Letter writer: Notify police if it’s too hot for downtown horses

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I was recently in downtown Asheville and was dismayed to see a horse pulling a carriage full of passengers. As a person who has spent a considerable amount of time around a well-cared-for 32-year-old quarter horse with 12 acres of shaded pasture, I felt sympathy for the horse pulling an extremely heavy load on a busy street.

Since it was a hot day and because I thought the horse was in some distress, I called the city of Asheville’s Animal Services unit and was directed to www.ashevillenc.gov, where I found an ordinance which states, among other things, that no animal shall pull horse-drawn carriages when the heat index is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

The city employee at Animal Services with whom I spoke advised me to notify any city police officer who would speak with the carriage driver about possible ordinance violations (and hopefully take them off of the road).

I encourage others to notify law enforcement when they believe that the horse-drawn carriage ordinance is being violated. Personally, I don’t think we should have horses pulling people around at all in our animal-loving city, but until such time as a horse carriage ban is enacted, horses should not be out in extreme heat nor cold.

— Joe Walsh

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16 thoughts on “Letter writer: Notify police if it’s too hot for downtown horses

  1. Tony g

    I agree — I’ve seen me in charleston too where it’s even hotter. No reason for it and it’s easy to find a walking tour, the pub cycle etc!

  2. Barbara

    Yet another animal rights activist who wants to put well regulated working animals out of a job and potentially out of a home if the owner can no longer afford them with the loss of income. These well intentioned (?) busybodies think almost everything is abuse.
    They equate pulling a carriage to slavery because the horse didn’t agree to it. In fact, every time a horse willingly does a job, they have agreed, because if they didn’t want to work, they are quite capable of refusing.
    They don’t like hot weather and they don’t like cold weather. The funny thing is that horses around the world live outdoors in all kinds of weather. I’ve had temps inside my barn go over 100 degrees with only a few fans to blow around the hot air. As long as the horses have access to water and are monitored for heat stress, they manage quite well. Horses are more comfortable at cold temps than humans. Nature has provided them with all the hair they need to keep warm. The type of weather it would take to make a horse uncomfortable would also be too uncomfortable for a person to enjoy a carriage ride.
    They think pulling a carriage with 6 people is too much weight. Horses can easily pull much more weight than they can carry. Pulling a loaded carriage is like a person pushing a shopping cart.
    This link gives a good explanation of the facts vs the myths and lies about carriage horses: http://www.equiculture.org/carriage-horse-myths.aspx

    • tony

      well, the writer pointed out that there was a law on the books– he suggested that you report violations.
      apparently the city subsequently banned the horse carriage trade so they must have agreed with his opinion that this outdated tourist curiosity has no place here in AVL.

      • Barbara

        This thread is over a year old, and for some odd reason you decided to jump in and post your ignorant opinion.
        The carriage company ceased operations for personal reasons , and because of the lies spread by people like you.
        I suppose you feel smug now that you’ve put more people out of work and more horses at risk of losing their homes.
        I think you are despicable. A horse with a job doesn’t risk ending up at an auction.

  3. maxi l

    you have had a horse so now you’re an expert? you ‘thought the horse was in distress” and you had ‘sympathy for the horse’, both of those statements show me just how anthropomorphic you really are. i live just west of asheville and these past few days have been very pleasant, not as hot or humid. you also do not say that you actually spoke with law enforcement about this ‘possible’ violation nor do you have any pictures of this distressed horse. my opinion is that you are just letting your human emotions come through on this and are looking to start some sort of movement like they have in other cities that have horse carriages. i have never seen any horse ‘in distress’ in asheville, they look as relaxed as the ones in nyc. i don’t know what you think a carriage horse in distressed looks like, but yes, horses will sweat and they do not walk with heads held high prancing as they walk and when they are standing waiting for the next ride, they will stand with a lowered head and maybe a cocked rear hoof which is a relaxed horse. the horses are well cared for and healthy and a driver/owner is not going to put what makes his livelihood in any health danger. as i have said on other posts, those carriages are not as heavy as people think they are, they and the harnesses were designed to make it easy for horses to pull. and no, i am not going to pull one with tourists in it, mainly because that is a statement made by ignorant, misinformed, misguided people who obviously do not understand the physical differences between equines and humans, just incase you were going to suggest that. stop trying to start trouble based on your ‘feelings’, to many arguments against that, that you can’t win. ( just how many horse & carriage accidents have there been in asheville?)

    • tony

      looks like the city used fact based info (much of it presented by a local animal welfare group) and banned the horse carraige trade. Good fot them. the pubcycle is much more in keeping with AVL values vis a vis animals (and beer!).

  4. NFB

    “Personally, I don’t think we should have horses pulling people around at all in our animal-loving city,”

    What does this even mean? How do you define an “animal loving city” and what, supposedly, makes Asheville one?

    • tony

      asheville is a caring community so I reckon this means that when presented with information consistent with their values (love of animals and decency towards same), they say no to animal cruelty. The City Council apparently agrees since they banned the carriage trade as well as exotic animal acts.

  5. Sarah Thompson

    Joe- I’m so glad you are taking care of an old horse in their golden years. 32 is quite old and that surely is a testament to great loving care. I wonder if, due to the advanced ago of your horse, you aren’t in the habit of thinking of horses in general with the same conservative concern as you should rightfully extend to your geriatric Equid. You say the horse is a quarter horse, a wonderful, intelligent breed capable of a tremendous amount of work in the prime of their life and preferred on giant cattle farms to do a multitude of handy tasks- including many hot hours driving cattle or meding fences in a parched shadeless landscape (the reason why the iconic cowboy hat has a large brim) under the sun is a cowboy hat, under the hat is a man, and under that man is a horse.

