Save NYC Carriage Horses From Radical Animal Rights Activists


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

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Dear NYC horse carriage ban supporters who spoke to me last night about how I should Google what I do in the industry I actually work in every day: You told me that you have and know horses, but when I asked you to then admit that my horse’s body language was showing a relaxed horse with his hind leg cocked, his head slightly lowered, and ears slightly back, you remained silent and insisted that he was stressed being there in our city. I didn't even get a chance to bring up the scientific cortisol (stress hormone) study that revealed our horses weren't at all stressed. When you asked me if I knew where he lived and I told you that I’m there every day and I could share some pictures of my horse drying at the stable after the shower I gave him two days ago, you told me you already knew the stable well, from pictures you found online. How do you believe you know more about a stable I work out of from random pictures on the internet than someone who spends time there every day?

The condescending smile on your faces told me that I was talking to a brick wall that night, but I wasn’t going to give you the satisfaction of telling you off like I probably should have, because despite what you want to think of me, I’m a pretty decent person. You thought I was naïve to believe NYC carriage horses go on a minimum of five weeks vacation every year. You told me that we were actually slaughtering them, but you didn’t explain how they keep coming back to life when they return from vacation every few months. As if I wouldn’t recognize that a horse other than my own had returned and there wouldn’t be a paper trail of his vaccinations? Why did you even ask me about horses that you claim “disappear” every few months if you were afraid to know the truth about their great care? You figured I didn’t personally know the person who drives their trailer to bring them to their pastures, didn’t you? You actually thought there was some sort of financial gain to consistently purchase and train horses for the city from scratch again and again. You refused to use logic. You insisted that after my horse retires we were going to slaughter him. I told you that that was ridiculous and sick to say, but even after my horse was nuzzling me, you continued to laugh at the idea that my horse enjoys my company and we work in a partnership. You told me that there were too many horses to healthily retire, forgetting they don’t all retire at once, which a ban on them would actually do. You ignored what equine veterinarians that examine our horses have to say about their health, and insist that they’re worked to a point where we decide there’s no longer any way they can exist in a healthy retirement. When I gave you some examples of healthy NYC carriage horses I personally knew over the last twenty years who lived great lives in retirement, you said those were only a few horses. I asked if you were going to stand there while I discussed every horse who had ever retired. I stumped you when you asked how long I’d been involved with the industry and I told you it was for a few years because you were about to say “just wait a couple of months until you see.” That’s right, I hadn’t witnessed anything you spoke about in those years.

You seemed surprised that I was “well spoken” as you said in your back-handed compliment, but you have no respect for intelligence. Being open minded, trusting someone who chose lower pay than their previous profession for the love of horses, and who spends a good portion of their day caring for the same horse, over what you may think goes on as an outsider is intelligent. You blocked out any and all factual evidence against your claims and insisted that my horse wasn’t in good hands, but I call him “my” horse even if he isn’t on the paperwork because he sees me as “his” person. He paws the ground if I walk too far away from him until I return. He gently pulls me close to him by the hood of my jacket. He looks to me for support whenever he is unsure about his surroundings and I’m there for him. When we’re alone in his stall he breathes a slow and relaxed breath at me and stands at my side. When we’re waiting for our next ride on the hackline he nuzzles my shoulder and my hair. My horse doesn’t want choices in his life made by you and nothing you want to believe about him will ever reflect the truth. You’re the kind of people that like to give the industry a bad name because you couldn’t find a worthwhile cause to go after. This was easy for you to attack and it makes you feel good about yourself to do so. Just remember that if you really cared about a single one of our horses, you would stop projecting your own sad life onto them and listen to those who share a more personal connection to them. I’m the one grooming, feeding, and watching out for him each day. I’m the one making sure he gets his exercise and income to care for him by hacking rides in the park for him to do. What are you doing for any of our horses in addition to complaining about them? When did you ever take a moment to think about my horse’s best interests instead of what you think they should be? You don’t know what it means to be a true “animal person.” You have no right to judge what you don’t understand.

