Saturday, March 15, 2008

What We Know & What We Think We Know


A close call in Aspen for a 5-year-old girl who was trapped underneath an overturned carriage

Horses spook, and no horse is unspookable. This is patently clear and yet we continue to see disturbing and even gruesome images of accidents involving carriage horses that spooked, even in beautiful places like Aspen, Colo., which is decidedly less frantic a setting than New York City. (Photo credit: Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)

In the Aspen accident, a car pulled up alongside the horse, causing it to spook, back up, and flail--overturning the carriage and spilling the driver and the family of five onto the sidewalk. The girl was trapped briefly but escaped serious injury. The horse was not injured. (Statistically speaking, this is highly unusual).

Aspen Police Sgt. Bill Linn was quoted as saying that horse-drawn carriages are not vehicles..."they're basically an amusement ride." This statement is not only misguided, but it poses a serious threat to public safety. It also demonstrates a disregard of the cruelty that is inherent in putting a horse into traffic.

A 1500-pound horse that spooks in traffic is a dangerous weapon. Statistically, this accident is unique in that no one was killed. Horses have an innate and finely tuned fight-or-flight instinct. They pose clear danger to themselves as well as public safety when they spook.

Learn more: Read "No Such Thing As an Unspookable Horse (Jan. 1, 2008 post, HorseWatchNYC)

New York residents (5 boroughs): Ask your elected Council Member to support Intro. 658, the bill to ban horse-drawn carriages -- Find Your Council Member Act now!
Call the mayor's office at 311 and voice your support of Intro. 658, the bill to ban horse-drawn carriages.

Non-New Yorkers: Tell the mayor's office that you don't want to visit New York until horse-drawn carriages are banned.
Email the mayor's office
Call the mayor's office at: 212-NEW-YORK (outside NYC)
Write the mayor:
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
City Hall
New York, NY 10007


4 comments:

EquineAddiction said...

I have been driving commercial carriages for the past 8 years and have NEVER had an accident. I have done a ton of training and preparing. I have driven carriages since 1988 in shows and for pleasure.

I take wonderful care of my carriage horses. They are like my children. Horses need exercise for their muscles and circulation and also mentally. They go crazy and develop bad habits when neglected like many horses who don't have jobs are.

I never overwork them. They get to warm up and cool down. We work in high traffic situations because I have trained them to be safe in those situations. They wear steel shoes with about an inch of rubber on the bottoms for traction and cushion.

My horses are SO safe that I every year I volunteer to drive a Deaf Santa and Mrs. Claus in the Silent Sleigh parade for the California School for the Deaf. Then all the kids come and surround her and pet her. I have had many disabled groups surround and pet her.

I know my horse like the back of my hand and am totally confident that I can control situations.

It is apparent from all the photos on the website of the carriage operators in the accident you are referring to that they do NOT have the experience that my horse and I have. In their photos they have not hitched their horse entirely correctly (their shafts are too low) and they have neglected to carry a whip with is absolutely necessary to avoid accidents in certain situations.

After reading the details of their accident it is obvious to me that the whole thing could have been aveoided if they could have sent the horse forward.

I NEVER beat my beloved horse with a whip. Since I am not astride the horse while driving I need the whip for safety to tap and urge her forward if she can't hear me or ask her to bend. I have, however, beat several cars with very rude drivers who nearly hit my horse.

In California there is a law that states that drivers of motor vehicles MUST slow down or stop when signaled to do so by a driver of an animal drawn vehicle. Carriages are perfectly legal on the road with the orange slow moving vehicle sign and at night they must have lights.

There are more car accidents every day than horse accidents. Clearly there are drivers of all different ability levels on the road. Shall we ban cars?

Mary Alice said...

Thank you for taking the time to send this comment. I am delighted to hear that you have an untarnished (accident-free) record.

