Save NYC Carriage Horses From Radical Animal Rights Activists

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Save NYC Carriage Horses From Radical Animal Rights Activists is a project of carriage horse supporter Jill Adamski.

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“Don’t you think he’s cold?” a woman asked upon sight of a carriage horse on a 35 degree snowy day, in a blanket. “No, he’s a horse,” the driver responded. Horses bodies are naturally equipped for the cold, which is generally their preferred type of weather, and they grow in a winter coat to keep them comfortable. Many horse owners will even report their horses choosing to stand in the snow or rain out on a pasture, rather than taking optional shelter from it. There are even some NYC carriage horses who have drivers that struggle to keep their blanket on as their horses consistently grab and toss them to the ground. (See video in comments below.) While there is debate in the horse world over blankets being used at all, New York City carriage horse regulations require them. Every carriage driver knows their horse’s preferences as some tend to grow in a winter coat thicker than others and will work up a sweat that could cause them to catch a chill if they are kept wearing one while working. Other horses do better with one on throughout their workday, so you will see some variety among the horses on the hackline each winter.

New York City got their first snowfall of the season yesterday and the horse carriage industry responded appropriately! Following their regulations, horses were blanketed when they were standing on the hackline at 40 degrees or below and wore rain blankets in wet weather while working at 55 degrees or below. Though many horses are comfortable below zero on pastures, NYC carriage horses don’t work when temperatures drop below 19 degrees, ‘nor in harsh weather extremes per their regulations. When the Mounted Police Unit and NY Health Dept’s equine veterinarians determined the snow was falling fast and heavy enough that a weather related work suspension would go into effect, they sent drivers a text notification just after 4pm, and every horse still working followed protocol, finishing the ride they were on and returned to the stable. No carriage horse went back to work until shortly after 10am this morning when the suspension was lifted. Drivers took their horses home keeping them safe in the street by driving them primarily at a walk in borium-coated shoes like the ones worn by mounted police horses to prevent slipping. NYCLASS doesn’t want you to know any of that. Executive Director of NYCLASS, Edita Birnkrant (previously of Friends Of Animals before being fired for harassment of horse carriage drivers) went around the hackline photographing horses before the suspension went into effect, and caught horses in the middle of returning to the stable, falsely insinuating wrongdoing among them to their mislead followers. Horses currently rest comfortably on flat ground on their hacklines, where they have been for over 160 years. They are beside traffic, undisturbed by it, but if NYCLASS has their way, moving their hacklines into the park, they will have to work in traffic far more than they are used to doing on every ride and be forced to stand on hills at some of the proposed locations. In fact, every point they complain about on their Facebook page will either not change or be worsened by the proposal they are trying to push through the D.O.T. (You can find out more about it at www.SaveCentralParkSouth.com) The proposal itself is actually designed to drive the industry out of business.

As the first snowflakes fell, most drivers called it an early day and headed to the stable around 2pm having given enough rides to cover their horse’s expenses for the day. A few drivers put up with the snow a couple more hours before the suspension began to ensure they could cover the cost of their horse’s daily care. (As humans aren't as equipped for the cold as horses are, most drivers bundle up in ski suits while they stand by their equine partners.) Most NYC carriage horse’s board costs more than most carriage drivers’ apartment’s rent! How much do you spend on quality footwear? Imagine you had to buy two pairs at a time every four to six weeks; That’s what horse carriage owners spend just on their horses four shoes per regulation. Most of the money you spend on a carriage ride goes directly to the upkeep and care of the horse giving you that ride. While every driver will keep a portion of that ride to support their own family and sustain themselves to be able to provide their horse with the care they deserve, it’s typically in direct benefit to a horse to take a ride with them, especially in the slower season leading up to and following the December holiday season. You can find out more about the NYC carriage horse industry at www.CarriageOn.com

(Photos: NYC Carriage Industry's First Snowfall Of The Season 11/15/18; Horses comfortably blanketed on the hackline, being driven in Central Park, and outside the stable upon returning from work.)
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It was close to midnight when I was shampooing my carriage horse's legs after our shift. I knew just beyond the stable walls there were streets of honking traffic, pedicab bicycle bells, people shouting, and the general New York City hustle and bustle. But at the end of the day, the stable was quiet. Breaking through the silence, sounds of the horses seemed magnified, echoing off their stalls. There was the chewing of hay, slurping of water from their continuous flow water dishes, and light pound of hooves against straw bedding over rubber mats. Occasionally I'd hear a snort, a snore, or a squeal followed by a kick on a stall door as the horses interacted with each other. Straw rustled between pawing hooves, circling their stall for a comfortable spot to call it a night. Some of the horses let out a relaxed groan as they lay down for their deep sleep. Every horse, unaware that there were humans working to move their familiarly comfortable hackline from where they preferred it to be and other humans fighting for their welfare to be sustained. (Find out more about the proposal at www.SaveCentralParkSouth.com)

“I also do work on sleep in horses and I’ve written several papers on sleep and one thing you’ll know when a horse is really comfortable in their environment is if they will lay down to sleep, and what happened was almost invariably we came in the morning, at least half the barn were lying down in their stalls. And they don’t do that because they’re tired, they do that because they can actually feel comfortable in their environment and they can collect the REM sleep that they need and I actually did see a few REM-ing, so that’s pretty cool.” -Dr. Joseph Bertone, DVM, MS, DACVIM, WesternU College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) Professor of Equine Medicine on a visit to Clinton Park Stables, www.youtube.com/watch?v=24IUP-wTZeo