I wrote this piece to publicly personally vent about that conversation last night, but as a long-time driver told me, “welcome to the business.” It’s a sad fact that every now and then we will encounter people like this, but it is a fact that we have to deal with them. I haven’t had my own shift for very long but I’ve already had these discussions accusing me of horrific things, I’ve been shouted at, cursed at, and even physically swung at, yet I don’t plan on leaving. That's a love of horses. I have no doubt that we’re doing the right thing for horses in this industry and all the evidence is on our side to support that. We will always have a handful of ignorant people who refuse to open their mind and think logically about our industry because their feelings will always mean more to them than facts that counter their original impressions. I just hope that the general mentality towards horse carriage industries stays positive overall. So, share facts frequently. Be patient with those who question it. Physically investigate and don’t just rely on biased online research. Support carriage businesses by taking rides where ever you go. Tip big. Let your child pet a horse (always after asking the owner first.) Cheer on a driver passing by. Speak up for drivers doing the right thing for their horses. Speak up to politicians considering bans on horse carriage industries. Keep the truth going and don’t let it get stomped out by misinformed animal rights extremists. Don’t give up. We need all horse people, and animal people in general to stick together to make sure well regulated carriage horse industries are never a thing of the past. We need to keep our connections to horses close before we push them out of existence.

Photo Credit: Christina Hansen (NYC Sidewalk) Via
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"Animal rights activists, still extremely unhappy with the state of New York City's horse carriage industry, are renewing their push for reform, including by again pushing the mayor to act. In a recent meeting with Mayor Bill de Blasio, anti-horse carriage activists, including Edita Birnkrant, executive director of New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets, the group better known as NYCLASS, took particular issue with the health department’s oversight of the industry.

Now, NYCLASS is getting behind a proposal to change the way the industry is regulated entirely, an idea generated, unusually, by a lawyer who sits on the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission. Instead of having three agencies oversee the horse carriages — the health department, the Department of Consumer Affairs and the New York Police Department — NYCLASS would like the taxi regulator to be in charge. “Since the Department of Health is clearly asleep at the switch — despite whistleblower attempts to shame them into action — streamlining oversight under the [taxi commission] would be a smart move to protect horses from this ongoing abuse,” a NYCLASS spokesman said.

According to NYCLASS, the idea originated with Nora Marino, a Queens attorney and animal rights activist who sits on the board of the Taxi and Limousine Commission and is friends with Birnkrant. The idea was not raised in the recent meeting with de Blasio. “They are a for-hire transportation industry, which is what we regulate,” Marino said of the carriages in a recent interview. “So, it just kind of dawned on me, why don’t we have the horse-drawn carriage industry? We’re better equipped, we’re better experienced, and...I think having one agency oversee this industry, it would be far more efficient.”

The proposal targets the health department in particular, which regularly refutes NYCLASS contentions that horse carriage drivers are mistreating their horses. For example, last September, in the incident that spurred Marino to action, a passerby spotted a horse named Norman lying in the street. His photos ended up in the New York Post. The story was a classic of the New York City horse-carriage genre: NYCLASS said Norman collapsed from exhaustion. Horse carriage drivers said the horse just tripped. The health department concurred with the drivers. “So this horse Norman that collapsed over Labor Day weekend, how many hours was that horse forced to work?” asked Marino. On paper, regulations limit how many hours carriage horses can work. But “who’s keeping track of that?” asked Marino. “As the [taxi commission], we are so involved in the industry that we regulate. We can pinpoint where a car is, we know who the driver is.” Maybe, she suggested, it should be the same way with horse carriages.

She said she ran the idea by Meera Joshi, the chair of the taxi commission. Joshi, she said, didn’t immediately shoot it down. Asked for comment, taxi commission spokesman Allan Fromberg said the agency is “aware of Commissioner Marino’s passionate personal interest in this matter,” and it helped her communicate with the officials that do oversee the horse carriages.

