Letter writer: Carriage-horse accidents are real possibilities

Graphic by Lori Deaton

As one of the main voices in the award-winning documentary Blinders recently shown in your city, and having started the campaign to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City in 2006, I take issue with a recent letter.

I stand with C.J. Sellers’ comments about the real possibility of an accident caused by a spooked horse in downtown Asheville [“Traffic Poses Danger to Downtown Horses,” Sept. 23, Xpress]. Unfortunately the letter by Susan Data-Samtak [“Article Needed on Actual Lives of Downtown Horses,” Oct. 7, Xpress] makes many pronouncements of something she obviously knows little about.

If being an “animal rights extremist” means having compassion for exploited carriage horses because they are unable to express their true nature; of having concern for them working nine hours a day, seven days a week with no breaks and little water between the shafts of their carriage, laden down with heavy equipment; and if it means acknowledging that putting horses in traffic is very foolish and a perfect storm brewing that may well result in a deadly accident that will make your city liable, then I proudly wear that label. That is being realistic based on facts.

But actually, it is those who want this exploitation of horses who are the true extremists — they like to call themselves “welfarists.”

A “welfarist” is someone who exploits animals for their own gain, pretending to know and care about their well-being — often to further the goal of making money off that animal’s back. It’s a contrived stance, based on lies. It’s selfish and has nothing to do with compassion or knowledge of an animal’s needs. It’s about hubris and money.

Asheville: Do you really want to bring the very real possibility of a horrible accident to your city — something for which you will be morally and financially responsible?

— Elizabeth Forel
President, Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages
New York City

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20 thoughts on “Letter writer: Carriage-horse accidents are real possibilities

  1. Troubled Traveler

    Even if there were no concerns for the carriage horse’s well-being, who decided it was a good idea to allow carriages, pedal bars, tour buses and trolleys in downtown traffic??? In our reduced-capacity downtown streets, it is lunacy to allow these obstructions, much less allow these capitalist enterprises to profit from them.

    Shameful disservice by those that “plan” these disruptions to our community life rather than planning a way for our city to function fully and improve the lives of year-round residents. A sad disgrace…..

  2. OneWhoKnows

    but carriage rides are romantic for the lazy tourists with money … they like them.

  3. Nick Bacon

    FACT: There have been 3 traffic incidents involving horse-drawn carriages in New York City in the last 30 years.
    FACT: The carriage horse industry is closely supervised by several city agencies, including the Dept of Health and NYPD
    FACT: The horses’ working hours are limited to 8 hours a day. They have at least 5 weeks’ vacation a year, when they are turned out to grazing.
    FACT: The carriage horses have 4 full physical examinations per year.
    FACT: The New York carriage horses are, like the horses working for NYPD and Parks Dept, fully acclimatised to life and work in the City.
    FACT: Horses are domesticated animals, and have been so for thousands of years.
    FACT: PeTA who have jumped on the bandwagon have an appalling record – over 80% of the animals they claim to rescue are euthanised.
    FACT: NYCLASS claim to concerned about animal welfare. They are a front organisation for property developers who are slavering over the land upon which the stables now stand. They spent millions on bribing politicians to try to get a mayor and council who would ban the carriages. They have paid $50,000 in fines for electoral malfeasance.
    FACT: The mayor has had to tell those who so bankrolled his campaign that he can’t unilaterally ban the horse carriages from the streets of New York and that there is insufficient support on the council.

    The carriages are here to stay.

    • Tracy Rose

      No personal attacks, please. This from is for discussing the points raised in letters, not the people who wrote the letters.

  4. Elizabeth, you can’t be serious. Can you really believe Asheville (or any community that allowed horse carriages, one of the safest forms of transportation and entertainment) would be morally or financially responsible if a rare accident occurred? The carriage rides aren’t even city run operations, they are private businesses that carry huge insurance policies.

    As to your rant about welfarists and exploitation, if carriage horses are being exploited, so are therapy horses, police horses and guide dogs and even your cat – you are using her to provide you with companionship. Or do you suppose carriage horses resent that their owners are compensated for the working partnership? I would imagine they care more about being given the good homes and care those fares provide.

