Improving Carriage Horse Welfare


Hi! My name is Casie Bazay. I'm a mom, a freelance writer, and a certified equine acupressure practitioner.

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15 Responses

  1. Melya Stylos says:

    I hope you send this to the specific NY department that might read this – it’s easy to read, and you were right on the feet and the hay. BItless is so political :).

  2. robin huntington says:

    it would be interesting to know/see how these horses are housed. i have heard that conditions are quite poor.

  3. Tammy says:

    Hi….I lived in New York City for 10 years and would see the carriage horses all the time. There are very strict regulations on the horses. My dog/cat vet also provided vet care to the carriage horses. He said they were always up to date on shots and he never saw any abuse to the horses. They are also returned back to home when the weather is too hot or cold and I believe they get 4 weeks of vacation at a farm upstate New York. I would like to see a few things changed. Their housing appears to be a brownstone that has been converted into a barn. The staircase was removed and a large ramp was added so the horses can go up to the second floor. This building in next to railroad tracks so I know it must be very loud for them. Also, I would like them to be completely off the street to give rides only in the park!

    • Casie says:

      Thanks for sharing. It’s good to know they’re under strict regulations (this is what the article I read stated as well).

    • NYCRider says:

      Actually, all the NYC carriage stables were built at the turn-of-the century (the last century) to be used as stables. Not one has ever been used for human habitation, as NYC housing records will confirm. (Ditto for the new NYPD stables, though they were built just a few years ago.) As for the railroad — the West 30s stables are just east of the Javits Center in the upper 30s; there nearest railroad tracks are south of 34th Street.

      • NYCRider says:

        Correction of sorts — the new NYPD stables are located on the ground floor of a luxury condo building (the Mercedes House), so I guess you could say the NYPD horses do live with people!

  4. Jane Meggitt says:

    The NYC carriage horses are probably the most-regulated horses on the planet. I have toured the barns and horses all have large box stalls – they can certainly lie down – with automatic waterers and hay 24/7 when they are inside. They are in good physical condition, and the walking they do throughout the day as part of their job is much better for them than a horse kept stalled most of the day.

  5. Ellen Attridge says:

    As noted elsewhere, the NYC carriage horses are about the most regulated horses in the country. They get shod every six weeks, and they walk primarily on asphalt, not concrete. Asphalt was originally designed for horses, it predates automobiles. The carriage horses have a very low incidence of foot and leg issues.
    As for bitless bridles, they are frowned upon for carriage horses for safety reasons.. A rider has more direct communications with a horse, seat, legs, etc. than a driver has. A driver has only reins, voice and a whip (which is used for light touch communications much like a rider would use legs.) The most crucial message a driver can give a horse is to STOP. In the rare event of a spook, a headstrong horse would be much less likely to ignore a bit that it would a bitless bridle. The fact that carriage horses work with bits in their mouths is why they cannot be fed hay while they work. Hay can wad up around a bit, causing poor communication, or even choke.
    The carriage industry has a more than 150 year history of experience and all your suggestions have probably been considered somewhere along the line. Horsemanship for city carriage horses differs from horsemanship for other disciplines. While it may seem strange to other horse people, there are valid reasons the horses are cared for in the manner they are. Given the number of equine professional associations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Equine Practioners have endorsed the New York carriage industry, they’re probably doing OK by the horses.

    • Casie says:

      Thanks for the info., Ellen. I believe there are a lot of misconceptions about bitless though. I rode with bits for many years, and don’t have too much issue with people using them (if not used harshly). I only ride bitless now (due to an incident with a bit), and none of my horses have had any issue with responding to the bitless bridle, even if spooked. I simply think that due to the number of hours these horses work, bitless would be a better option. I doubt it’s been considered or even tried just for the simple fact that bits have been the norm for so long. I think it would be worth looking into–especially because it would allow them to eat hay during the day. I’m not sure that all vets understand the importance of forage and the consequences of going without it for hours on end.

      • NYCRider says:

        Forage is important, yes, but every horse is unique. I’ve had an “easy keeper” who was given a set amount of hay — which he ate immediately — twice a day because he would have gotten FAT otherwise, despite regular exercise and a paddock to play in. I’ve visited the stables and the horses have plenty of quality hay when they’re at home.

        • Casie says:

          The horse continually produces stomach acid, and if not buffered with saliva (produced from the act of chewing forage), this will increase the pH of the stomach, damaging the mucosal lining. This is how gastric ulcers develop. Easy keeper or not, restricting forage for long periods of time is not healthy. There is plenty of research on this–it’s not just my opinion!

          • NYCRider says:

            Thank you for replying with an answer that is based in science — and while this is true for some horses, and people should be aware of this, it is not true for all. My “easy keeper” never once suffered from an ulcer or colic, and we never had to call the vet aside from his regular checkups. His diet, recommended by his vet, worked for him. (And maybe this was because of his draft ancestors? Who knows — regardless, he was one tough horse!)

  6. Kenny says:

    We humans have a way of making stories like this all about us and our thoughts, what we think. This is the problem. The horses have no choice. They are forced to do what the humans want them to do day in and day out. It is not like these beings applied for the job (just like cows and pigs don’t say “Hey! You can kill me for food! It is all good! I am totally OK with it! Take me to the slaughterhouse!”). Humans forcing their will on other beings is a form of slavery. This is the main problem here. It should be a discussion about ethics and animal use, not “animal welfare”. I don’t know of one single nonhuman animal that is a machine. The people who profit from their use do not mind using them as such though.

    • Casie says:

      While I tend to agree with you, Kenny, I know that most ‘horse folks’ would not. People are more likely to take into consideration a series of small steps (like what I’ve suggested here) than a giant leap, as you suggest. Ingrained mindsets aren’t easily changed as I’m sure you know.

      • Kenny says:

        Yes, I agree about ingrained midsets. Very true! We humans do have a hard time questioning the stories we find ourselves living in, and many times others (human and nonhuman) are exploited because of it. We create many problems all around the planet when we don’t think about these things deeply and critically. The stories and outcomes are usually really too small and narrow. We are all earthlings sharing this planet together. Think of all the concepts that keep us from seeing this simple fact in our day to day decisions. And these decisions do have an impact on others.

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