Romantic Tradition or Horse Abuse?

In many cities around the World, not least in European tourist centres, a ride in a horse carriage is offered as a relaxed, time-honoured and romantic way to see a city. On the face of it, while being an acknowledged tourist trap, this may not seem to be a bad thing. The horses are usually well turned out and appear well looked after.

These attractive carriages are on offer in Rome, Madrid, Seville, Cadiz, Cordoba, Florence, Pisa, Siena, Vienna, Salzburg, Brugge, Antwerp, Aran Islands, Dublin, Killarney, Prague, Amiens and many other centres. Horse drawn vehicles and 'gypsy' caravans are also available for hire by tourists, for holiday use in some tourist areas.

As a family we have toured many such cities and locations (see attached images) in Europe and often remarked on the shoeing in particular. The feet of some of these horses are a disgrace. These horses have to work on metalled or cobbled surfaces and good shoeing is a first requirement. In some cases, the horses frankly do not appear to be in good condition and in a significant number, they are being asked to work with the painful handicap of pelvic misalignment. It is a source of some relief and pleasure when we see horses that have been really well tended.

Recently, in Rome in particular, attention has been drawn to their working schedules, the risks of traffic accidents and the fact that horses are often sold into a callous meat trade when 'retired', rather than being retired to pasture.

As a result of lobbying, Rome has banned the carriages on weekdays.

If you take a ride on one of these carriages, you are funding the enterprise. Your money counts. If you have concerns about the welfare implications, don't take the ride!

As to the call to ban such practices, why pick on this activity as particularly heinous? Horses the World over are being exploited with greater or lesser concern for their welfare. Even in our own country, horse welfare is far from ideal. Proper and meaningful regulation, inspection and accountability may be a way forward for improved welfare where horses are used for 'business'.

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