‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, and Carriage Horses Were Working

Nothing could be more romantic than a Christmas ride around a picturesque town square, or even New York City’s famed Central Park, right? The clop of hooves on pavement, the jingle of harness, the feeling of being transported back to an earlier time when proud carriage horses were the primary mode of transportation. Snuggling up under a warm blanket with a loved one, you can watch the sights of the city go by as you take a brief spin in a sparkling carriage with a folksy man at the reins.

Wrong, actually. Urban carriage horses continue to be used in cities around the world not as a legitimate method of transportation, but as a tourist attraction, and it’s a form of needless cruelty. Horses are not inanimate objects, but living beings, and they’re extremely sensitive to their surroundings. Cities are terrible places for horses, between smog, constant loud noise, hard pavement, and limited space to run free and engage in natural equine behaviors like rolling and playing.

Instead, carriage horses spend their lives in stables except for when they stand on the street waiting for fares or pull people around designated routes, which often require them to share the road with vehicle traffic. It’s dangerous for the horses and their passengers alike; horses may bolt if frightened by something in their environment, and in a collision between a carriage and a motor vehicle, the carriage is unlikely to fare well. In the winter, horses live in ice, salt, and cold; in the summer, they’re at severe risk of heat stress.

Back in the stables, carriage horses develop stress behaviors like chewing on themselves, biting handlers, or gnawing at structural components of the stable. Some kick the walls, injuring themselves as they try to express their frustration with the environment. While carriage horse operators claim their animals are treated well, it’s hard to argue that their living environment is safe and comfortable, or that stress reactions are normal and healthy. Many carriage horses show signs of stress, like appearing “checked out” on the streets.

There’s no reason to keep using urban carriage horses; organizations like NYCLASS, which is lobbying to ban carriage horses in New York City, point out that there are plenty of non-equine alternatives, like vintage cars, which could be used to provide people with a fun, romantic, and interesting taste of the past without endangering animals. Carriage horse welfare is a perennial issue and despite the fact that numerous groups have actively lobbied against the continued use of carriage horses, they continue to be popular attractions.

This is  both because tour operators invest in opposing such campaigns, and because many members of the public don’t know better and aren’t aware that they should demand alternatives. Visitors need to know that they should steer clear of carriage horses, and why; if you want to do something for the animals this Christmas, share this article and encourage your friends to do the same. End the demand for carriage horses, and tour operators will stop supplying.

Related articles:

Carriage Horse Runs Loose in Traffic in New York City

Make Horse-Drawn Carriages History in New York City

Carriage Horse Drops Dead in New York

Photo credit: Tiffany

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Barbar Aamsel
Past Member 1 years ago

Wowww… quite cool blog you have!!!!
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Justingaberial J.
Past Member 2 years ago

Awesome! Immense information there.
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Diane L.
Diane L.2 years ago

(cont)............:seriously, after all this time, and all the comments made and all the proof supplied by Lynda as to "other than" what you believed, if you still do, then that says volumes.

Diane L.
Diane L.2 years ago

Ian, I think your true colors have emerged again, those that I suspected from the onset....you want nothing but to argue, to agitate and have an agenda, part of which is to ignore anything that refutes YOUR beliefs.

I do NOT "habitually" use capitals. I capitolize the first letter of a sentence, which is considered "proper" grammar. Occasionally, I capitalize a word "here and there" for emphasis.........I put the word "DO" in capitals once and the word "NOT" 3 times in my last post. If you read what I said as if I were speaking to you in person, it would be easier to understand what I was saying. The words were capitalized for emphasis only because we do NOT have the ability to use italics or change font or change colors of certain words when posting here. Is that all you can make an issue about?

And "yes", NYC (and all carriage horses) plod along. They are not "timed" and passengers don't pay by the minute, so they are NOT in a hurry. They might break into a slow "jogtrot". Regulations allows them to be "on duty" only for a few hours per day, and out of those hours, most will be spent at the side of a curb, dozing, eating or simply "hanging out". Seems to me, kind of an easy life, actually. I wish I could have worked

Ian, I don't care at this point if you are "convinced" or not. Hard to convince a block of concrete of anything, and seriously, after all this time, and all the comments made and all the proof supplied by Lynda as to "other than" what you

Ian Thompson
Ian Thompson2 years ago

Diane, as I've said before, I used the JR industry as just one example of people who claim to be 'horse lovers' who assure us that all is well and that we don't know what we're talking about; yet scratch the surface and the truth is entirely different. Now you're telling me that NYC carriage horses "plod along, sometimes for only a few minutes out of an entire day". Your assurances do not fill me with any confidence, nor does your habitual use of capitals. Sorry, but I've seen far too many instances of animal suffering at the hands of humans and the suffering proliferates as soon as there is a profit motive. As I've said before, you could not place these horses in a more unnatural environment, and the fact that these horses are forced to live this type of life solely for entertainment angers me more.

