Friday, May 30, 2008

“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “to talk of many things:”

I’m about to open a jumbo size can of worms, here, my friends, so consider this a warning.

(Disclaimer: I work in Salt Lake City, Utah. I do not speak for or pretend to know the conditions for all of the carriage horses in the United States. I know about the company I work for. Your local carriage company may vary.)

Are you squeamish? Easily nauseated? Do you wear rose colored glasses to view the world? Go find a site that will tell you all about Brangelina’s new chateau in France. I hear it’s really nice.

Trust me on this one.

Okay, now that all of the pansies are out of the room, lets talk.

I’m a carriage driver. That means I drive a carriage pulled by a, (gasp) horse. We use the big ones, draft horses. Because of this I get a lot of crap while I’m working from people who believe that animals have rights.

First note: Animals do not have rights, any more then your car or your Lay-Z-Boy have rights. Animals are property with personalities. I do not condone animal abuse. Cruelty to animals is wrong. Giving an animal a job is not cruel or abusive. If you believe that it is then we should “free” all of the service dogs, animal actors, racehorses, and canines that sniff bomb material or search for people buried in an avalanche. In fact, if you believe that it is and you “own” an animal, then you should give it up. Set it free. Let it return to its natural feral state. Then move to India and walk around steaming piles of cow crap. You’ll feel really good about yourself.

Oh, and I hope you weren’t going to fly or back country ski any time soon. And for heavens sake, don’t you dare go blind.

If you want to get a look at real animal abuse, check out some of the shows on Animal Planet.

Second note: When dealing with horses here is the reality. The majority of people in my country, with the exception of the Amish, do not use horses for transportation or as a form of work engine anymore. Across the globe they are still used as such in many countries. Horses are used in my country to access areas too remote or rugged for a gas powered vehicle, as anyone who has taken a donkey ride to the bottom of the Grand Canyon can attest to. They are also used as entertainment; Horse Racing, Rodeo, Circus, and performance shows like the Lipizzans. They are used in sports, like show jumping and Polo, or as hobby animals. Cattle and Sheepmen still use them, that’s why we have Cutting Events. And in my town we fuel the economy by taking folks on carriage rides and give tours.

During a work shift we are often verbally assaulted, usually by folks in cars (we call it a “drive by shouting”) who say nasty things to us and then speed off.

They are very brave souls. Yell something mean, or throw stuff at us, and run away.


I have been pelted with candy, change, and a container of Wendy’s Ranch dressing. I have been told to get a “real” job, accused of mistreating my co-worker, and advised to go to various places, and do precarious and obscene things with myself.

We call the individuals who accost us “Ant-Equestrienne-Eco-Terrorists.”

Now, lets talk reality.

Third Note: Essentially the only folks in this country who still use draft horses, for what they were bred for (work) are us, and the Amish. There’s just not a lot of work for draft horses. The market is very limited, so by giving these guys a job we have taken them out of the food chain.

Yes, that’s what I said. Taken them out of the food chain.

Have you ever wondered what the Lions, Tigers and Bears at the Zoo get fed? It isn’t a McDonalds Happy Meal, my friends. Horses unfit for work or pleasure are sent to rendering plants. The old, sick, fugly, lame or unwanted. They’ve closed all the plants in the United States that used to render for human consumption, so animal consumption is what’s left.

Check out that bag of dog food that Fido’s about to snack on. The ingredients are listed on the back, away from the picture of the bright eyed and bushy tailed pet.

Animal digest, meat meal, and fat, along with a bunch of fillers like corn. Non specific. You would probably be very surprised to know that besides lamb, chicken, horse and cow there’s probably some Fido and Kitty thrown in, along with a smidge of road kill.

What did you think happened to some of the animals euthanased at your local pound or vet? Did you think there was a beautiful pet cemetery on the outskirts of your town that they were carted off to after they were put to sleep? Yes, some places have crematoriums, but that’s expensive. And yes, there are pet cemeteries, but ditto. So when the dog you found in your yard that you called animal control about doesn’t get claimed, where do you think it ends up? A suite at the Happy Dale Puppy Farm?

Sorry. Wrong answer.

I am very fond of many of my equine co-workers. Yes, there’s one or two I don’t like so much, but that doesn’t mean I’m brutal to them. When I get to the barn I find out who I’m working with that evening and pull them out of their pen. If it’s the same pen that Jerry is in he will follow you around and try to stick his head into the halter you’re carrying. He wants to work. And if the guy I have to get didn’t want to work, trust me, all 150 pounds of me couldn’t force all 1800 pounds of him to do it. They have four legs and can run fast. As an added bonus they can kill you with one well placed kick.

Jerry’s really enthusiastic, and he likes his job. Tom, a black swayback Percheron, has been employed by the carriage barn for 13 years now. His previous job was as a bucking bronco. After being downsized from that position he almost ended up as kibble, but the barn owners bid higher then the killers did at the horse auction, and Tom has been pulling the carriage around Salt Lake ever since. 13 extra years added to his life. And Tom’s quite a character. He likes to blow raspberries with his lips, it’s really funny.

Final Note: I like my job, too. In fact, I love it. It is the most fun job I have ever had. I get to work with horses, an animal I have been a huge fan of all my life. I drive around a wonderful city talking to people from all over the world. It’s, for the most part, a blast.

Except for the Anti-Equestrienne-Eco-Terrorists, with their drive-by shoutings and their ranch dressing throwing.

So before you go all postal and yell stuff, then decide to join PETA, think about this: The lives of the domesticated working horse is not nearly as bad as some people think it is. 25% of the BLM horses (“Wild Mustangs”) do not reach maturity. Why? Because their job is to survive. Cletus pulls a little cart around, and in reality spends most of his time standing at South Gate, sleeping. That’s his job. Try worrying about the lives of humans who are out there, unemployed, starving, cold, sick, abused or systematically killed. Throw money and food at them, they could really use it.

Leave the carriage horses out of it, because if I ever did have to give Cletus or Jerry a pink slip, guess where he’s going. Yup, see “Third Note.” Or maybe I could turn him loose in your back yard. He eats the equivalent of 2% of his body weight in hay, per day, and he weighs about 1900 pounds.

1 comment:

Christina said...

So, so true!

I was driving empty after a dropoff and some PETA-nutjob riding his bike yelled at me: "HORSE CARRIAGES ARE MURDER!!!!"

My only response: "Only if I aim it at you on purpose."

I drive in Philly.