The new mayor of New York City promised to ban the use of carriage horses in the city, an iconic attraction for city dwellers and visitors from around the globe. Like my brother who proposed to my sister-in-law on a horse-drawn NYC carriage, these carriages have served as much more than a mere source of transportation.
Despite the fact that the carriage horses are apparently healthy and humanely treated, according to veterinarians who have recently examined them and inspected the stables in which they are housed, their current use has been condemned as inhumane.
If this use is inhumane, then what about other uses of horses, namely:
- As service animals for law enforcement and crowd control, navigating the same streets of New York that activists claim are unsafe for carriage horses;
- As carriage horses for the Amish and Mennonites, used to transport their occupants on highways alongside automobiles and trucks; and
- As athletes in equestrian competitive events, including cart, carriage, and pulling events.
Opponents of the use of carriage horses in NYC claim that these horses are deprived of access to pasture, despite their 5 week/year required relocation to farms for such access. If lack of pasture access is a measure of inhumane treatment, then the treatment of many show and race horses, similarly restricted, would also be considered inhumane. Additionally, many stables in the tri-state area have minimal, if any, land available for pasture. Many horses living on these premises are extradorinary athletes who receive exemplary care. Finally, restricting access to pasture is often beneficial to horses, especially when during icy, snowy, or other treacherous conditions.
Any legitimate concerns over the care and use of carriage horses should be addressed by amending the laws governing the standards of their care. Whether used for work, entertainment, exhibition, racing, or other equestrian purposes, the best remedy is to require standards that ensure that the care of horses is humanely provided. Bans on specific uses, like the use of carriage horses in NYC, is not the answer. The partnership between humans and horses, one which has endured throughout history, is worthy of preservation, for the benefit of both species.