Diane L.
Diane L.2 years ago

(cont)...... He was a former personal acquaintance........thru my daughter's best friend a few years back. Princess Anne participates in eventing and is very good at it. Your initial comment that I found fault with, since it was absolutely inaccurate, was that "jumps racing" was abolished in the U.S. We never had "jumps racing"..............we did and still DO have fox hunting, just not chasing foxes anymore. We did and still DO have "eventing". It's pretty popular.

Now, the topic HERE is carriage horses.........NOT a race, NOT timed, and NOT a competition. Horses are not ridden, period, much less at "speed". The horses plod along, sometimes for only a few minutes out of an entire day. There are strict rules and regulations placed on the industry. Few, if any carriage handlers consider their animals as "expendable", nor are they discarded if they are not "fast enough".

Diane L.
Diane L.2 years ago

Ian, you are STILL nit-picking about different words used in different countries. I know very well what "Steeplechasing" is, and if you took 2 minutes to "Google" the Grand National, you'd find it explains it as a jump race that is a "handicapped Steeplechase". Here's the link for your convenience..............


.........There are different words used by Brits and Americans to mean the same thing. In the U.K., they call the heavy coverings given to protect horses from the cold, "rugs".........here, they're called "blankets". In the U.K., what is used to transport a horse is called a "box", here, they're called horse "trailers". The part of a car that covers the engine is called a "bonnet" in the U.K., here's it's the "hood". I worked with a Brit decades ago at Boeing. She once dropped her pencil and yelled out, "Oh, I dropped me RUBBER!". She got 300 faces turned her way, mouths dropped open. She would say, "I have a query"..........again resulting in dropped open mouths! She MEANT to say, "I have a question".

Bottom line is that "jump racing" (as you prefer to call it or steeplechasing is a timed event that consists of an entire group of horses & riders, while YES, eventing (one leg of 3) is the same thing, just done individually. I'm quite familiar with eventing. It's part of the Summer Olympics. If you are familiar with it, then the name "Todd Truen" may be familiar. He was a former personal acquaintan

Ian Thompson
Ian Thompson2 years ago

Diane, just went to the British Horse Racing Authority web-site and under the banner of "Guide to Jump Racing" the very first sentence is "Welcome to our guide to jump racing, where we explain how Jump or 'National Hunt' Racing in Britain works and is set up". The term jump or jumps racing covers the 2 forms of JR the steeplechase and the hurdle and both are definitely not in the Summer Olympics. Show jumping and cross country is in the Summer Olympics but I think most horsemen would consider JR completely different from eventing. I got into the area of JR as an example of how people in an industry will try and deceive.

Diane L.
Diane L.2 years ago

Ian, please don't "talk down" to me! I am very much aware of what steeple-chasing is. I'm the one who explained that to you..........it's not called "jump racing" except possibly in Oz, but in the U.K., and last time I looked at the globe, Oz was not in the U.K. and no longer is a British "territory". Call it by the proper term. I know what steeple-chasing consists of, and telling me that it is ridden on an established "racetrack" with "professional jockeys" is condescending and insulting. I know what it is. The course is pre-set, but not closed to amateurs. Geez, you said it had been ABOLISHED in the U.S. No, it has not..........they just call it EVENTING. The difference lies only in the fact STEEPLECHASING is done in a large group, just like a race on the flat, and eventing calls for each horse to be ridden alone, but are timed. The Grand National (still exists, just doesn't involve Elizabeth Taylor as Velvet Brown) goes on as usual. Yes, eventing also INCLUDES open (stadium) jumping AND dressage and the riders are usually a bit better horsemen. I've seen some of the steeplechasing and the riders look like pretty poor riders, flopping all over the place, leaning back over the jumps, feet jutting forwards..........don't "go there" about "professional jockeys". You're nitpicking about it being completely different. In some ways, yes, but fact......the 3rd leg of an "event" is steeplechasing one at a time.

BTW, the topic here is the carriage-horse industry, pa

Ian Thompson
Ian Thompson2 years ago

Diane, I am not criticising others for not having "hands on" knowledge, on the contrary. My whole point was that we shouldn't accept what people in any industry tell us without analysis. FYI, jumps racing, both here and in the UK refers to steeplechases and the hurdles, where horses ridden by professional jockeys race around an established racetrack (normally over a distance of 2 to 3 miles) and people wager on the race the same as they would a flat race (they normally have flat races on the same programme). It's basically the same as having a race at Belmont except the horses have to jump either steeples or hurdles. It's completely different from eventing.