Maybe you have seen the horses with blinders on their eyes — thick chains in their mouths, bridles strapped so tight around their head they can’t move — lugging 1,000 pounds behind them. Maybe you have heard their cries. While traveling in several North American cities my son Noah and I have seen the horses in their chains. We have gone up to the gentle giants and sadly stroked their soft noses. I have looked in their eyes and said, “I am so sorry”. Even if Noah asked to be taken on a horse-drawn carriage ride, I would refuse to contribute to the industry for these simple reasons.
Noah doesn’t understand why other people don’t see the cruelty associated with this mode of transportation. “This job would suck!” Noah told me the first time he saw them. And he doesn’t even know the full extent of what their “job” entails. Did you know these horses work nine hours a day, seven days a week? And that is according to the law; many carriage drivers have been caught forcing the horses to work more than that, calling it a double shift. Horses prefer to be free from this prison and graze at their leisure and run through forests, not busy city streets.
Noah and I have seen cars swerving around the scared horses in traffic while exhaust pipe fumes blow up the horses' noses. This stinky smoke inhalation has caused horses to get lung cancer. It is not natural for horses to breathe in pollution; they are meant to breathe fresh air, not gasoline fumes. Horses’ nostrils are only a few feet away from car tailpipes and they are continually breathing in pollution that has caused cancer, accelerated aging, breathing problems, lung damage and emphysema.
On top of the polluted air, many of these horses suffer from heat stroke and massive dehydration. Noah and I have seen horses foaming at the mouth because they were so thirsty, while the bits from their chains ripped into their soft skin. I have offered to give the horses water, only to be yelled at by the carriage driver.
As a mom, it’s my responsibility to teach my son about safety. I taught Noah age-appropriate road rules: “Always wear a seat belt in the car,” and, “Wear a helmet when you ride your bike.” Why do we teach our kids this? Well, for the obvious reason that accidents happen on the road. Roads, even those cobblestone ones, are not safe places for wild animals like horses that are easily spooked and startled. Images and facts have emerged in recent years about the cruelty of horse-drawn carriages and even reported deaths. In New York City, many of the horses are involved in horrific accidents and since 2006, at least nine have been killed and many more left with broken bones and cruel injuries. Cars have crashed into the carriages, people have been thrown out, children have been hurt. Horses have suffered broken legs, received bloody gashes, sustained multiple injuries and the worst, been killed. Bottom line? Horses do not belong on city streets lugging around humans.
Noah and I have seen the horses being whipped, yelled at despite their obvious exhaustion and forced to work in temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. We were sweating and tired just walking around the block, and we didn’t have carriages strapped to our backs. Actor Lea Michelle spoke up against horse-drawn carriages in New York City and said, “Imagine for a moment that you’re forced to do hard physical labor all day, seven days a week — whether it’s sweltering hot or freezing cold outside. At the end of the day, instead of relaxing on [an] easy chair or sleeping in a comfortable bed, you are locked in a tiny closet all night long.”
There is no luxurious retirement for these gentle souls. They are forced to work hard their entire lives at a job they hate and then most are killed. Don’t kid yourself that they are sent to retire in an open pasture and rest their tired bones. When they can no longer pull a heavy carriage, some of the horses are turned into food for dogs or for carnivores in zoos, and some are shipped overseas for human consumption. Hundreds of New York City carriage horses have mysteriously disappeared and can no longer be accounted for. Not one or two horses, but 529 NYC carriage horses disappeared. (What?!) I don't want to imagine what actually happened to these poor animals.
If you have two feet and can walk, you don’t need to be pulled around by a horse. Walking is a great form of exercise, and nobody gets hurt. In Charleston one summer, Noah and I took a bicycle taxi. It was driven by a human that wanted the job. We paid him, he smiled and there was no exploitation or abuse. Needless to say, if you are visiting a city you can rent a bike, take a taxi or Uber, jog, run or piggyback your kids.
Educate your children and teach them about alternate methods of transportation that don't involve cruelty. If you want to be a superstar and your city still allows horse-drawn carriage rides, start a petition to put an end to it. Contact your local politicians or legislators and ask them to sponsor a ban on this cruelty. Be the voice for the horses before any more get hurt, die or mysteriously disappear.
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