    Do you this you could take your advice about calling the police on horsemen who are working with their horses in the summer (and winter too) out to the heart of Quarterhorse country? I can just hear the stories at the bar… “Hey Slim, you remember the time that feller from out east tried to give us an education on that heat index?”

    There is a nice educational article called “Heat Stress in Horses” by Dr. Thomas R Lenz for people who really are interested. The horseman’s heat index is usually calculated a little differently than the national weather service. I’m afraid your concern is grossly exaggerated.

    By the way, carriage driving is an equestrian sport, a legitimate activity to do with horses as well as a valid form of transportation and an equestrian business which gives many horses a great home and their person an income. I don’t know if you know that. You seem to have a really extreme prejudice against carriages.

    • tony

      the writer was suggesting that people call the police when the law is violated. He expressed his opinion re: the horse carriage trade but his main point was if there is a violation, then report it..
      In any event. the city council after carefully scrutinizing fact based information, decided to ban the horse carriage trade here in Asheville. They also banned exotic animal acts (so adios Ringling).

  6. Joe…I’m sure you believe that you are doing the right thing by wanting to ban horses from city streets. Unfortunately, you could not possibly be more wrong. The majority of carriage horses are drafts or mules. Drafts in particular are generally too big for most people to ride…if you ban them from pulling carriages they will have no place left in our world. Perhaps their extinction doesn’t bother you…you may be one of the “better dead than petted, loved and fed” brigade like PETA or HSUS who advocate every right for animals except the right to exist in the first place…without which, all other rights are meaningless…and have openly stated their desire for the extinction of all domestic animals. If so, there will be no reason to attempt to make you see the logical outcome of your desire to ban horses is their death…because you won’t care about that. If not, however, I would urge you to educate yourself on the care of urban horses…it’s governed by rules and regulations that would drive the average horse owner insane trying to keep up with them all. I have two pasture pets, personally…and while my gelding is a shade lover, my mare is never happier than when standing in the full blazing sun of a Georgia summer. She ignores the shade of the barn, or under the trees…she’s a sun worshipper. If she were governed under the same regulations as carriage horses, I would have to bring her inside when the temperature rose above 89. Which means she’d be forced to spend most of the summer indoors, where she doesn’t want to be. The care of horses is often best left to those who know them and understand their individual needs. Surely you realize that horses are far better equipped than the human on the carriage to withstand outdoor weather…if it’s not too hot for the human, it’s very doubtful that it’s too hot for the horse. They are, after all…the same animals who pulled wagons across the deserts for centuries. Then they were pulling wagons through sand and mud, not lightweight carriages with ball bearings in the wheels and on asphalt streets, which, BTW…were created for horses pulling carriages.

  7. Stewart

    Great letter. Very funny that one of the critics above is saying that Mr. Walsh want to put “well regulated working animals” out of a job, since he is simply calling for the regulations to be enforced.

    For those who care about the plight of the horses, please note that Mr. Walsh pointed out that it is a violation of the ordinance for a horse to pull a carriage if the HEAT INDEX is above 90 degrees, Heat index is a combination of temperature and humidity, and also often referred to as “air temperature with the relative humidity,” and “apparent temperature. ” On many sites it is shown as the “feels like” temperature. To give you an example, if the temperature is 84 degrees and the relative humidity is 70%, the heat index is 90.5, which means a horse should not be pulling a carriage. It is likely that the heat index will be over 90 today, and if so, I hope the ordinance is enforced.

  8. Kayla Worden

    Horses most certainly do NOT belong on city streets carting people around on the pavement nose to exhaust pipes! It is no accident that numerous accidents involving horse-drawn carriages in cities have been well-documented as well as many cases of horses collapsing from heat exhaustion and stress. Shame on those of you attempting to make excuses for this senseless cruelty! Cruelty for a buck is what it amounts to! What a shameful display….horses don’t belong on city streets! Wake up!

  9. Stewart

    In the early 1990’s, an individual sought to open a carriage horse business in downtown Asheville. The issue was thoroughly discussed at a series of staff and Asheville City Council meetings, the culmination of which was the drafting of an ordinance regulating such businesses. Because of the extra danger associated with crowded streets, one provision of the ordinance prohibits carriages from operating in the central business district 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.
    The proposed business was never opened, Fast forward over 20 years, and we now have carriages on the streets. Downtown Asheville is not the sleepy place it was 20 years ago, and I’m sure that evening weekend congestion greatly exceeds the daytime traffic of two decades ago. 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, the general unruliness of the downtown scene, etc. A serious accident took place at the Grove Park Inn many years ago, and numerous injuries and fatalities in other cities are well documented. 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, I wouldn’t be surprised if the injured party or parties sought costly legal action against the city.

    As noted, a previous council thoroughly studied the issue and came to the conclusion that carriage horses and heavy traffic on Asheville’s steep city streets would endanger public safety. The current council should follow this logic and wisdom, and ban horse-drawn carriages from the downtown area.

  10. Billy Earnest

    It pains me to see what this horse has to deal with in addition to heat….density of people & traffic…..drunks, noises…firetrucks, ambulances, police sirens, buses, the scene at night is crazy. The poor horse is right in the middle of it. No animal should have to deal with any of this. It’s plain wrong….once again, humans think animals should be subjected to anything humans want, all for a goddamned dollar. SHAME SHAME SHAME on you, Asheville Horse & Carraige Rides!

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