like most other animals. How often or to what degree they are exploited are what varies. The conditions they endure through or are blessed with vary. Some truths about some of the drivers are below- these are from one very educated horse person to another. Notice I said some of the drivers. I do believe soe of the drivers are animal lovers and care for the animals as best they can, though surely non can argue that never being allowed turnout in a paddock is not 'good care' for any horse. 8/21/09: Oh how sorry I was to witness the train of carriage horses on the hack line the other evening after leaving my job @ the other evening. I was walking toward the 59th street station. Living outside nyc, I was unaware there were so many horses 'in service'- on Friday night the line stretched from the corner of the park @ Fifth Ave almost all the way toward the other side of the Park. Though I saw some horses being as well looked after as possible, considering the inhumane conditions they are forced to work into- I saw 2 VERY disturbing sights- there were two horse that had just come back from a ride- one was a draft type the other a standardbred most likely. First question, why are 15 Hand petite standard bred horses pulling carriages far too large & heavy for them? Is it because they can be bought inexpensively after their careers do not fare well @ Yonkers Raceway or the Meadowlands & since they are already taught to drive they find 'careers' in NYC? Shameful! The smaller horses strain in their harnesses, some of them so poorly muscled & even underweight it is pathetic- are the tourists blind? Can they not see those are not healthy animals? Another pet peeve- why are the horses fed with their elaborate double driving bits still in their mouths? And the pigeons in the horse's feed buckets- do they know that pigeons are carriers for EPM (the debilitating neurological disease)? They have no business in or around a horse's feed bowl. Getting back to the two horses- they were both LATHERED with sweat & PANTING! I have never in my life seen a horse pant like a dog. I have been riding since I was a girl & though I know what it is to work a horse, I have never seen a horse pant! Most of these horse are out of shape & under muscled. They have no way to keep themselves conditioned never being allowed the luxury of being turned out to graze on rolling hills. That day, it was very humid & close to 90 degrees. I asked a few of the carriage drivers whose horse the bay draft was- of course the driver was quite a bit further away in the shade (for himself) and enjoying a smoke while his 'moneymaker' sat panting in the sun- nostrils flaring rapidly. I approached him & said he should get that horse a few sips of water- and cool him out at the walk for 15 minutes before he stands like that. He was very angry at my approach- I said he should know better the standards of care especially being from Ireland ( I seem to recall this gentleman was the same guy that during one of your rallies hyper defended how great a life these horses have). He then proceeded to tell me that the horse has access to water every time he goes in & out of the park- can you believe it? How would he like it if he was only allowed access after the equivalent of running a marathon in record breaking heat! He then told me I was wrong, that I did not know horses & that they are not supposed to have water when hot- another fallacy- of course they should not have a lot, but a few sips are ok, as well as a cool sponge to the chest, stomach, and side areas WHILE being hand-walked would be the appropriate thing to do. But he was too lazy to even walk the horse to cool himself out. I could not believe that animal was left to stand, it's sides heaving in-out-in-out-in-out so quickly. He precisely told me ' you don't know what you're talking about & for now we're going to do it the way the ASPCA says'- I told him he should be ashamed of himself & walked away before things got physical- seriously though I was as pleasant as i could be confronting someone, if I had not been female I truly felt he would have hit me. Sadly there was nothing I could do except shake my head and walk away. Please share this story on your site- people need to know what is going on- where are the demonstrators? We need to do more! I am sharing this e-mail with hundreds of my clients (bcc'd for their privacy) all whom are avid equestrians animal movers, I hope it will help. I can add, yesterday evening (8/24/09) I saw a driver proceeding at a trot down Central Park South toward 59th street driving a large, flea-bitten grey draft cross. Every few strides he smacked the whip once hard against the horse's side, then the second the horse moved forward he yanked on the reins back so hard the horse's head flexed. May I mention the horse's pace was never too fast- sadly you could tell he is used to this treatment & his mouth has hardened as a result. The horse kept a steady trot pace- the driver behind him's horse was trotting too- maintaining the same speed & that driver never had to use the whip or yank on the reins. I watched the driver in front yank & smack with the whip several times. Once they pulled over I said something to the man- a young foreigner who spoke with a Slavic accent- asking him why he is doing that to the horse- that it is unnecessary and why is he punishing the horse's mouth when the horse is doing what he is asking him to- go forward. He told me 'get out of here'. I then said in a loud verbose tone to the passengers 'you should not patronize this man- he is cruel to his horses'. I don't know if people thought i was crazy or not, but I hope it raised a bit of awareness. As a final note, Thursday (8/27/09), there was a horse which I can only assume was new to the hack line, as he was obviously terrified. He was trotting and then spooked, breaking into a fast canter down central park south. His blinders limited what he could see, so he was turning his head left and right while in motion, trying in vain to see what was behind & on the side of him from fear. His tail was raised, and he was completely 'upside down' (for those who are not familiar with the term, it is used to describe a horse that is travelling completely inverted, head up, back arched the opposite direction of what a horse comfortable under harness or tack should be). The driver did get him to eventually slow to a trot, but it was too fast/extended for the cement and every few strides a leg would slide out on the cement since the horse was travelling so unbalanced. Luckily he did not go down, but who knows what happened after he was out of sight. I felt so bad. I wish I could have bought him right there & brought him upstate to a farm with green grass & away from the city. He was a very good looking animal, and probably purchased at an auction where some owner could not afford him anymore, or perhaps a bi-product of the Amish or harness racing industry....very very sad. It is a real travesty for animals to be exploited this way. It is really, really hard for me to walk by there each day. Heartbreaking. Courtney Caverzasi Anyone whishing to join the cause or to find out what you can do to help- please check out Elizabeth's website: