If you live in a city like New York, Montreal, or Charleston, you’ve probably passed the carriages at some point and wondered whether it’s an animal rights issue. If you’re on the fence, here are some points to consider.
1. It keeps horses in good health.
Carriage companies are regulated by their jurisdictions to ensure the horses are in good health. This means they receive regular vet checks and approval, scheduled vacations, a good quality diet, and a working routine that keeps them mentally stimulated and in good shape. One of the best things humans can do for their physical and mental well-being is to get regular exercise, and the same applies to horses.
Research on NYC carriage horses supports that they’re more content in a working routine than they are on their annual furlough.
2. It saves them from a poorer quality of life and potentially, the slaughterhouse.
Horses used in carriage operations are draft horses—typically Percherons, Belgians, and Clydesdales or a cross of these breeds. They were bred initially in Europe for heavy farming. Some pockets of Europe still employ horses this way, but it’s been virtually eradicated in North America by large-scale farming. This puts draft horses out of work.
A 2000-lb horse is a huge financial burden on its owner, and it can be difficult to find someone willing to take that on unless they can put it to work in some way. The carriage industry not only keeps horses in good health, but creates a sustainable income to ensure that wellbeing. If all the horses employed in the carriage industry right now were suddenly put out of work because of activists, it would be extremely difficult to find them all homes that can offer them their current quality of life. When horses can’t find homes, many of them go to slaughter.
3. It gives city dwellers an opportunity to engage with and learn about large animals.
As someone who grew up around horses, I can say that working with them has largely shaped who I am today in a positive way. Not everybody has an opportunity to benefit from those experiences, especially if they live in a city. Bringing working horses into cities gives people the opportunity to interact with them, sometimes for the first time ever. They can also ask teamsters questions and learn about horses and their care. In my experience in the industry, many locals stop by to get their daily dose of horse cuddles—and I believe it has a positive if not therapeutic effect on both species.
4. It creates jobs and has a positive effect on the local economy.
Carriage companies employ hundreds, if not thousands of people in North America, giving them opportunities to work in a field they’re passionate about. Unless you have a specific skill such as a veterinarian or farrier, it can otherwise be difficult to find equestrian employment, since modern society is moving away from it.
Cities become known for their carriage companies, and this is a huge draw for tourists. When they come on a carriage ride, they hear about sights and other local businesses in the area, which benefits the community and local economy. The company I work for also sources its hay locally, which supports the small-scale, local farming industry.
5. It’s safer and better for the environment than driving a car.
Despite what radical animal rights activists would have you believe, carriages are significantly safer than vehicles. Statistics gathered in NYC show that you’re more likely to be killed by a falling tree than during a carriage ride through Central Park. I believe that part of this is because it’s a live animal; companies only use horses they trust and know are consistent and reliable. Drivers are also probably more attentive to their surroundings and less likely to take risks or make careless mistakes like vehicle drivers might, because their livelihood, equine partner, and safety depend on it.
Let’s not forget that the carriage industry supports horsepower with renewable resources!