I have long railed against the anachronistic logic of maintaining carriage horse fleets in large urban centers like NYC. As a city dweller, I have seen more than one near-miss incident in which a horse and car ended up in far too close of a proximity, with a bridled nose coming up very literally within inches of a stopping bumper. Proponents of the carriage horse industry in this city have openly contested my opinion right here on this blog, arguing that the city's working carriage horses are well cared for and kept out of harm's way, adroitly guided in and out of the City's congested swirls of traffic by attentive and adept driver/handlers.
While I won't ever be able to lend credence to the idea that horses + careening taxis = a safe work environment, and though I have seen far too many "attentive" drivers attending to cell phone calls while steering their horses to believe that the entire human contingent behind the carriage industry is focused on equine welfare, I haven't ever been able to argue much concerning the off-hours care of these equines because I haven't ever visited a carriage stable in the city. I know that horses in NYC stables live in small box stalls and that some must navigate the several floors of converted warehouse buildings by ambling up and down steep ramps. Only this week did it come to my attention that a fire recently broke out in one such stable on Manhattan's west side, and while it was luckily brought under control without any equine injury, the thought that an entire stable full of horses could have been trapped in a burning building in the City is a horrifying one.
New York City needs to continue to evaluate why horses live and work here under unsafe conditions. While the romantic vision of carriage horses ambling along the shady paths of Central Park is a storied part of NYC history, the reality of life for these horses is not always so rose-tinted. If these horses are to remain here, providing the City with both tradition and tourist revenue, we need further legislation to attend to their immediate welfare. The City is taking strides, but it won't have done enough until these horses have all basic safeguards in place.