Carriage Horses

Bobby II Freedom – NYC Carriage Horse Rescued from Slaughter

The left image of Bobby was taken when he arrived in 2010. The look of despair and defeat disappeared within a few months of his arrival. The right image of Bobby was taken in October 2013—what a difference!

» Learn more about Bobby’s rescue

Carriage Horses: How to Keep Tradition Without Cruelty

Urban centers including New York City, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Charleston and other cities in the U.S. and around the world are no place for horse-drawn carriages.

In large crowded cities with bustling tourism, visitors enjoy a unique sight-seeing experience; But when that memorable tour comes at the expense of an animal’s health and safety, something needs to change.

Photo is of a red electric carriage driven by a man.
In the Driver’s Seat! Alfonso Hernandez O., EV Division Director of Advanced Power Vehicles, proudly unveils his creation – the prototype of the electric “horseless” carriage he designed, developed and manufactured and which are successfully being used on the streets of Guadalajara today. (Photo by Manuel Sahagún Olmos)

For years, the New York City urban carriage horse trade has been the subject of controversy arising from accidents, horse deaths, and violations. Between heavy vehicular, bike, and foot traffic and working long hours, the horses suffer during their working years. Not only that, but some face slaughter when they become old, injured or unable to work and generate profits for their owners.

Equine Advocates is committed to effecting real change and shifting to a practice that benefits horses and drivers while still preserving the tradition of a scenic carriage ride.

In 2017, history was made in Guadalajara, Mexico when it became the first city in the world to begin a gradual transition from horse-drawn carriages to electric ‘horseless’ carriages, which are battery-operated and have a similar appearance to their horse-drawn counterparts.

“Cities evolve, cities change,” said Pedro Aguilar, President of the Tourist Carriage Association in Guadalajara. “And the people, as part of the city they live in, have to also change and adapt. Traditions don’t die. They live on because it’s not just the horse. The tradition is going on the ride, the tour we give, how we treat people, and getting in a vehicle like this, which is simply a carriage without a horse.”

In August of 2019, Susan Wagner, President of Equine Advocates, and Elizabeth Forel, President of the Coalition for New York City, visited Guadalajara to learn more about the city’s transition. Carriage drivers reported better working conditions, including more pay, shorter work hours, and no longer having to constantly care for horses. Please watch this amazing video shot in Guadalajara and narrated by the great Bebe Neuwirth about how the transition there came about.

In what has become a global movement in compassionate tourism, a growing number of cities around the world, including Mumbai, India, Istanbul, Turkey, and Cologne, Germany, have transitioned to electric carriages following Guadalajara’s lead. While this trend is taking off around the world, change has yet to be made in the United States. An alternative electric carriage program in major cities will preserve jobs for drivers who choose to work with electric carriages and create new and better-paying opportunities for those looking to enter this new and exciting industry. So, how can New York City join in?

The city would first need to pass regulations to allow electric battery-operated carriages to operate and be driven around the city. Then leaders would need to determine how to fund the program and provide training on operation and maintenance. Finally, a plan needs to be made to ensure retired carriage horses end up in sanctuaries and proper homes, instead of kill pens.

While the transition would take some time, Guadalajara’s success shows it can be done and is worth it. While several U.S. cities have active campaigns to end the urban carriage horse trade, New York City could be the first in the country to offer electric carriages and make a difference when it comes to responsible and compassionate tourism. For more information on how busy, heavily populated urban centers that offer carriage rides can transition to electric carriages, please visit the website for Compassionate & Responsible Tourism. It’s the wave of the future!

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