Horse carriage controversy in NYC

Published: Monday, November 7, 2011

Updated: Tuesday, November 8, 2011

have you ever taken a carriage ride, a hayride or a sleigh ride? Did you ever wonder what was going on in the lives of the horses that were so willingly pulling you along or did you enjoy the time you spent during their labor?

Well, here’s what happened in the life of Charlie, the Percheron horse that collapsed and died on the streets of new York City. he was 15  when he started his life as a carriage horse. The rest of his life prior to that was spent on an Amish farm.

Charlie was only a carriage horse for a few weeks before he dropped dead in the streets of new York City on his way to work in Central Park.

according to a statement made Oct. 31 by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) about Charlie’s autopsy, “Charlie was not a healthy horse and was likely suffering from pain due to a pronounced ulceration of the stomach and a fractured tooth. [He] was not healthy for a career in an urban carriage horse business.”

now, here’s the part that baffles me. Charlie was raised on an Amish farm. Draft horses work on Amish farms. they are not pets. if they do not do their share of the work, they are sold and lucky if they aren’t sold to glue or dog food factories.

So, I’m guessing the reason Charlie’s Amish owners wanted to sell him was because he had an ulcer and wasn’t eating right due to his tooth and couldn’t keep up with the work anymore. How could people running an urbanized carriage company even consider buying a horse in this condition? they didn’t even think to do a veterinary check before they said “Oh, he’s big, pretty and white … he’ll go just fine with our other ones!”

one thing is for certain, if Charlie came from an Amish farm, the workload in the carriage company was easy compared to what he had on the farm.

I realize that readers of The Stylus may not give a hearty heap of horse manure about this subject. I know about 98 percent of students at Brockport have no idea that we actually have an intercollegiate equestrian team.

however, this subject hits straight home for me. Not only do I care about horses, but I care about draft horses, specifically Percherons like Charlie. I trained a 2-year-old Percheron to ride in horse shows, and I also drive him in horse shows.

He’s now 9, 18 hands tall, (equivalent to 6 feet) weighs a ton, and is pretty much the apple of my eye. I miss him so much being away at college, but if anything were to ever happen to him like in Charlie’s situation, I would be devastated.

since I know a thing or two about Percherons, I know draft horses like the Percheron were bred for work. That is the whole reason they have come into existence. they were originally war horses back in the time of their origination in Le Perche, France.

they provided means of public transportation in cities, replaced oxen in agriculture, and were the most popular breed in the United States in the 1880s.

once World War II came about, the amount of draft horses dropped dramatically due to the fact that they were getting replaced by tractors and returning veterans.

in 1954, just 85 horses were recorded, putting the Percheron at an endangered species standpoint. But due to some dedicated people, the Percheron has made a comeback in showing, non-farm tasks, farming, logging and recreational services.  

new York City Mayor  Michael Bloomberg rejected requests to terminate the city’s carriage industry. Although I am obviously all for the humane rights of horses and all animals, overall, I agree with Bloomberg’s decision or indecision on the matter. I do not believe that it was inhumane treatment by the carriage company that killed Charlie.

I believe in order to operate such an establishment, those horses had best be pampered. I don’t think Charlie or his fellow horses in the carriage company were beaten, starved, overworked or mistreated.

Draft horses are bred for working. Carriage work is a type of job that is good for them. it is much better than being sent off to the slaughterhouse.

I think it is good these horses are given a stable home (no pun intended) and a job to do. These types of establishments need to be checked frequently to make sure these horses are being treated well, but overall I think the buisnesses are a positive thing for the horses.

it is horrible what happened to Charlie, and I would never wish it on any horse, especially my Harley. I think the carriage company made a mistake in purchasing Charlie in the first place, as they should have done a more thorough examination of him, but Charlie’s death was a tragic accident.

Carriage companies and other horse-related companies that provide jobs for horses truly promote the horse. The last thing we want is to have the Percheron head count be back down to 85.

Horse carriage controversy in NYC


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