Saturday, January 3, 2009

Carriage Ban - a driver's perspective

S. Ryan Rzepecki - a carriage driver - gives an insider perspective on the debate over banning the carriages:

"First: the ban proposed is promoted by a few outspoken and well-funded individuals and has the support of just one city councilman. I find that most people that actually know horses (have worked with them, ride them etc.) can recognize that our horses are in extremely good health. Many of the things that PETA is saying are simply not true. For example: they say walking on hard pavement causes lameness, but if that were the case all of our horses would be lame, and they are not.

In general, I feel there are two types of people that criticize our industry. One type wants better conditions for the horses. Now, we are heavily regulated and the temperature controls are strictly enforced, but I can understand and reason with someone that wants the horses to receive good treatment. I would say about half of the owners rotate their horses and give them breaks on the farm, but not all do. It would be great if we could have a turnout (basically the horse equivalent of a dog run - I had to look this up) here in the city. It would be great if the park could set aside a bit of land or if these supposed animal advocates could help secure a turnout rather than waste their resources on billboards in times square. All of our horses now have box stalls and plenty to eat and drink. They're groomed every day, cared for, and given a sense of purpose. Their hours are regulated and their jobs far easier than if they were still on an Amish farm, which is where they would likely be if they weren't with us. The horses are working animals, and very expensive to maintain. There are many horses that are being set out into the wild because their owners can no longer care for them. The fact is these horses would either be working more difficult jobs on amish farms, abandoned, or euthanized if they were not with us.

Now, that's not a pretty picture but it is the way things are. Animal rights people think that a horse belongs on the farm, or in pasture, which is ideal, but who will provide that care? These horses are fed well, groomed daily, and get to have a relationship with their driver and the people that ride on the carriage. I have driven the same horse at night for the last two years and she and I must respect and trust one another in order to do this job. Often people say that the horses look "sad" standing out on 59th street. Knowing them well now, I would say they look "bored." Just as the drivers do when they are standing around looking for a fare.

The second type of animal activists don't believe horses should work at all. These people are just ridiculous as the modern horse would not exist if not for domestication as a work animal. These people shout out things like "animal slavery." Come on. A close cousin to the "animals shouldn't work" activist is the "horses don't belong in cities." They cite the loud noises, exhaust fumes, traffic congestion. Well, we deal with these things every day and we get used to it. And you know what, so do the horses. They're not constantly scared by banging trucks and cement mixers and the air they breathe is the same that the air you and I breathe. After a while, they settle into the job and for the most part these things don't bother them. Yes, as I said before it would be nice to have a turnout here in the city, but that's not going to be possible without either help from the city or help from these rich assholes that are out to destroy us instead of making the lives of the horses better."

Ryan also supplies a link to the current rules and regulations governing the industry. One interesting thing you learn upon combining that with a careful reading of the New York State Parkway Regulations is that it appears to be technically legal to drive a horse-drawn carriage down the Bronx River Parkway.


  1. Thank you very much for that GREAT insight into the horse carriage industry. I am an animal rights person but I don't believe in groups like PETA because they are ridiculous. I have been behind this ban because had not heard much rational thought from the industry people..until now. You really put it into great perspective and I appreciate that.

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