The fast approaching winter season will bring with it thoughts of hot chocolate and sleigh rides. Many farms across the United States advertise traditional sleigh rides during the months of December, January and February. Currier and Ives, successful American printmakers, boast beautiful prints of winter sleigh rides. One of the most popular American songs during the Christmas holidays is "Jingle Bells." The song was written by James Pierpont from Medford, Massachusetts in 1850. The theme of the song was inspired by the one-horse open sleigh races on Salem and Pleasant Streets. People with a love for horses should be asking the question, “Are sleighs and carriages safe for horses?”
PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, believes that it is cruel to hitch a horse to a sleigh or carriage. PETA believes that forcing animals to carry oversized loads in extreme weather conditions qualifies as animal abuse. Furthermore, the agency believes that exhaust fumes inhaled by horses pulling carriages in urban areas often results in respiratory ailments. Walking on hard pavement adversely affects a horse’s legs. The group is requesting a ban on horse drawn carriages in cities, as it is an accident waiting to happen. PETA further declares that retired horses are shipped to slaughter houses.
According to an article posted on Equiculture, retired carriage and sleigh horses are maintained on the owner’s property or sent to retirement facilities such as Blue Star Equiculture. The expected career span of a carriage or sleigh horse is 10 to 15 years. Horses regulate body temperature by growing thick coats in the winter and perspiring in the summer. Regulations are in place in most cities concerning extreme weather conditions for horse drawn carriages. Carriage horses are an investment and companion for the owner; therefore, owners feed and water the horses well.
The average carriage or sleigh horse weighs from 1200 to 1800 pounds. This type of horse can pull 2 to 3 times it's body weight. The carriage or sleigh can weigh up to 1,000 pounds, add a few people, and the horse can easily pull a carriage or sleigh with a load of people.
Tally-Ho Carriage Tours states that professional farriers mount protective horse shoes that reduce the risk of injury to horses. The tour group believes the zero respiratory illness rates for Tally-Ho is due to low pollution levels in the area. City regulations generally restrict carriage companies from operating in high traffic areas. Horses owned by the tour group excitedly meet staff at the gate each morning eager to be selected for the day.
There is a disagreement between carriage owners and PETA. I have done my best to represent the two sides in this article. God has blessed humans with common sense and granted humans dominion over animals; this dominion includes the protection of animals. What are your thoughts? Please include links in your answer if possible. Thank you!
Photo is courtesy of Sleigh Ride as uploaded by Martin Cathrae from Flickr’s Creative Commons.