    You seem to care a lot about this issue, but your hype doesn’t even make sense. My working stock horses would envy a life of walking through Central Park pulling a fiberglass carriage with four people on board. Or, come to think of it, maybe they wouldn’t, they show every sign of being content here on the ranch. But I wouldn’t ask any of the New York City draft horses or Standardbreds to work cattle, either. We all have our place in the choir.

  5. Luane

    If you read only what the anti-carriage, animal rights crowd posts online, you’d have to believe that New York City is a truly unique place in the world. Unlike the rest of the world, NYC is not limited to 24 hours a day as the horses work 9 hours a day. Since there are only 68 carriages, only 68 horses can be out at one time. Therefore it would take three shifts, 3 x 9 = 27. The horses are also locked up in tiny stalls 24/7. So in NYC a day must be 33 hours long! Amazing!
    If you believe the anti-carriage, animal rights crowd: Cars in NYC have magical fumes that only go into the noses of horses, not the people that live there, or the squirrels or dogs or other living things.
    If you believe the anti-carriage, animal rights crowd: The weather is NEVER nice in New York City, it’s either blazing hot or freezing cold. Only the horses suffer in this horrid weather, the drivers apparently have some sort of invisible bubble that is environmentally controlled.
    If you believe the anti-carriage, animal rights crowd: Carriage horses suffer because it’s embarrassing to pull around “fat” tourists but police horses are not abused because they are proud to offer a public service. (As if they know they difference)
    Animal rights activists can look at the happiest horse in the world and see misery. There is no actual, science-based evidence to support the abuse claims so now they’ve changed their tactics to issues of safety, about what “might” happen.
    If they can’t figure out how many hours are in a day, don’t you think it’s possible that the anti-carriage crowd is just plain wrong?

  6. Stewart

    Here’s a FACT that people in favor of carriage horses seem to ignore. It was the ASHEVILLE CITY COUNCIL that determined that having horses pulling carriages on downtown Asheville streets is dangerous during times of high traffic. If you read the ordinance, you will see that it BANS them during busy times. This was codified into law over twenty years ago, when the ASHEVILLE CITY COUNCIL thoroughly studied the issue. At the time, it was determined that it was unsafe to have a horse pulling a carriage downtown during the hours of 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Those of us who lived in Asheville in the early 1990’s know just how sleepy things were downtown back then.

    Fast-forward 20 plus years, and Asheville streets are jammed most days and evenings, there is way more traffic than there was back then. If the increased automobile, bicycle and foot activity is not enough to cause an accident, add to the mix some of the noises that might spook a horse: drum circles, tour buses and trolleys with megaphones, a pubcycle, buskers, music blaring from clubs, etc. The unruliness of the downtown scene makes what was happening downtown twenty plus years ago seem like Mayberry. A horse pulling a carriage in traffic is an accident waiting to happen, and it is simply a matter of time before a human or horse is harmed or killed. As this is foreseeable, and previous city council recognized the issue, I won’t be surprised if the injured party or parties sought costly legal action against the city. The current council should follow the logic and wisdom of their predecessors and ban horse-drawn carriages from the downtown area during busy times, which now, is most of the time.

    And those commenting should at least be aware of the facts and address the facts rather than simply spouting misinformation and attacking Ms. Forel for her good work and compassion for both humans and horses.

    • Stewart

      Oops, grammatical correction, I meant to say:
      “I won’t be surprised if the injured party or parties seek costly legal action against the city.”

  7. Elizabeth Forel

    Of course the desperate trolls are out in numbers because that is all they know how to do. LIE. I do not follow your ranting but happened to visit the page this morning to get the link so I can include it on our newsletter.

    I will address the fist 3 lies by Nick Bacon because I cannot waste my time on this garbage. This man does not even live in NYC, BTW. He is spouting carriage troll rhetoric.

    First off we are talking about Asheville not New York City.

    my comments in CAPS – after LIE.

    Nick Bacon
    24 hours ago

    FACT: There have been 3 traffic incidents involving horse-drawn carriages in New York City in the last 30 years.
    LIE: there have been numerous accidents in NYC – Actually you are not even quoting the lie correctly. The trolls say “three deaths” but there have been many accidents and many horse deaths. Smoothie in 2007, Jackie in 1999, Juliet in 2006, Spotty in 2006, Charlie in 2011. And this does not include the ones who “disappeared,” or died in their stalls.

    FACT: The carriage horse industry is closely supervised by several city agencies, including the Dept of Health and NYPD
    LIE – the carriage trade is not closely supervised. No one is enforcing the street laws and the carriage drivers constantly leave their horses unattended and untethered and make illegal u-turns. I live here and observe. You do not.

    FACT: The horses’ working hours are limited to 8 hours a day. They have at least 5 weeks’ vacation a year, when they are turned out to grazing.
    LIE – sorry Nicky – again your reading comprehension fails you. The horses are allowed to work 9 hours a day, 7 days a week. The 5 weeks vacation is bogus. Horses need daily turnout and if you knew anything about compassion and horses, you would know that. Those “places” where the horses go? There is no requirement by the DoH to inspect them. There is evidence that some are actually used by the Amish to work during this time – or used for carriage rides.

    Bye bye Nicky. Enough said for now.

    • Susan

      Ms Forel has so much to offer- Let’s explore her statements:

      “If being an “animal rights extremist” means having compassion for exploited carriage horses because they are unable to express their true nature;”

      –“What is their”True Nature”?

      “of having concern for them working nine hours a day, seven days a week with no breaks and little water between the shafts of their carriage, ”

      –9 hours includes commuting time to and from the job site; no breaks? What are the horses doing in all those photos that your groups post of a horse standing still, with eyes closed and a back foot cocked? (incidentally, that is a relaxed position, not a “sad, depressed” stance, nor is that hind leg “broken” as you have publicly stated in your literature and newsletter.) How much water is “little water”? Define the term you used. Drivers carry buckets for water in the carriage. They carry grain buckets, too. Just because you, personally, have not seen a horse drinking, doesn’t mean they don’t. Besides, horses do not need to drink water every few minutes, as some people seem to think.

      “laden down with heavy equipment;”

      –50 pounds of harness on a 1500 pound horse hardly qualifies as “heavy equipment”. 50 pounds is a bag of horse feed that I carry around to feed my own horses! The carriage rolls on ball bearings and is easily moved by one 120 pound human.

      “and if it means acknowledging that putting horses in traffic is very foolish and a perfect storm brewing that may well result in a deadly accident”

      –Let’s explore your words “that MAY result in” I MAY become President of the USA; I MAY become the first woman on the Moon, too!

      “that will make your city liable, then I proudly wear that label.”

      –private accidents do not make a city liable. Read the law.

      ” That is being realistic based on facts.”

      –No, that is being hysterical based on supposition and imagination.

      BTW, Mr Bacon is CORRECT on each of his points. Please do your research, using factual sources, not the movie “Blinders” which can’t distinguish Fact from Fiction.

      BTW- Ms Forel’s group, early in their fantasy attacks on the horses said the horse have “growths on their legs and when these get too big the horses are sent to slaughter”-more fantasy. Every horse on the planet has these “growths” They are evolutionary remnants. They even have a name :ergots. More facts to counter her fiction.

      I am a proud Animal Welfare supporter. Never an animal rights extremist.

    • Jaynee

      Elizabeth you addressed some of Nick Bacons points and responded with more lies ! Why not address the TRUTH behind your anti-carriage fiasco..MONEY MONEY MONEY ! You want the real estate ! Another TRUTH your Mayor bailed on you and your pissed. Get over it..Move on and go spend your money on animals that really need saving !

  8. Carriage on

    Of course, it’s the people who have nothing to do with the carriage business that scream the loudest. They know the most after all, spying from the sidelines and Monday morning quarterbacking. Same old song and dance, be careful what you wish for. Not one of them, the people or the horses will have a job. But, I’m sure you know that feeling.

