“Sorry, but I don’t agree with having carriage horses in the middle of busy city centres it’s absolutely ridiculous! Aside from the obvious danger of being hit by a car or spooking & running into a car etc. they have to work dam hard in all weathers. Next time you see one, take a good look at it, does it look happy to you? I doubt it…If they were only used in nature parks & had proper field turn out, with large stables, that wouldn’t be too bad. Plus remember the horse has the bridle & bit in nearly 8 hours a day 6 days a week, imagine how sore his mouth must be; it never gets any rest time from a bit.”
Now if they could say for certain that they receive the 5 F’s I wouldn’t have a problem with them, but as you can see, it’s impossible for carriage horses to get the 5 F’s:-
1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst – by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour. A horse can’t eat or drink properly when on a stand waiting for fares, as soon as a fare comes along, his nose bag has to wait.
2. Freedom from Discomfort – by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area. I wouldn’t call standing, walking trotting on concrete roads comfortable, they can’t lay down when they want, nor would I say they are comfortable having the carriage harness on every day!
3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease – by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment. As I said, continual pounding on concrete doesn’t do the hoof’s, legs or pelvis any good, horses are not built to be on road surfaces all week
4. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind. Unless the horse is going back to a turnout field or paddock, he can’t express normal behaviour, horses love to roll, especially after all their tack is removed, it’s their way of scratching their backs etc. They love to groom each other & enjoy being free to run & play with their buddies. They can sleep standing up, in fact their knee’s lock, to stop them falling down; but it’s not a deep sleep, like they can have in a field, whilst other horses watch over them, ever ready to alert them to any possible danger. In my experience most larger breeds would prefer fields to lay, roll & sleep in, even if they have a large stable. My mare has a very big stable, floor & walls rubber matted too, but she won’t lay down in it, she’s too clumsy at getting down then back up, so she waits until she gets outside; then finds the muckiest spot to roll in…yes, I’m sure she does it on purpose too! lol
5. Freedom from Fear and Distress – by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering. Being surrounded by noisy engines, car horns, wagons etc. is enough to cause a horse distress, even if they have been pulling a carriage for several years, they will still be distressed by a noise they haven’t heard before & can’t see it because the blinkers stop their view!
“As you can see from above, I’m not sure the horses get the 5 F’s, therefore I oppose them. Horses are flight animals, they should not be nose to exhaust pipe, on busy roads in cities etc. Pounding on concrete or asphalt, all day up to 6 days at a time, doesn’t do the horses feet & joints any good what so ever! See the back left leg of the black horse, the hock looks like an open wound, the right looks like it’s going to go the same way too! It could have happened as it fell, but can’t see that as most go down on front legs first. I suppose they could have been caused by his back legs rubbing against the carriage. I can’t quite figure out what that plastic looking ring is around his left hoof?”
Last Sunday, the SPCA received a call from police requesting assistance with a case of alleged cruelty towards Blackjack, a carriage horse in Griffintown, the district of Montreal where the historic and controversial Horse Palace is located.
The Griffintown Horse Palace is a stable for carriage (or calèche) horses that dates back to around 1860.
The land is owned by former carriage driver Leo Leonard, also known as Clawhammer Jack, but since he retired in 2011, a local foundation has been trying to save the stables from being sold and turned into condos.
According to witnesses, the horse collapsed on the way back to the stables. The driver of the carriage apparently kicked the horse once it was on the ground.
The SPCA arrived on the scene and immediately contacted an equine veterinarian to examine and attend to the horse’s injuries.
“This incident draws attention to the deplorable work and living conditions for carriage horses in the city of Montreal,” said the SPCA in a statement. “Something the general public is not necessarily aware of.”
“These horses are often forced to work nine or more hours per day, seven days a week,” said Alanna Devine, the Director of Animal Advocacy at Montreal’s SPCA.
“They are subject to potential collisions with traffic, loud noises that can cause spooking, extreme temperatures and years of walking on unnaturally hard surfaces which often causes lameness.”
“When they are not working, are tied in stalls where they have no opportunity to move around freely or engage in any other natural behaviours and that most of the horses when they can no longer be used to pull carriages will be sent to auction or to slaughter.
The horse that collapsed on Sunday was given to the Montreal SPCA by its owner, along with Captain Bob, another horse that the owner no longer wished to keep.
The two horses have been moved to a foster home where they will be living a very different sort of life – spending time outdoors, socializing with other horses and receiving the necessary care and attention.
The organization will also continue investigating what caused the horse to collapse, as well as the allegations of animal cruelty against the carriage driver.
The SPCA hopes that the unfortunate incident may draw attention to the living conditions of carriage horses and say it’s time for Montreal officials – and Montrealers – to take a closer look at the horse-and-carriage industry and at the working and living conditions of these animals.
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