This is just one horseman so far, with support from one horseman friend. We are two women, not men. I dislike the sound of the words horsepeople or horsewomen.
I want to see what all the anger is about. I anticipate not being able to learn what the anger is all about. Because I will be viewed as the opposition to the people who want an outright ban and phase out of all horse drawn carriages in New York City. So they will not talk to me. I have had that trouble in the past. I had the same trouble today. I was reasonable today and asked politely what I could do to start a dialog. The woman, Caroline, said she knew me, and had no intention of talking with me, it would be like talking to a Nazi, she said. She immediately, disclaimed that the word Nazi was too harsh, but she just wanted to make a point. I had stood up at the Department of Health hearing a month ago, and stated that the people who are so sad about these horses needed to educate themselves more, because what they were saying was really ignorant, to my ears, they have their facts all mis-applied and out of context, and all about horses that gallop, not draft horses that walk, it was just so naive. And that I could help them. I gave out my email hoping someone would contact me. They were offended, began some shouting because I incorrectly addressed them and not the board as I accused them of not knowing what they are talking about. This is how she knows who I am. No one except a grad student from the Columbia Graduate School of Conflict resolution contacted me. We have had a talk meantime. Well, I talked, Heather Allison at Columbia listened.
There is plenty of information on the websites, Coalition to Ban the Horse Drawn Carriages is the main one, and it has accusations of abuse and miserable lives of the horses and no water given to the horses and the health compromises, and no pasture and on and on. I know what they are saying, but because it makes no sense to me as an experienced horseman, I want to know where the circle logic comes back and feeds on itself. I think they try to find facts of abuse because they are upset about something, and they need evidence. So of course they are offended if I tell them as a part of public record at the DOH hearing, that they need to do their "due diligence" in terms of learning what they are talking about.
It will be for a month until I get to the hack stand at Central Park to observe the horse drawn carriages for the first time, at least for more than a glance. I've been defending the carriages right to exist for a while, inspired by all the obvious mis-information spread around to create public groundswell against the carriages. I don't even have to see the carriages to shoot holes in all the attempts at evidence of abuse. Today was my third time attending a public hearing, this time for Intention No. 35 in New York City Council, which is an attempt to find some constructive rules to resolve the public perception that the horses are being mistreated, versus the right of the carriages to operate. The carriage owners and drivers want a legal right to charge fair market value for what I think is a form of art , not transportation. As opposed to getting rid of the carriages altogether and replacing them with electric antique cars with the drivers being trained as tour guides, a replacement job for the carriage drivers - this being the option preferred by The Coalition to Ban, the ASPCA, The HSUS, the League of Humane Voters (LHV were challenged by councilman Gennaro as to their audacity to even appear since they owe the city clerk for $104,249 for being an illegal lobby. I hear they conducted an illegal protest in front of one on the stables this week and were stopped because they had no permit.) And the electric car idea sounds Ok to me, why not have both? Until I learned that they really really really need to hinge the whole electric car idea on the fact that they really really need all the carriage stables' real estate to even begin the program. I'm sorry, my ass.
I have a bad habit of trying to describe all the tangents of every sentence I write. So I'm trying not to explain everything all at once. It will be writing for a while, to unravel each topic one at a time. I will be trying to explain what I know about horses, and I can already tell, that just one topic is a blog all by itself. By the time I explain, for example, all the reasons why horses do not need a blanket in the winter, why the carriage drivers will put one on anyway as part of Intention No. 35 to please the public, why they need a special blanket, why they are not using their current regular blanket on board each carriage, why people should not be upset about this, why it's not window dressing to design a special blanket to put on a horse so that the public is happy, and why the public needs to not cry violation and no oversight if they see the special blanket is off when people are needing a coat themselves. I mean, the Coaltition to Ban has it easy, in terms of brevity. Just use the words horrible, pathetic, dismal, and not really back up the argument with any real depth of information, just weave another wifty lie from something read in a book and voila, "proof of abuse", and count on peoples imaginations to fill in the blanks and you easily get all sorts of petition signers, since they know nothing about horses either. Checking off that box of doing good and right.
http://thewiffletreenyc.blogspot.com/ told me today, that the problem is that it's not about the welfare of the horse, it's about the ethics of riding or driving a horse at all. The horsemen keep trying to argue logic and good horse management reasoning to all the claims of abuse. But the people sad for the horses won't hear because it's not about that. It's that they can't stand seeing the horse in less than (their version of) a perfect life and perfect environment. We all share that. Every person everywhere sees less than perfect all over the place. But when it comes to thinking they are seeing it happen to a horse, it strikes like lightning to the heart of those feeling and responding to some sense of horror within. My guess is the horse is a vehichle to release all that horror. And when no one takes heed, no one being the carriage operators who are supposed to immediately hang their heads in shame, and quietly admit everything they do is animal torture, and because they do not obey their cue to excuse themselves, surrender their horses to and trust the Coalition to Ban will properly and forever take care of these horses or come up with the mucho dinero to retire the horses at somebody's farm, all 200 horses, is where all the anger comes from. And it's not a rational anger.
I don't know if I can help at all, if perfect is the only option that will work.