In 2010, a local law was passed that required NYC carriage horse owners to provide a “5-week vacation for their horses.” The language of this new regulation can be found under Regulations in the Administrative Code – Rental Horse and Protection Law.
§ 17–330 Regulations – g.2 Carriage horses shall receive no less than five weeks of vacation or furlough every twelve months at a horse stable facility which allows daily access to paddock or pasture turnout. Proof of such vacation or furlough shall be provided upon request to the department and/or the ASPCA.
The media went nuts with the concept of a horse getting a "five-week vacation" when many
people do not get as much time -- as if this were the greatest thing for these horses. No one questioned if it was appropriate. No one!
Instead, the media's reporting conjured up images of horses lolling about in swimming pools sunning themselves. Crain’s NY, a long time supporter of the carriage trade, said: “The horses get a minimum of five weeks' vacation every year. Many are shipped off to fields in Pennsylvania for leisure, often for three months at a time." This was typical for the media, but it was all hype.
|Carriage horses enjoying their "5-week vacation"|
Vacations are a human concept. People need them – not horses. Horses need daily turnout to pasture where they can graze and socialize with other horses. As herd animals, they like to engage in mutual grooming to relieve their stress – something they do not get to do in NYC.
|How many of the horses enjoy real turnout|
|Turnout - NYC style|
But the reality of these “vacations” is even worse.
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene seriously failed the horses with this legislation because nowhere did they ask for a list of farms that would participate in this program; nor did they require inspections of these farms. This omission begs the questions of where the horses actually go and what are they are doing once they get there. It is all on the honor system.
In October 2011, former ASPCA equine veterinarian, Pamela Corey was quoted in the New York Post. "Dr. Corey, the director of equine veterinary services of the ASPCA’s humane law-enforcement department, said
“We have observed some horses returning to New York City after furloughs on a farm in worse condition than when they left.”
|is this what NYC carriage horse really do on "vacation?"|
This statement was never investigated and was apparently ignored.
While some of the drivers do own farms and hopefully their horses do get to relax, most do not. It has been rumored that many of the horses are sent to Amish farmers where they are worked for this period and not fed properly in exchange for satisfying the “vacation” requirement. This would account for Corey’s observation. The Amish would never tolerate seeing a horse just hanging around in the pasture doing nothing. The farmer would want to put him or her to work. This is no “vacation.”
This is just one of the many truths about the carriage trade that has been kept from the public because of media bias. Let’s get over believing that the carriage drivers “love” their horses.
They are commodities who exist only to make them money.