Cities that are well-known for their beauty and history usually offer horse and buggy rides or carriages tours. The gentle clopping of horse hooves and the easy pace at which they travel provides a wonderful way to view the scenery and learn a little bit about local culture. Plus, the revenue keeps the city thriving (one out of nine jobs in America depend on travel and tourism).
Unfortunately, the use of animals in any industry, even ones in which they are well-cared for, can cause people to get fired up over their rights. Horse-drawn carriage tours are some of the easiest targets as spectators view the horses as being “overworked” and sent to glue factories once they reach a certain age. We are here to tell you the truth about carriage horses.
Myth: The average working life of a carriage horse is four years, after which time they are all sent to slaughterhouses.
Fact: There is no evidence to support these assertions. In fact, the majority of carriage horses experience long, happy, and healthy careers of 10 to 15 years, or even more! When do reach that age, they are retired, not auction: many return to the carriage owner’s personal property, go to private homes found through networking, or head to retirement facilities (like Blue Star Equiculture).
Myth: Carriage horses are forced to carry heavy loads for long hours, overworked to the point of exhaustion.
Fact: Just because humans would be exhausted pulling carriages all day doesn’t mean horses — the name of which is used to refer to the power in a car engine — would suffer the same result. As a general rule, horses are capable of pulling two to three times their body weight; a horse pulling a 900 lb carriage, even fully loaded with passengers, is the equivalent of the average person pushing a shopping cart with a few gallons of milk in it. Additionally, the typical shift for a carriage horse is no more than nine hours, and usually much less than that. Plus, most carriage horses also get a least two days off per week.
Myth: The lowered head position and body language of a carriage horse indicate that they are tired, sad, and depressed.
Fact: A horse in a horse carriage that is standing with its head at withers level (the highest point of the rump) and one hind-leg cocked is relaxed and well-adjusted. As a result, they often “tune out” their surroundings and nap standing up. On the contrary, a horse whose head is up high with its ears pricked back and eyes bulging is stressed or frightened: they are trying to take in as much information as possible.
Don’t let misinformation about carriage horses prevent you from riding in a horse carriage. And the next time you hear someone complaining about “these poor horses” as you’re getting in your horse carriage, share this information with them.