A spokesman for the mayor had no comment. But NYCLASS’s recent meeting with him and its decision to back this proposal comes as the group is reengaging with politics, now that that the investigations into de Blasio’s campaign finance activities have concluded. During the 2013 mayoral campaign, NYCLASS played a pivotal role in elevating the de Blasio campaign, and sinking that of then-City Council speaker Christine Quinn. De Blasio, a convert to the horse carriage cause, repeatedly professed during the campaign to find the carriages inhumane, and promised to rid the city of them upon taking office. That proved easier said then done. Despite investing a tremendous amount of political capital in the effort, and withstanding the incessant ridicule of the city’s editorial pages, the mayor’s crusade ran aground on resistance from union leaders, councilmembers, pedicab operators and park advocates.

Christina Hansen, a spokeswoman for the horse carriage drivers, called the whole taxi commission idea “bizarre.” “We like being regulated by the health department, because they have equine veterinarians and they know about horses and they can help keep our horses safe and healthy,” she said.

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NYCLASS is making desperate attempts at creating a negative image of the NYC carriage horse industry, but horse people know better than to fall for it! This image is now making rounds on the internet after NYCLASS, teamed with PETA, staged a fuss over it, complete with a couple of people holding posters of it outside one of the stables this morning. Bizarre claims were made that an inspector leaked the photo to the NY Post (Article: yet the agencies which monitor the NYC horse carriage stables find no wrong doing. The NY Post must have been really reaching for publicity this time, knowing what a popular topic NYC carriage horse have been. (A few years ago, the NY Daily News covered a much more interesting article on horse manure: Carriage driver, Christina Hansen was contacted about the photo before the NY Post decided to publish the story and addressed it with a mini stable tour in a video you can catch here: -But her full written response is what we’d like to share with you now:

“This is a totally normal horse stall, prior to mucking by one of our stablemen, most likely in the morning. Sophia the horse here is shown comfortably lying down in her 9' x 10' box stall. (Remember when NYCLASS used to claim the carriage horses couldn't turn around or lie down?). [There is plenty of room for her, no danger of getting cast, and she can lie out flat. As she's a working horse, stalls are for eating, sleeping and hanging out near neighbors, not for exercise. NYC carriage horses get a minimum of 5 weeks vacations on pastures per year, though many go for longer. All the carriage horses have box stalls per minimum NYC size regulations, but there's nothing wrong with standing stalls either. Many horses actually prefer them, since they're closer to their neighbors.] There is plenty of sawdust bedding; it's even spilling out in the aisle. [Underneath the bedding, the stall is lined with a rubber mat over wood.] Horses lay down for 1-2 hours a day, but only if they feel comfortable and secure in their surroundings. Sophia is also a gray horse, and you can see in the picture that she is not mud- or manure-caked. She's not stained. She's a clean horse, which is evidence of regular stall cleaning, grooming and care.

Sophia is a large Percheron, who weighs 1,800 to 2,000 lbs. A typical 1,000 lb horse produces about 40 lbs of manure per day, and poops on average about once every 2 hours. Sophia produces 60-80 lbs of manure a day, as a conservative estimate. Essentially horses are grazing animals, who eat practically all day, and so poop around the clock. Yes, they poop on the ground, where they are. It's what grazing animals do.

In the photo, I see two, maybe three, piles of manure (it's hard to tell because she seems to have stepped on them some, and broken them up), so her stall AT MOST was last cleaned 4-6 hours previously. Stalls at West Side Livery are cleaned multiple times a day, and the entire building produces about 16 cubic yards of manure and soiled bedding daily, which is removed accordingly.

A well-functioning digestive system is crucial to equine health, and any horse person will tell you that we prize seeing manure on a regular basis. A horse who is not pooping frequently is possibly colicking, which can be fatal. Good, free-choice hay and plenty of water, plus plenty of walking exercise to keep the intestines motile, is what keeps our NYC carriage horses fit and healthy and able to work.