Curious about the living conditions of the horses in the NYC carriage horse industry? The EQUUS Film Festival partnered with New York State Horse Council - Southeast Region to host a free stable tour at the largest NYC horse carriage stable on December 2nd, 2pm-4pm! Ever since the stable doors have opened to the public, animal rights organizations like NYCLASS have had trouble perpetuating myths about NYC carriage horses, like the one that said their stalls weren’t large enough for them to lay down in. Security will be high to keep animal rights extremists off the property, so reserve your spot for the tour at filmfreeway.com/EQUUSFilmFestival/tickets

Photo Credit: Jill A. (NYC carriage horses laying down in their stalls at Clinton Park Stable for their deep sleep 11/7/2018.)
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This is a comment on NYCLASS’s FaceBook page that I’d like to respond to where my comment won’t be deleted, as is common practice with NYCLASS’s page admins when they see comments that don’t further their agenda: Let me get this straight, you insulted someone and falsely accused them of mistreating an animal they have devoted so much of their time caring for and you’re surprised that they didn’t respond to you politely? If you don’t have any equine experience, it’s an ignorant move to make assumptions about them. Perhaps if you sought out factual information rather than jumping to false conclusions, you wouldn’t have had to feel negativity towards that carriage driver and you could have praised him for taking such good care of his horse! While there are times carriage drivers may be busy working on the hackline, most drivers are willing to answer questions about their horse and job, provided they’re asked politely. “Could you please explain to me how a bit works?” would be an acceptable way to phrase a question, while “That bit must be painful for your horse to wear, so how come you let him wear it?” would not be. (Bits don’t cause pain to horses when they’re used properly. The horse will only feel some pressure from this tool when used by a driver which allows them to communicate with and request direction from their horse.) While there are a variety of draft mixes, and every horse in the NYC carriage horse industry is built to pull something, many of them are Standardbred horses. They have a skinnier build than a bulky plow horse, but they’re full of muscle which makes their job of pulling a carriage quite easy. Many of them come from the Amish that use them on their own carriages, and some come from the racetrack. Every horse cocks their hind leg while resting when they are comfortable and at ease with their surroundings, as they don’t need to be on all four hooves, ready to take off. A comfortable horse will lower their head, have their ears tilted back, and often nap in this position. The look of a relaxed horse should not be confused with an uncomfortable horse. ... See MoreSee Less

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Why is it such a big deal that the D.O.T.’s proposal to move NYC horse carriage hacklines from Central Park South and into the park have some locations on hills?

Intermittent use of hills and ramps are not issues for horses, especially when a carriage driver is using the breaks of a carriage going down a hill. However, consistently keeping horses with their carriages on a hill without the breaks when they should be resting would put unnecessary strain on a horse.
“Currently the carriage stands on Central Park South are all relatively flat offering carriage horses a nice place to rest and relax between rides. Two of the proposed stands are on significant hills at W. 72ndSt. and 7thAve. inside the park. These hills, where horses will spend most of their workdays, adds undue extra “work” for the horse holding the carriage from rolling back when they are supposed to be resting between rides. A cursory inspection of the proposed stands, plus consultation with carriage drivers, would have quickly revealed this problem to DOT. Unfortunately, the DOT has only been consulting with anti-carriage-horse lobbyists.”
-Christina Hansen

Find out more about the proposal at www.SaveCentralParkSouth.com

Photo Credit: Jill A. (Carriage horses lined up on Central Park South, Grand Army Plaza)
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Some jobs have a uniform or dress code, but in the NYC carriage horse industry, ever driver’s style can be completely unique. Today some carriage drivers decided to celebrate Halloween by dressing up in costume for the occasion!

There are a variety of horse carriages that line up around Grand Army Plaza where it’s become a tradition for potential customers to have somewhat of a pick of the carriage they’d like a ride with. The closest location the recent D.O.T. proposal would move these hacklines to puts them inside the park near the entrance of the zoo. It’s a location that isn’t visible from passerby outside the park and is actually behind a pedicab stand, notorious for misleading passerby about carriage rides in order to entice them into opting for a pedicab ride. It's an area that's virtually deserted in the evening after sunset and zoo closure. Many tourists request directions to the zoo in that area, indicating they may have trouble finding horse carriages even if they are aware of their location in the park. Additionally complicating the industry, the proposed hackline would pin carriages between curbs of cobblestone on either side where the only way for one to get out of a line of carriages would put their carriage in risk of damage or worse their horse at risk of injury. The days of being able to choose the color of your carriage, character of your horse, and style of your driver would be finished. A line of horse carriages would also be disrupted in order to make room for a carriage leaving the middle of the line, which could happen for a number of reasons. Horse carriages could be forced into the street around Grand Army Plaza causing congestion to traffic whenever a carriage from the middle of the line finished their shift before the others, as this routinely happens. Finally, on either side of this proposed hackline’s cobblestone curbs there is a street where bicycles, pedicabs, ambulances, police vehicles, park rangers, Central Park Conservancy vehicles, and so on routinely fly down. How are potential customers supposed to receive information about horse carriage rides or even approach a carriage just for the experience of interacting with a horse (as commonly currently happens around Grand Army Plaza on the Central Park South hacklines) if they have to cross busy park roads to get to them? The proposal overall puts the horse carriages out of sight, out of mind, and will eventually put them out of business.

For more information on the proposal check out www.SaveCentralParkSouth.com
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About Author

Christina Hansen is a New York City carriage driver and a spokesperson for the carriage industry. She is a proud member of Teamsters Local 553.

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