  9. The Pontificator

    I’ll let the “activists” and “welfarists” battle it out among themselves but aren’t the streets of downtown congested enough as it is?

  10. Curtis Livingston, III

    Are you daft, Mrs Forel?
    Accidents are caused by your Carriage Hating Buddies (some of them are your tennants!)
    If you hate Carriages in NYC, that’s your progative. Stop spewing your hatred to 300 Carraige Operators.
    If Carriage Equines and Buggies are “ruining” your life, NYC is not the city for you to work or be serving in, Mrs. Forel.
    I sill support the carriages. Not your misanthropic group.

  11. Luane

    The issue raised was horses in traffic, Charlie died of natural causes. It has been well documented that the ASPCA pressured their vet into lying about the cause of death and later she was fired when she recanted her statement with the truth. The necropsy proved that he was a healthy horse. Sometimes they just die. People drop dead too unexpectedly.

    A study showed that the average mortality rate among horses of all ages, all causes, is about 6% per year. For the age group that the carriage horses are, it’s about 3%. So by the law of averages, we should have 6 to 12 NYC carriage horses die every year, not every 30 years.

    Meanwhile in 2014 alone there were more than 66,000 motor vehicle crashes in New York City with 249 people killed including 127 pedestrians and 21 cyclists.

    Statistics are only valuable when you have something to compare them too.

  12. Marcia Curran

    from what I’ve seen and read, the NYC Carriage Horses have a great safety record. They’re some of the happiest and healthiest horses I have ever met, and they are highly regulated working professionals, along with their drivers. They negotiate the streets of the city with ease; they are chosen for their ability to handle city life. The NYC horses are a great model for other cities. I don’t see a need to try and instill fear in anybody about accidents being ‘real possibilities’.

  13. Barbara S

    Ms Forel speaks of having compassion for exploited horses. The problem is that she misuses the word “exploited” and she has no knowledge of what a horse needs or wants.
    Exploitation means that one party takes advantage of another party – that the relationship is not mutually beneficial. Horses benefit by being provided with shelter, food, medical and hoof care, grooming, and love. That’s a better deal than any human employee gets. Activists also like to say horses have no choice. That’s false. Horses are physically capable of refusing to work if the choose. There is no way to get a 1500# animal to safely cooperate through the use of force.
    Ms Forel has no hands on experience with horses. She doesn’t know what their “true nature” is. She bases her beliefs on anthropomorphism. People with no experience should not be making decisions for things they know nothing about.
    She thinks it is inhumane to ask a horse to work a shift as long as a full time human employee (including commuting time and an unpaid lunch, I put in over 9 hrs/day).
    Ms Forel should read what can happen to work horses that don’t work on a daily basis. It’s called Monday Morning Disease. http://www.horses-and-horse-information.com/articles/0901monday.shtml
    She talks about the horses not having 24/7 access to water. I guess she never heard the expression “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink”. The NYC horses are offered water while they are working. The horses are smart enough to drink at that time if they need it. There are many times when my own horses have refused water when I thought they might want some.
    The harness that a horse wears weighs less than what a police horse with a saddle and rider carries. Plus, the weight of the harness is distributed over its entire body – not just in one location.
    Police horses spend more time in traffic and potentially dangerous situations than carriage horses. Why hasn’t Ms Forel protested against that if she really cares so much about horses? Could it be she has some agenda against just the carriage drivers?
    Ms Forel is trying to make animal welfare seem like its only concerned with “exploitation”. This is another attempt to try to manipulate the language. Let’s be clear. Animal “rights” seeks to remove animals from our lives. Animal welfare is concerned with taking proper care of an animal’s needs.
    The hubris is from Ms Forel who claims to have more knowledge about horses than a multitude of equine veterinarians, equine organizations, professional horse trainers, and rescue farm managers.
    Her paranoiac tendencies makes her think that anyone with actual equine experience is only in it for the money.

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