Sunday, June 01, 2008
Some Horse Sense
In all fairness to one of my anonymous commenters who is convinced that New York's carriage horses are truly abused, most people, especially people in cities, really haven't the foggiest idea about horse care and what constitutes abuse. Horses are large, long-lived social animals who were designed to move constantly and eat constantly, sustaining themselves on food that is not especially high in nutritional value by our standards. They mature slowly, being physically ready for riding only after four years, and mentally mature at about seven years...though some of them never really make it, if you ask their long-suffering owners.
For a horse to be raised and housed in a stall, staying there for most of the day, is roughly akin in abuse terms to raising and housing a child in a walk-in closet. No amount of ceiling fans, automatic waterers or high quality grain is going to make up for the loss of movement, activity, and mental stimulation from being outdoors. Visitors to my farm usually come to ride the horses and even so are often surprised (sometimes happily) to see my horses living outdoors 24/7 in a large paddock all together. This does mean that the more playful youngsters might be sporting the odd scrape from a wrestling match (after all, they have teeth and hooves, right?), or they might be dirty from rolling or sleeping in the sand, but they are happy and healthy. They love to go out for rides in the desert and farming areas, they enjoy being ridden and are well aware of the fact that the humans call the shots. While ponying a group of horses to a neighbouring farm the other day, I dropped the lead lines of two of my geldings. If they were miserable, abused horses, this would be their chance to make a getaway, but instead all it took was a "Well, come on and catch up!" from me to have them walking up to me to collect the lines.
Until recently there was a riding stable near Central Park. It's closed now, and closing it, while not such a great thing for the people who loved to ride the horses, probably wasn't such a bad thing for the horses themselves. They were housed in a stable in an apartment building and had to walk through the streets to get to the park. I don't think that riding horses in cities is such a great idea. I know that the police do so in New York and other large cities, mostly in park areas, and I can see the logic there. The police riders and horses are well trained for their jobs and know what they are doing. The average pleasure rider is much less well-trained, especially for urban riding. But the closing does mean that most people's idea of horses is pretty much what they find in FAO Schwartz.
copyright 2008 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani