Really? I mean Really?

People never cease to amaze me. These folks were so lucky; runaways usually have more injuries than this. Remember the Fourth of July tragedy? Let’s try a new concept and learn from our mistakes.

Anyways in this story it seems after the Christmas parade was over the owner of the horse was switching out the bridle when the horse spooked and ran through town. The horse and carriage (yes, still attached) hit two light poles, two cars and ran over the owner, who it seems is okay after the event.

There is really no excuse for this to happen. Ever. Unhitching is a routine, and good drivers stick to it no matter how well you know the horse, driver or fairy godmother involved.

Special Feature! >>>>

Unhitching for Idiots:

Step 1: Head up the horse while the driver is still holding the lines (translated: a qualified person, i.e. not the guy wearing flip-flops, holds the thing [bridle] on the horse’s head)

Step 2: Make sure Joe Bob is still holding the horse’s head (really, double check that he hasn’t wandered off to get a beer) while you unhook the brakes and the traces, and hook them up properly to the harness.

Step 3: Make sure Joe Bob is still holding the head (this is key!) while you hold the shafts of the carriage.

Step 4: (Joe Bob gets to move in this one!) While holding the horse’s bridle Joe Bob needs to step the horse up clear of the shafts.

Step 5: Put the halter around the horses neck (this is so Joe Bob still has control over the horse) while you remove the bridle.

Step 6: Now, now, Joe Bob don’t wander off to hang up that bridle yet. Make sure that the horse’s halter is completely and correctly on and the horse is securely fastened before you go tidy up the tack room.

Yes, yes, I know I just described unhitching a single horse as a TWO person job. Have I seen it done by one person? Yes. Is it a good idea? Never.

I know shit happens, but really get a grip. Something has to BREAK for this sort of thing to be acceptable (and even then it’s really not still, check your equipment and then re-check it).

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The crackpots, have well, cracked.

You know it’s bad when your own wackos turn against you….

The NY Post reports that “An NYPD cop-turned-animal-welfare agent is stepping forward to charge that the ASPCA is cutting ethical and legal corners in its attempt to abolish the city’s horse-carriage industry.”

Halleluiah! It’s about time someone came to their senses in the crackpot that is the ASPCA. Don’t get me wrong I am all about ridding the world of animal abuse, but not at the cost of an industry that is dependent on the welfare of their animals. For instance, it’s really tough to run a carriage company if there are no horses. I also whole heartedly believe in the ASPCA’s mission statement, but find them seriously lacking in the execution.

“The ASPCA Animal Behavior Center is dedicated to promoting balanced, respectful and enriched relations between people and pets through graduate and post-graduate programs for aspiring animal behaviorists; continuing behavioral education for shelter personnel, trainers, veterinarians, and other animal professionals; and the provision of practical, humane advice on pet behavior for owners.”

Perhaps if they spent more time worried about this:

Rather than this:

Secrets of the Carriage Industry

I worked about two years in the carriage tour industry. No, not in New York City, believe it or not carriage tours run everywhere from Denver, Colorado to Charleston, South Carolina. When I started I knew next to nothing about carriage horses and driving; by the end I could maneuver a young team around a cement mixer without missing a beat in my story. I’m not saying I know everything about the industry, just my little corner.

We ran our carriages out of a converted warehouse about a 20 minute drive (by carriage) from where our tours started. An ideal setting? It was certainly not picturesque, but it had safe, large stalls, a paddock out back and a lock on the door (and yes the fire department had a key). Our barn manager lived five minutes away (did I mention he was our farrier too?) We had 14 horses in the barn, and ran two six hour shifts of carriages, horses and drivers daily. Our horses were our co-workers; on average we spent more time with our equine co-workers than our people ones.

Feed: We fed timothy hay and grain 3x daily. The high protein pelleted grain was always soaked, and topped with each horses’ supplements.

