Yay, We Won!!

Yay, We Won!!
Now Where's My Carrot??

Saturday, December 6, 2008

"Giddy-Up, Jingle Horse, Pick Up Your Feet...

...dancing and prancing in Jingle Bell Square, in the frosty aiiiir!"

Like the song says, it's that time of year again, when thousands of people will help to usher in Christmas time in NYC with a horse-drawn carriage ride.

We here at the New York Horse and Carriage Association would like to take a moment to thank all the folks who help to keep our century-and-a-half old tradition alive.

So bring your thermos of hot chocolate and your best caroling voice, and head on up to 59th Street!

(Note: this time of year on weekends, there may be a wait for a carriage. We thank you for your patience and understanding! To avoid the big crowds, weekdays or the early mornings and evenings on weekends are your best bet!)

A Very Merry Christmas to You and Yours,

The NYC Horse and Carriage Association

Thursday, September 25, 2008

NYC's Very Own Pinocchio

Sorry to intrude on this fine soft evening with unpleasantness, but the simple truth is that our on-going fight with Councilmember Tony Avella (flanked by his coterie of conspirators and his ever-present sidekick band of slavering minions, of course), is being kicked into high gear here in dear old New York.

In a post this coming weekend, I'll be getting into the particulars of the latest salvos fired at our lovely little business (and also divulging a few very interesting tidbits of some of our detractors' behind-the-scenes shenanigans that we have recently uncovered!)

But until then, here is a list of the oft-repeated lies that are making Mr. Avella's nose very long indeed:


"Other major cities across the planet have banned horse drawn carriages."
-Tony Avella, The Brian Lehrer Show 12/11/2007
The fact is that there are horse drawn carriages in nearly EVERY major city in both the US and Europe.

"The horses are forced to walk several miles back to their stables at the end of the day."
-Tony Avella, The Brian Lehrer Show 12/11/2007
NO carriage stable is further than 1 1/2 mile from the park, and two of them 1/2 mile.

"The horses are worked in illegal temperatures."
-Tony Avella, The Brian Lehrer Show 12/11/2007
The horses are not allowed to work below 18F or above 89F, and there have been NO summonses issued in violation of these laws by any agency in the last 14 years.

"The horses are kept in narrow stalls."
-Tony Avella, The Brian Lehrer Show 12/11/2007
EACH AND EVERY carriage horse is housed in a BOX STALL (unlike some riding horses and police horses in the city, which are kept in "straight" stalls.)

"The horses ...are improperly fed"
-Tony Avella, The Brian Lehrer Show 12/11/2007
EVERY carriage horse receives a high quality diet of oats/sweetfeed/pellets and hay. NO tickets have EVER been given by any agency for "improper feeding".

"There is only one water basin at Central Park."
-Tony Avella, The Brian Lehrer Show 12/11/2007
There are TWO horse troughs with a constantly running spigot at Central Park, and EVERY carriage originating its ride anywhere on 59th Street passes EACH one on EACH ride.

"The horses are not properly watered."
-Tony Avella, The Brian Lehrer Show 12/11/2007
NO diagnosis or summonses have EVER been given for dehydration. A horse that is "not properly watered" would soon sicken and die from complications of dehydration, like any mammal.
NO HORSE has ever died from dehyration.

So -how's the ole schnoz, there, Tony?
(And wouldn't a wooden nose be attached to a wooden head? LOL)

Soon Mr. Avella might be needing some help lugging that growing nose around - yanno, for when he's busily bustling around, sticking it in other people's business.

Maybe the Coalition to Ban Horse Drawn Carriages will buy a nice wheelbarrow for Tony's nose with all that $$$ they make from those fundraisers!

(What DO they do with all that moolah, anyways?)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Autumn in New York

You can feel it coming into its own.

And there is no better time to ride in - or drive! - a carriage.

Yes, yes - there are those who will disagree. While 'tis true devotees will sing the praises of a horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park in the Spring (enchanting, no doubt), Summer (lazy and languid, for certain), and Winter (bracing and cozy, to be sure), it is the magnificent Autumn that I enjoy most each year.

Firstly, Central Park is unlike any other landscape anywhere in America. The trees to be found here are an amazing mix of specimens, both native and foreign. Trees indigenous to Europe and Asia can be found everywhere among the native American species. One can see a stately and rare stand of American Elms within sight of the fuzzy and cute Japanese Red Pine; a European Beech with it's cookie-cutter cartoon leaves just a stone's throw from the tear-drop outline of the a Bald Cypress.