I wonder how often the average cat owner cleans their litter box? Probably not the 2, 3 or even 4 times a day our carriage horse stalls are cleaned by our 24 hour a day stablemen.

As for the sanitary nature of horse manure? It is the only "manure" from any species that is safe to eat. (I am not recommending experimenting, but it's been done by humans in dire times, such as during the Siege of Paris in the Franco-Prussian War.) We regularly have folks who come collect it to compost for their rose bushes in Queens. Horse manure is essentially chopped up composting grass, with some grain thrown in.

I daresay whoever took this picture and thought there was something "wrong" with it is NOT a horse person, nor were they interested in learning from someone here at the stable who is.

My invitation to come see the stables still stands, if you want to learn more. Le Corbusier said that "A house is a machine for living in." West Side Livery has been providing horses an efficient, clean and orderly home since around 1900. Up until a few decades ago, it housed and managed 80 horses; it now houses 35, thanks to much larger box stalls. The stable, with its dedicated workers, functions quite well to care for these horses.”

***LETTERS TO THE EDITOR OF THE NY POST CAN BE SENT TO: (For verification purposes include your full name, address, and phone number. Only your name and city will be published if your letter is selected.)
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Going from being an outsider observing and investigating the NYC carriage horse industry to joining it as a driver, I’ve learned a lot. One thing I always knew to be true was that animal rights extremists will never understand, but it wasn’t until now that I was able to experience why they will never understand. These are people who say they want to do the right thing for animals, but how can you advocate for the right thing if you can’t understand these animals? Animal rights extremists say that these horses have no voice and they feel they need to step in to be that voice. Horses may not speak our language, but they can and do communicate with us, that is, those of us who work with them. Animal rights supporters (as opposed to "animal welfare supporters") don’t understand this “language” and they never will. They simply assume it isn’t there instead, and project their own emotions onto the horses, assuming human body language equates to equine body language, when it’s truly far from it.

After working with the same horse for a month, I can read the slightest changes in his body language, and I can predict his next move without fail. Being able to make predictions about him, and read how he’s feeling, I can take actions before he does to keep him calm, and keep us both safe. It could be that his walk was just a little more spirited than usual, or he lifted his head ever so slightly, or he turned one ear behind him. Sometimes it’s such a subtle movement in his body, ears, or change of pace that I don’t even know if I’d be able to describe it or point it out to someone else, but when driving, I can read that horse. This is how my horse communicates with me, and I respond vocally, or with the lines in my hands. My cues are also subtle. Those who don’t work with horses would never catch them. The horse I work with is relatively new to the city, compared to the countless carriage horses who have worked here for many years. There are some things in his surroundings he’s never encountered before coming here, and he’s still adapting to them. Horses are highly adaptable animals, but it takes them a little bit of time to adjust to every environment. Every day he gets a little better. Every day I continue to reassure him that these are things which won’t cause him any harm and every day the bit of stress that he has about them is alleviated just a little bit more. Soon, he will no longer even flick his ears at these things, but it’s because of this hidden language he’s been able to express his concerns about them to me, and I was able to address them. Extremists say we “force” these horses to work, but the only time we ask them to do something against their will is when it will keep us both safe and the only reason they accept our request is because they trust and respect us.

For him, sometimes the rumbling of a motorcycle makes him nervous. He doesn’t react badly to them to ever put us in a situation that would be dangerous, but I can tell there are times that he’s unsure about them. Last night was one of those nights where I saw a motorcycle ahead and I watched my horse to see what he would tell me. Immediately I reminded him that I was there for him, and called his name in a friendly tone. His ears turned to listen to me. When the sound started, I watched his ear turn toward it, and I called to him again, reassuring him that I was still with him and he was still safe. I watched his ears rotate between the motorcycle and my voice, and I saw that he wanted to react to the motorcycle, but going against his urge to act out over it, he listened to me instead and stayed calm. When the motorcycle had passed, I was so happy, excited, and proud of my horse. We had had an entire conversation that no one but us would ever hear.

