Letter writer: Traffic poses danger to downtown horses

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Hey Asheville, let’s get rid of the urban carriage rides? I went to a screening of Blinders hosted by Asheville Voice for Animals, and it was about the dangers to horses-drawing carriages in urban settings. It opened my eyes to the risk this seemingly idyllic pastime presents to the horse.

It’s not something you think about, but traffic accidents happen all the time, and a slow-moving vehicle like a horse-drawn carriage is more likely to be involved in an accident due to its slow pace. Seems wrong to subject an animal to that level of danger — soft flesh and breakable bones in close proximity alongside metal vehicles. The carriage rides at Biltmore Estate don’t have this traffic risk — it’s private property — so I’m not speaking against Biltmore’s in this context.

But I think that Asheville is a progressive and conscientious enough of a town that we can acknowledge that the street-traffic risk to the animal is a higher priority than someone’s desire to exploit the animal for entertainment, be it tourist or operator. It’s not like the horse has a say in the matter.

Let’s not wait until a horse is maimed or killed before we act. Exploitation is inappropriate in our enlightened times and not something we ought to offer in Asheville city streets.

— C.J. Sellers
Asheville Voice for Animals


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15 thoughts on “Letter writer: Traffic poses danger to downtown horses

  1. chops

    I disagree. I believe we should promote the use of more sustainable forms of transportation, including horse-drawn carriages.
    If safety is an issue, then we should work on making our public roadways safer for all, like lowering the speed limit.

    • Lisa Watters

      I believe the horses are rescue horses as well. Without a viable business adopting them and taking care of them their fate might have been much dire. My mom and I gifted a ride to a friend (we went along) and the horse that pulled us seemed very healthy as well as calm and happy to eat treats from our hands and those of some children waiting for the next ride. In the best of worlds all animals would roam wild and free with plenty of natural plant life to graze on but unfortunately we don’t live in that world.

  2. OneWhoKnows

    ‘progressives’ always want to restrict freedoms of others to sate their power cravings…

    • luluthebeast

      I don’t know if this is worth it, but just because someone wants to save the life of an animal and another wants people to have the chance to have a pleasant, peaceful ride does not make them power craving restricters of freedom.

    • HuhHuh

      > “Seems wrong to subject an animal to that level of danger — soft flesh and breakable bones in close proximity alongside metal vehicles.”

      Yes, it’s very wrong to subject humans on bicycles to that level of danger, too. All that soft flesh and breakable bones in close proximity along metal vehicles. Let’s do away with bicycles on open roads.

      • dingo

        Don’t forget about the pedestrians. It is unsafe to walk through downtown Asheville on any given day. Tourists not paying attention, wondering if they made the right turn, looking for the next street, going the wrong way down Patton, checking the GPS; locals impatient with the tourists, flooring the gas to whip past them as they honk; dudes in Hummers (you know who you are, dude who is always near the Grove Arcade) getting impatient as people at the crosswalk delay his day by 15 seconds, necessitating his rapid acceleration past the porticoes, narrowly missing someone backing out of a parking spot.

        I see these things every day, as a downtown pedestrian. What we all need is some patience.

        • HuhHuh

          Yes; let’s do away with all the “soft tissue” that is pedestrians, too.

  3. Stewart

    Some history is in order here. 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, and the current business started in 2013. Downtown Asheville is not the sleepy place it was over 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 our steep city streets would endanger public safety. Current council should follow this logic and wisdom, and ban horse-drawn carriages from the downtown area.

    • Susan

      If traffic is the problem, then ban cars. In many cities, the traffic moves so slowly that a person can walk faster than a car can move along the street. If pollution is a problem, ban cars and trucks. Walk, bike or use horse drawn conveyances which produce only “natural, organic emissions” that can be collected and used on rooftop gardens to grow fresh produce in the city. Win-win.

  4. dingo

    How does Charleston deal with it? They have a ton of horse tours running by numerous companies all day long in a very congested area. I wonder what their accident rate is like?

    • hrslady

      Very, very, very, rarely is a horse drawn carriage involved in an automobile incident. When they are its is nearly unheard of that the horse ever suffers more than a few scrapes. Serious injury of people is extremely rare as well and when put into the proper perspective of how many thousands of these rides are given all over the US every single day riding in a horse drawn carriage is actually one of the safest forms of transport. Way safer than walking, way safer than riding a bicycle or motorcycle or even driving a car. Those are the plain and simple facts.

    • Curious

      I was curious about Charleston as well. Here’s a statement: “Charleston Animal Society is not opposed to the use of horses and other equines in pulling carts and carriages for hire, provided that all of the animals’ physiological and behavioral needs are fully met, housing and stable conditions are humane and their working hours and conditions are carefully regulated and independently monitored as to temperature, humidity, proximity to traffic, rest periods, etc. Working equines should receive regular veterinary and farrier care and be provided a humane retirement when no longer able to work. “

    • gypsyrose

      I’m not interested in anything HSUS says. They are PETA in suits. Donations go towards lobbying and their compensation packages, not the animals.

  5. Stewart

    Again, it was the Asheville City Council, not an animal protection group, that studied the issue and determined that carriages pulled by horses were dangerous when the streets are crowded. Read the ordinance and it is quite clear. But current council seems to want to ignore the wisdom of their predecessors. I guess we’ll have to wait until someone is hurt or killed, that’s usually what it takes.

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