Hoof Care: Each horse was shod every 4 weeks on average (the pavement wears out shoes faster than sand). Each horse was shod as an individual without using stocks (almost unheard of for drafts), but for the most part we used steel shoes with borium studs for traction. Why didn’t we use rubber shoes? A few reasons: the rubber stops the natural slide of a horse’s foot upon landing, the rubber tends to wear unevenly and the added height of the rubber can cause soreness. If a horse lost a shoe during a shift we had easy boots on hand to protect their hoof until they made it back to the barn.

Time Off: Our horses all had days off and nobody worked if they weren’t sound. On days off our horses were often turned out in the back paddock while their stalls were cleaned. The owner also had property outside of town that we hauled out to if horses were on extended leave (we had a mare that took every summer off simply because she didn’t do well working the heat). My first two months at the company we had a Belgian that didn’t work at all; he wasn’t sound enough. The horse had naturally crumbly feet. So every day for months in addition to his feed supplements, the staff painted his feet with hoof hardener.

Illness: It happens, to everyone. We certainly weren’t immune. One evening I pulled my team for the evening out of their stalls only to see that they were covered in hives, no work for them that night and each got a nice shot of dex. The problem? A new shipment of shavings that had a bit of cedar in them. We (the drivers) took our horses temperatures between each tour and tracked their average. If anyone was over 102 they didn’t go out on tour and the driver spent the hour cold hosing the horse. We actually cancelled tours because of this. One evening my horse began to act colicky, we cancelled the tour and headed back to the barn. I didn’t even get half way back when the owner of the company was dropped off by the barn manager and rode with me back to the barn. The manager was ready and waiting we I pulled into the barn, my horse was unhitched and unharnessed before I stepped off the carriage. Nobody left that night until we were sure he was feeling better. Oh and did I mention the owner had company in town and left in the middle of dinner to meet me?

In the two years I worked for the company we had one horse die, he was 26 and retired. It was the saddest week I had at the company; everyone loved that feisty old guy.

Working for that company was one of the best jobs I had, certainly one of the most educational. Is this how every company is run? Probably not, but the good ones certainly don’t deserve to be dumped into the ASPCA’s crackpot. Let’s focus on the individuals rather than the whole.

A Xmas Pony

Christmas is coming and little girls everywhere have visions of ponies dancing in their heads. Gray ones, spotted ones, pink ones and every once in a while a good old fashioned unicorn top Christmas lists for little girls everywhere. Those same desperate letters to Santa begging for a pony – we have the room she can sleep with me! – are terrifying parents everywhere.

  1. Most parents have the sense to realize that a pony is not the best investment for their eight year old and these children receive a toy horse instead. Disappointment runs rampant on Christmas morning when there is no pony with a bow on its head in their 8×10 backyard, but in all it’s probably the safest (and cheapest) option.
  2. The fortunate few find a brand spanking new ASTM/SEI certified helmet under the tree with a lesson package at the local, properly insured, safety conscious stable. If the kid sticks with it and has a bit of luck a few years down the road they might lease an appropriate horse and continue with lessons.
  3. The pony is in the living room. Yep, that’s right Dad went on craigslist and bought a pony.

You can buy not one, not two, not three but four unbroken ponies! Anyone else having visions of a wild, galloping, 4-in-hand team pulling a pony cart dancing in their head? After all they have expert training already; there’s really nothing like a two year old running the training program.

A few things I really love about this:

  • The keeping it in the family breeding program!
  • Free babysitting courtesy the stud pony
  • Who doesn’t love a palomino paint or two?

For the rest of us already lucky horse owners, the Christmas season means spending a little extra time with our own Xmas Ponies. (Mostly because of the sub-zero temperatures, feet of snow and that automatic waterer that Princess broke, again.) I don’t deny it I still have visions of ponies dancing in my head on Christmas, although every now and then a crazed pony team crashes into the perfect hunter round, tramples the judge and makes youtube.