An animal rights extremist would have seen a nervous horse and cursed the scene. What really would have been in front of them would have been a nervous horse listen to me and calm down because I reassured him that he was safe. That’s why they will never understand. They don’t see that my horse is telling me something, and I’m answering him. They don’t see that my horse is reacting to what I’ve asked of him. They will never, ever be able to read him like I can, because they will never drive him. They will never understand those conversations that take place between drivers and horses. They will never hear them and they will never be able to speak that language. They will never, ever be able to calm him down like I can because they will never know how and when to do it. They will never, ever have a horse respect them like in the relationship I’ve built with the horse I work with, because they will never care for and work with a horse on a daily basis to build that. There will always be something in the world out there that’s going to make a horse nervous, but in situations like carriage driving, we will always be there for our horses to keep them calm. If the animal rights extremists had their way, our horses would forever be alone; Just because they were never able to understand them like we can.
Animal rights extremists will never be able to advocate for the best interests of horses if they never learn to understand them.

Photo Credit: Jill A. (Nicky the carriage horse on his way home, watching the NYPD horses head to Times Square)
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This is something I wrote on my personal page about animal industries/partnerships we’re losing that I decided was worth sharing here as well:

“If how you feel about an animal industry is not based on an expert’s factual evidence or you’ve self proclaimed yourself an expert with little experience to sustain the title, your opinion should never ever play a part in the determination of the future of the animals existence in that industry. While you can hold any opinion you’d like, if you use it to make an impact on the life of an animal you’ve never met, the rest of us have absolutely no reason to respect it. In today’s world, a voiced opinion has consequences. “Animal rights” and “animal welfare” are not interchangeable terms. If there was a way that you could be assured an animal was most content with their life a certain way, but this disagreed with the life you would prefer to see for that animal, would you finally let it go and just respect what that animal wanted? Have you personally gone behind the scenes and understood what you were seeing before holding onto your opinion this strongly? Does an easily manipulated video or photo really mean more to you than someone who works behind the scenes on a daily basis? Do you go home to hug your dog or cat, which extremists still haven’t taken away, proud of a disruption you’ve help create in another animals life, while that animal and their caretaker mourn the mistake you’ve caused? Does it make you feel good to have broken the partnership they experienced with their animal that you were never able to experience yourself? What do you spend your time doing while those animals and the people who spent nearly all of their time with them are feeling a loss?

Don’t pretend you’re innocent when you shared those misleading memes, and voiced your baseless opinions to politicians who passed the laws that forever changed the lives of animals and those who work with them. Laws are now based on how passerby feel, and no matter how little information you may have formed your opinion on, politicians are using it as an argument against expert fact. But that doesn’t make you nervous and that doesn’t deter you from continuing to shout your opinion until others struggle to differentiate between how you feel and what actually goes on. You create popular opinions that unthinking people take to be common “knowledge” and you help destroy the lives of animals and humans who care for them. But go on, stay up on your high horse, and keep patting yourself on your back while those who ever really understood animals disappear. It’ll never be your cat or dog anyone goes after, and those lives you destroyed will still help you if it comes to that, right? It makes you feel good to tell yourself you helped make a change for the better, and you wouldn’t let anyone cause you to discover you did just the opposite, huh? That’s not what you want to hear, is it? So you won’t question it, you won’t look into it further, you won’t open your mind, and you will keep ignoring the reality of the damage you may be doing, because you have an opinion you want everyone to hear, and how you feel is more important than what everyone else has determined. You will do what might be trendy over what's right. Science doesn’t sway your emotions, and you will never take responsibility for what your emotions might do. For people like you, ignorance is bliss, and spreading ignorance leaves all of you congratulating yourselves, ignoring all the intelligent, informed people you’ve left mourning a loss. One day you might open your eyes and see what you’ve really done, but I bet you will never confess and admit you were wrong. By then it will be too late, and you’d rather go on believing you must have made the right decision.”

Photo Credit: Christina Hansen (NYC carriage horses, King and Sicilia saying hello to each other) Via
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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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