carriage horses

i’ve been meaning to write about this for awhile, since last december(!) actually, but i kept putting it off. the longer i waited, the more opportunities i had to cross paths with carriage horses (or read sad stories about them), so my hypothetical post just kept getting longer and longer. anyhow, the time has come, so here we go:

carriage horses make me terribly sad. whenever i see one, i always try to make eye contact and i alwaysy say, "i’m so sorry." i know that’s probably incredibly silly, but it helps me feel like i am forging a tiny connection with them, like perhaps i can send my empathy directly to them by making that gesture. although i live in a large city, we don’t have a ton of carriage horses, but they do exist and i do see them from time to time.

last year, a shopping center near my home was converted from a standard mall to more of a "shopping village" kind of deal. basically they updated and prettified the existing mall, then built a ton more buildings around it, creating an open-air shopping center with its own little system of roads inside. the new shopping center opened just in time for the holiday shopping rush last year, and it’s only about 10 minutes from our house, so we decided to go check it out on opening weekend while working on our christmas shopping. as we started strolling through the charming new streets, i realized that they were giving complimentary carriage rides around the mall. i think they felt that it blended nicely with their "old world" vision of what they had built, but it just made me sick to my stomach. there were pedestrians everywhere, there were TONS of cars full of drivers who had no friggin’ CLUE what they were doing (since it was a brand-new complex, everyone was constantly lost, confused, or staring at things while driving), and here were these poor horses smack in the middle of it all, just to give shoppers some old-world ambiance. it made me really angry, and i said my share of "i’m so sorrys" to horses that evening. the shopping center kept that up for a few weeks, then stopped. i meant to write a letter to express my disapproval, but never ended up doing it. i’m kind of lame that way.

this past summer, i was driving home from somewhere or other, and i passed a church that is just a few blocks from my house. it’s a big church, and on many many saturdays, you’ll see wedding festivities as you drive by. this particular saturday was no different, except that there were three–count ’em, three–horse-drawn carriages parked out front. you know, so that the bride could have her fairytale cinderella wedding. argh! i rarely do this kind of thing, but i happened to have my camera with me, so i pulled over and took stealth pictures. i don’t really know what i was trying to accomplish; i guess i just wanted to document my crankiness or something. anyhow, again, i was just really upset that because we have so romanticized the idea of riding around in a horse-drawn carriage, these poor kiddos have to live these crappy lives.

about a month ago, i took a train to chicago, and as i was leaving town (very near our train station), before i had buried my nose in a book, i realized that i was looking at a bunch of horses outside my window. i did a double-take, tried to figure out where the heck i was and what those horses were doing there, and then it was too late. i made a mental note to pay close attention when i came back home, and that time i was able to figure it out–it’s where our city’s carriage horses live. it’s a small building next to a small dirty yard, and it’s in a totally urban area. it’s no place for horses, is what i’m saying. i took a picture that day, but it turned out horribly, so i tried again when we went back to chicago a couple of weekends ago. here are the shots that turned out. swanky, no?

while we were in chicago, we took one evening and walked the magnificent mile. it was a friday night, so the tourists, holiday shoppers, and bar-hoppers were out in full force. at one point we were getting close to the ghirardelli store (which i was excited about because they sell vegan non-pareils), and i started to make a beeline until i noticed that there was a little area off to my left, filled with carriages. sure enough, we were evidently in the heart of chicago’s "come take a carriage ride" area, because there were bunches of horses standing around waiting to take people for a ride. ARGH. i did my whole "i’m so sorry" thing each time i got close enough to talk to a horse, and i basically bitched and moaned about it to my husband while he patiently waited for me to finish venting.

so, in the past year i’ve had several close encounters with the carriage horse industry, and i don’t even live in a town that is big on them.

of course, in the meantime, new york city has been dealing with lots of bad publicity due to the horrible and tragic accidents that have recently resulted in the deaths of carriage horses. they have also been dealing with reports that their horses are not treated particularly well. i recently learned that there is a new documentary focusing on the NYC carriage horses, and i’m totally thrilled. i hope tons and tons of people watch it. the film is called blinders, and you can watch the trailer here.



  1. I hate the whole horse-drawn carriage situation as well. It is one reasons why I avoid shopping in downtown Chicago. I like your habit of trying to connect with each horse as you pass them by. My habit is a little more hostile. Whenever I pass an annoying couple or, God forbid, a family of five stuffed in the back of a carriage, I always make it a point to make eye contact with one of the adults and shake my head while shooting them a foul look. I know that most of them won’t understand “what that lady’s problem is,” but I feel a little better by expressing my disapproval. Yeah, people who ride in those things are idiots.

  2. You should join in the fight instead of just blogging about it. Take a look at the URL above. It is a link to a You Tube video I found recently. Apparently, some carriage horses live a disgusting life!!

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