Since my first website went live about 5 years ago, people have contacted me on and off with various equine problems, questions and occassionally legislative issues. Since my column and Twitter feed started in August-September of this year the amount of people contacting me about ALL things equine has grown exponentially. So far I've been able to help out everyone who's called or emailed. Until now.
I was contacted by an anonymous New York carriage driver last October. Along with most Americans, I was unaware of the pitched battle going on concerning the destruction of the 155 year tradition of horse drawn carriages in Manhattan's Central Park.
Steve Nislick, a developer friend of the new Mayor Bill DeBlasio, started an "animal rights group" in 2008 called @NYClass (NewYorkersforCleanLivableSafeStreets) that states all working animals should be retired, from carriage horses to circus elephants. Nevermind the $19 million dollar industry and the families that rely on it. Nevermind the history and tradition the horses and drivers carry on; the drivers are members of the Teamsters Union, which takes its name from carriage drivers of the19th Century.
It's interesting to note that the most of the animals they are "fighting for" happen to live in barns that sit on very pricey NY land. If the horses are replaced by the ridiculous toy cars NYClass is proposing, the barns will be vacant and up for sale. NYClass backed Bill DeBlasio in the Mayoral election.
Mayor Bloomberg, who's daughter Georgina is a GrandPrix jumper rider, has always supported working horses throughout the five Boroughs from the horse cabbies to the mounted NYPD Officers. Horses can go places and do things that cars, trucks, motorcycles or bikes cannot. As a thoughtful person, Bloomberg intuited this. However it seems the new mayor of NewYork, Bill deBlasio, is swayed more by press and money than common sense. Full Disclosure; Georgina Bloomberg donated a used saddle to a student of #TheSpitCreekProject 8 years ago.
DeBlasio has vowed to ban the eponymous and much loved horse drawn carriages of Central Park which have taken tourists, lovers and movie stars on tours of the Park since the day it opened. DeBlasio and his mouthpieces at @NYClass have claimed the draft horses used to pull the modern versions of historic carriages are abused animals.
After two months of research I can say unequivocally that the carriage horses, be they Percherons, Shires or any draft cross, are NOT abused animals. They are, in fact, more closely monitored by vets and farriers than my $100,000 Futurity Horse, Mister McLovin'. Like McLovin and all working professional animals, they occassionally get hurt on the job. That's what insurance and vets are for. Very rarely (I can only find 3x in last 10 yrs) are they euthanized due to work related traffic accidents. That's a way lower average than any racetrack.
These working class horses get 5 weeks off a year; they spend their vacation roaming lush pastures on farms in Upstate New York. When at work in the City, their stalls are heated in winter and air-conditioned in summer. The barns are beautiful, immaculate and have up to date fire alarms and sprinklers. They get top of the line feed and the stalls and horses are cleaned daily. All the draft horses are very fit and carrying an appropriate amount of weight and they are checked out by licensed vets at least once a year.
Most importantly, they continue to work. Joyfully. They love their jobs or they wouldn't be DOING it. You can't FORCE any animal, especially a 2000 pound one, into doing someting it truly hates without there being eventual consequences. Horses don't act out without reason. They wouldn't back into the traces if they were being abused by their drivers. Go read Anna Sewell's Black Beauty.
Ever seen a barrel horse that has to be backed into an arena? That's because it doesn't like its job and it freaks out when it realizes it has to run the same cloverleaf pattern AGAIN. Horses get bored more quickly and more easily than a teenager on a rainy 3 day weekend with no internet or phone. A thinking person would realize it would make no SENSE for the carriage drivers to ABUSE their horses because the horses literally put food on the table for their families. It also would make no sense because a HUGE majority of the drivers are Irish immigrants or the children of Irish immigrants and they know NOTHING else besides horses.
They certainly know nothing about the knockoff vintage electric cars DeBlasio Nislick and NYClass want to replace the horses with. The cars aren't even REAL antiques. That's about as classy as a neauveau riche developer calling his joke animal rights group "N Y Class". My debutante 5th Avenue raised mother in law is spinning in her very classy mausoleum.
I can relate; being of ManxScotsIrish descent myself and the daughter of a Rodeo Queen can chasing Champion, I feel it is part of my Celtic and native Californian birthright to own and train horses and ponies. No politician is going to stop me from doing what my people have done for hundreds if not thousands of years. Lucky I don't drive a Carriage in Central Park.
Please call Congressman Kevin McCarthy if you want to save the carriage horses of Central Park.
KELLY MOLLOY-McDANIEL is a Tehachapi-based trainer. Please email any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org; follow her on Twitter @SpitCreekRanch#SpitCreekelly.