As one can easily imagine, this international, hodgepodge canopy of Central Park in Autumn becomes a delicious swirl of surprises for the casual observer - an unintentional botanical representation of NYC itself!

Then of course, there's the carriage horse in Autumn.

The carriage horse in Autumn resembles somewhat the carriage horse in Spring. That light, cool wind playing under his belly gives a little extra frisk, a little lightness in the feet. But, instead of the shedding out of Spring, the coat is getting it's first bloom of that fuzziness that precedes the winter growth. Perhaps the horse will have a little extra appetite; the doldrums of hot, heavy-aired days isn't conducive to big eating. The horse will stick his nose in his feed with a little more gusto this time of year, to help him along to his 'winter weight'.

Autumn in NYC is short and sweet. People who experience it with a carriage ride make the most out of this fleeting time, and see it in a way unlike any other.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Of Ambassadors and Angels

Each and every day the NYC carriage horses and their drivers welcome people to NYC.

Now, a goodly portion of our patrons are locals; folks from the 5 boroughs of NYC and the surrounding tri-state area ride regularly, especially at Christmas time, on Mother's day, etc.
Hey - locals know a good thing!

But the majority of the people who climb in a carriage are visitors, and hail from every corner of the world. I myself have had people in my carriage from every continent on the planet; from a Maori tribesman of New Zealand to a group of high schoolers from Norway, from a great grandmother and her family from Greenland seeing NYC for the first time to a newlywed couple from South Africa, the people of the world make a Central Park carriage ride part of their NYC experience.

Our profile is iconic and historic - we are ambassadors for NYC, in the truest sense of the word!

There is a much lesser-known side to the carriage business, though. People in our industry work with the Make-A-Wish foundation and Ronald McDonald House among other charities to bring smiles and make dreams come true for sick and disabled children.

I find it difficult to convey in words the feeling of witnessing one of these events. A child whose days are filled with physical and medical challenges that would tear apart the strongest adult is able to find a moment's respite to enjoy a carriage ride, or to pet a velvety nose and squeal with delight as one of our gentle giants lips a carrot from the child's hand. At Ronald McDonald events held in one of our stables, I have seen these children light up for hours in the warm, equine atmosphere, petting and interacting with our horses, listening intently to a veterinarian explaining about their care, making little handcrafts as a memento of their day. A parent of one of these children told me "You don't understand....these children's days are an endless series of doctor's appointments, treatments, and therapies, many rarely get to leave the hospital. To come to a place like this and enjoy the afternoon is such a blessing, you guys are angels."

For the carriage owners involved, I know that it is an honor and a privilege to be able to provide for these children this small interlude of relief from their courageous medical journeys.

For the horses, it's just another day on the job, doing what they do best - delighting people.

I would like to thank those involved for making this world a better place.

We are proud to be NYC ambassadors - but we are humbled to be called a child's "angel".

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Back Up on Me Horse 'n Carriage in NYC!

Back in the saddle, so to speak ;-)
A thousand apologies for the long hiatus....things have been a mite busy personally of late.
It's been a very nice summer - a bit hot, but that just means more time off for us, as the horses -by law - may not work in temps above 89 degrees.
It's a very good, reasonable law, I think. The rest of our industry agrees.
NYC has the lowest stop-work temp law for carriage horses in the country, by the way.
Problem is, the law has been handed to the ASPCA to enforce, and they send us in at their whim.
We've been sent in at 88, 87, 86, and even 85 degrees.
We've been sent in on days that have never reached 90 at all.
But this is all to be expected, as the ASPCA has a classic and stunning conflict of interests.
Just imagine - a privately funded charity, given police powers by State law, overseeing an industry it has pledged to put out of business.
Naw, you say, can't be! Not in America!
But yes, sad to say, 'tis true.
The Humane Enforcement division of the ASPCA - whose officers have summons books, handcuffs, billy clubs, and guns - is responsible for the oversight and enforcement of laws with regard to the NYC carriage industry, a business that they state they want to see banned. Here is their position statement from their own website:
And so it goes - they try to inflict as much damage on us as possible, including cutting our days short with bogus temp readings.
Meanwhile, the bills keep pouring in, and we carry on.
You would think that people allegedly concerned with animal welfare would like to see the people responsible for those animals be able to earn enough money to make sure they continue to get complete, top shelf basic care, plus all the niceties, wouldn't you?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Part II - The Carriage Horse's Worst Enemy

