In this scene from Walt Disney’s “The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band,” I’m riding in a horse-drawn wagon with my movie dad Buddy Ebsen and brother Jon Walmsley. Today I’d have thought differently about the poor horse pulling that load for take after take in the hot California sun, but even that burden pales next to those put on horses made to draw carriages on our urban streets.
I’ve always felt sad for carriage horses, plodding along wearily on hot, hard asphalt streets as buses and cars go whizzing by with inches to spare. Carriage horses are forced to pull heavy loads in extreme weather, dodge honking traffic, and pound the pavement day in and day out until they get old, injured, or sick, after which they’re sent to the slaughterhouse. These horses lead very sad lives. From constant walking and standing on hard streets, lameness and hoof deterioration are inevitable in carriage horses. Many develop respiratory ailments from breathing in exhaust fumes, and suffer debilitating leg problems from walking on hard surfaces. Weather conditions, too, can prove fatal for working horses. Carriage horses are exposed to long shifts in bitter cold and wet weather in the winter, and scorching heat and debilitating humidity in the summer. Many drop dead on the city streets from dehydration and heatstroke.
In an audit of the New York carriage industry, that city’s comptroller found that horses on the street did not have ready access to water, had insufficient shade during hot weather, and that, because of poor street drainage, “the horses are left to stand in pools of dirty water.”
People around the world are increasingly recognizing that it’s the carriage industry – not just the horses – taking them for a ride. Please don’t patronize carriage rides, and explain to family and friends why they shouldn’t, either. If your city permits carriages on its streets, urge your representatives to propose legislation that will ban this obsolete and abusive amusement.
Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!