New York City’s carriage horses, like fashion week itself, are iconic symbols of the city, as reported by NPR radio yesterday when the horses, carriages, and drivers took center stage at the opening of the fashion show.

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Not everyone agreed.  Activists lined the streets, protesting ‘the use of horse-drawn carriages as unsafe and inhumane,’ according to CBSNewYork.

But people who want to see the carriage horses remain in the city were also on display along with the models who were driven “for a moving fashion show,” according to the Daily News, which hosts the Daily News Save Our Horses campaign and petition.

Horses have been used traditionally to pull carriages and farm equipment for business and pleasure for centuries, and like any other activity involving animals, can be performed humanely.

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If the use of carriage horses in NYC is banned, what about the other horses that work in the city? Aren’t police horses also exposed to the same type of alleged harm from air pollution and traffic?  What about other horses who help farmers work their fields, provide transportation, pull sulkies at horse races, or participate in equestrienne competitions?

Blue Star Equiculture™, an all-volunteer non-profit working horse rescue operation urges people interested in the welfare of horses to support carriage horses and other working horses.  In an open letter about the carriage horses in NYC they say:

“Efforts to ban the carriage horses in New York and elsewhere are not only unfounded on the surface with their allegations of “institutionalized abuse,” but also are counterproductive to REAL progress in improving the welfare of America’s horses in meaningful ways.”

The Fédération Equestre Internationale, an international association that organizes horse shows and championships, added Driving as an official Equine Displine in 1970.  Other Equestrian Disciplines include Dressage, Jumping, Eventing, Endurance, Vaulting, Reining, and Para-Equestrian.

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The history of the use of horses in sports, dating back to 680 BC, is outlined on the FEI website.

Proper care of the horses is central to the mission of the FEI and other’s who use these animals for work, play, or entertainment.

Fair play, equality, complicity with the animal and respect for the environment and the horse are the core values of the FEI.”

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The care of the horse is also critically important to the carriage horse owners in NYC and other cities around the country.

It was nice to see these horses, their drivers, and carriages on display and honored by participants of fashion week.

However, this celebration of carriage horses may be short-lived.  If the Mayor fulfills his promise to ban their use in the city, this precedent will not only put an end to this historic (and humane) use of horses, but may also be a stepping stone to the end of similar and other equestrian activities in other localities.