In response to a few key points:
--Although you suggest that it's safe to work in high traffic situations (in your case, because you have trained your horses to be safe), numerous experts say otherwise--that all horses spook, and traffic is not a safe environment. The assumption that training "prevents" accidents is rather more like a game of Russian roulette.
--Similarly, the assumption that the driver can "control situations" is flawed. Particularly in NYC, but anywhere else as well, as recent news stories illustrate; for example, in Alton, Texas, a man suffered serious head injuries in a carriage accident in December 2007. I don't know the traffic burden, but from the photos, I would say the setting is rural, even pastoral.
--I am not sure which photos you refer to ("all the photos on the website of the carriage operators.") One photo on this blog accompanied the Colorado accident story. I've no doubt that the carriage may be hitched improperly. You should see the thoughtless of day-to-day operations in the NYC carriage industry.
--"The whole thing could have been avoided if they could have sent the horse forward." Again, NYC operators aren't required to pass rigorous examinations. They fork over a little cash. Must know how to use a cell phone, apparently.
--"In California, ... vehicles MUST slow down or stop when signaled to do so by a driver of an animal drawn vehicle." In NYC, no one gives a damn about any traffic laws--not the automobile drivers, the carriage drivers, the pedestrians, not the police, not the rats. No, people here are too busy looking at the porn on their Blackberries or fretting over what Brangelina is wearing. Heck, they don't even know where their food comes from. (ie, cruel slaughterhouse)
--"There are more car accidents every day than horse accidents." True, and for many obvious reasons. This logic is kind of silly; cars are the preferred mode of transportation in the 21st century, which makes the presence of horse-drawn carriages that much more dangerous.
Ban cars? I would be so happy.

EquineAddiction said...

In response to YOUR response-

"The assumption that training "prevents" accidents is rather more like a game of Russian roulette."

>>I AM an expert horse driver. I have over 20 years of experience in it. I have devoted an abnormal amount of my time to training driving horses for show, pleasure and commercial work. I don't know where you are getting YOUR "experts" advice but I seriously doubt they have spent the amount of miles in the carriage that I have. If they had, they would know that you CAN desensitize a horse to things that it might normally spook at.

If your argument that training does not prevent accidents is correct, then why do we train people to drive cars? Why not just give them a license?

"Similarly, the assumption that the driver can "control situations" is flawed."

>>As the driver, I can not control what traffic does. Perhaps you misunderstood me. I CAN, however, totally control what my horse does.

"I am not sure which photos you refer to ("all the photos on the website of the carriage operators.") One photo on this blog accompanied the Colorado accident story. I've no doubt that the carriage may be hitched improperly. You should see the thoughtless of day-to-day operations in the NYC carriage industry."

>>I was referring to the Aspen Colorado Carriage Company's website. The company that was involved in the accident in your article. If you go to their website it is obvious to an expert driver, like myself, that they do not hitch correctly, nor do they carry a whip which is absolutely mandatory for safety! You can find their website at http://www.aspencarriage.com/. They have plenty of photos posted all over it. I did some research.

"NYC operators aren't required to pass rigorous examinations. They fork over a little cash. Must know how to use a cell phone, apparently."

>>Well that is unfortunate and it seems that there lies your problem. So there SHOULD be some sort of test they should have to pass in order to be licensed. They should know how to harness, hitch and drive an obstacle course. Hey, they could even have a written test. I'm all for it. I would pass it and any commercial driver should too. Otherwise I want them all off the streets for the benefit of the horses. But just banning all carriage drivers is as ludicrous as banning all car drivers because a few get in accidents.

" In NYC, no one gives a damn about any traffic laws--not the automobile drivers, the carriage drivers, the pedestrians, not the police, not the rats. No, people here are too busy looking at the porn on their Blackberries or fretting over what Brangelina is wearing. Heck, they don't even know where their food comes from. (ie, cruel slaughterhouse)"

>>Well there you go again... you have identified a different problem than what you write about. So you're saying that no one in NYC obeys the traffic laws or cares about them. That is not a reason to ban all horse drawn vehicles. Train the carriage operators, train the police, train the citizens to give a darn with public safety announcements, licensing tests, etc.

I don't understand your "slaughterhouse" comment. Whose food are you referring to? It's illegal in the USA for horse meat to be used for human consumption and horses don't eat meat so you have lost me.

"cars are the preferred mode of transportation in the 21st century, which makes the presence of horse-drawn carriages that much more dangerous."

>>Which is why we must train our horses more and more and more to be aware of the idiots out there driving cars all around us. We train them to be safe because we must get along in this car dominated society.

Now take a moment if you will to understand why I chose to drive horses.

It takes me back to a simpler time. It keeps alive a part of American History. It is peaceful and wonderful. It offers challenges that I study and practice for over two decades to conquer. I discovered my addiction to horses when I was 18 months old. I went on to earn my Bachelor's Degree and was determined to find a way to make an honest living with them.

Yes, horses spook. They are flight animals because they eat plants. Other animals eat them and in response to danger they try to save themselves. Any trainer must know that in order to help them overcome their flight responses. Now if you'd like some help finding some ACTUAL horse driving experts I would be glad to offer you some names.

True horsemen don't value ridiculous statements about horses not being able to overcome their fears with proper training and it just being backed by a random "but all the experts say" comment.

Thank you for your time. ~Wendy

EquineAddiction said...

Mary Alice - Why won't you post my discussion?

~cheers,
Wendy