Thursday, April 22, 2010

Doing it right, and doing it wrong!

Yes there is a difference, a BIG difference and for those of you that don’t know what should, and should not be, I’m going to educate you here so you will know. While what you personally expect from a carriage service may vary, but what you should never accept is the same for everyone. Humane care issues are always first and foremost. I only hope that you would never ride on a carriage with a horse looking like the one in the picture to the left.Yet this is a real carriage horse that was up until recently available in a downtown area for rides. Below one of my white horses is pictured.

The obvious contrast of an unhealthy vs healthy condition between the two horses is really truly  staggering.

While it may not be hard to tell the difference between a dingy beat up looking carriage with a driver wearing street clothes with loose hair blowing in the wind compared to a neat, dressed to kill, top hat and formal wear attired driver sporting a spotless well kept carriage. This obvious difference while IMHO is important its not what really gets my hackles up about a carriage service that’s doing it all wrong.

What I would like to vent about here is the few surviving carriage operators/owners that seemingly give no more care or concern about their horses than they do their turn out, or tacky appearance. They are the ones that give the carriage business a bad name and a bad image.

Thankfully they are very few and far between, but when they are out there on the streets for all to see, and while they are certainly not doing the rest of us any favors, the most disturbing thing is the sad reality for their horses. I’m going to give you some things to think about, and watch for so hopefully if you see such an outfit you will avoid them at all costs and thereby take away their incentive to do more bad business as usual.

Here are the three worst IMO, and three things that you should never ever see!

#1) An underfed skinny carriage horse – there is no, and I mean NO excuse for a horses ribs or spine to be poking out! If you can see and easily count them all like the bay horse in the picture above left the horse is far too thin, and this is not only unhealthy for the horse, it is not acceptable in any way! The draft horses you most commonly see used in carriage services are “cold blooded” and of the type that takes less feed that most horses do to maintain weight due to their slower metabolism and laid back attitudes. If anything a responsible owner has to make sure they don’t get too fat!

#2) A lame carriage horse - while most people find it impossible to see at the walk, the trot is a dead giveaway for seeing a lame horse even for a non-horse person. If the horses head noticeably bobs rhythmically up, then down, with each trot step then the horse is lame and in pain. There are zero excuses to use a lame and in pain carriage horse, its just plain cruel.

#3) An unattended carriage horse – No… its not “ok” to walk away from a horse harnessed to a carriage for any reason. It is not acceptable to clip a horse to something handy so you can walk into a building, or jump in a truck to warm up, or even to use the bathroom. Never for any reason should a horse be left without a handler, not even for a minute. Horses are extraordinarily strong and being flight animals when startled are very dangerous if not under a persons control. Even the very best “steady Eddy” types can get bit by a stinging insect, become frightened if a bridle is rubbed off, or startle from something that was totally unforseen and completely unexpected. Any competent horse owner well knows this, and knows to never say never when it comes to a horse possibly reacting in a bad way to unexpected things. We that “do it right” know its always better to be safe than sorry. A carriage operator is not only responsible for himself and his horse, they are also responsible for the safety of the public around them. If a carriage driver needs a break for lunch, dinner, the bathroom, or to warm up, etc. There should be a ground person to take over staying right there with the horse during their time away.

Well….. off my soapbox, there are lot’s of things I see that I don’t agree with but these are the three major ones I think we can all indisputably agree on.