Allow me, gentle reader, to introduce to you the carriage horse's worst enemy - the "humaniac":

A humaniac is a person who identifies him/herself as an "animal rights" advocate. Now, a humaniac differs greatly from the average, normal person who is concerned with animal welfare - the everyday concern that most of us have in caring for and enjoying our pets, seeing that animals are not wantonly harmed, etc. No, the humaniac disdains the term "animal welfare" as a human condescension; the humaniac (to varying degrees depending on which organization they belong to) wants to outlaw all human interaction with animals. Their life's work is to harangue and lie and spread misinformation about any pursuit they deem not in line with their agenda (just why they feel compelled to do this is fascinating - we'll get to it in a future post, I promise ;-)

Unfortunately for us and our horses here in NYC, we are one of the humaniacs' primo targets, as we fit the bill perfectly: a small, high-profile industry with very limited resources. You can see what an excellent opportunity our industry is for these maniacal misfits. They would rather see a horse dead than have a job. To them, a carriage horse doing what it was bred to do, and living a comfortable, content existence alongside his driver, is no different from Michael Vick and a pile of mutilated fighting dogs or undercover horror videos revealing grotesque cruelties at factory farms. Indeed, humaniacs have made public statements comparing the carriage horse trade to the enslavement of people of African descent, and the Holocaust of the Jewish people during WWII.

What?! Surely it should be easy to defeat people who rave and spout such outrageous lunacy!
Yes, one would think.....

Part I - Hay There!

The soaring price of hay & animal feed of all kinds has made headlines more and more lately. There has even been an epidemic of people abandoning their horses all across the South due to what is being called a "perfect storm" of a slow economy, sky-rocketing feed prices, and the recent national outlawing of slaughtering unwanted horses. This is a mammoth crisis - thousands of horses being left to waste away in fields and paddocks across the country. Google it; it will tear your heart out.

Meanwhile, here in NYC, the carriages carry on. Our horses have the same high standard of feed, shelter, and vet & farrier care that they are used to. But things are getting increasingly difficult. Surely, you say, the carriage rides are as popular as ever? Thank goodness, that is true; however, the NYC carriage industry has not had a rate increase in almost 20 - that's right, 20 - years. While the cost of everything from gas to groceries to health care to hay and oats has gone up and up and up, the cost of a trip through the Park has remained the same as it was when ladies with big hair and shoulder pads climbed in a carriage after a matinee of When Harry Met Sally in 1989.

Why, you ask? Why wouldn't the city powers-that-be grant an obviously needed rate increase to a beloved and iconic industry?
Why indeed.....

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Off-Topic: Condolences to Those Who Knew Eight Belles

The filly Eight Belles sustained a double injury at yesterday's Kentucky Derby and had to be euthanized. We at The Whiffle Tree NYC extend our sympathy and prayers to the jockey, trainers, owners, and all who worked with and loved Eight Belles.
Horse people love their horses. It doesn't matter the capacity - from trail riding to barrel racing to jumping to the circus to racing to carriage driving - any horse person feels the loss of a beloved horse deeply. It's maddening and outrageous that people choose this sad time to malign and rail against the very people who lost the most. The blogs are abuzz with calls for everything from suspending the jockey to outlawing horse racing. Cynical sneers and accusations of greed and mishandling abound as these ghouls exploit the death for their own ends.
The fact is, Eight Belles would never have even been born if it weren't for horse racing - she was born and bred to do just that. So the argument is pared down very quickly to an almost existential philosophical question: is it better to be born, live a good life with risks while delighting people - or never to have been born at all? We think the answer is clearly the former.
ALL equine pursuits have inherent risks, as do most pursuits in life generally; eliminate anything with risk, and there would be very little left.
Here's to you, Eight Belles, you were all heart.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A View From The Box

No, it's not a new Merchant Ivory film lol. The driver's seat on a carriage is commonly called "the box". A carriage driver named Noel Douglas, quoted in a New York Times article many years ago, said of this singular perch: "It's a fine, high seat on the world." And that sums it up beautifully. This time of year it's exceptional; the blossoming cherry trees in the Park, the spring breezes, the extra frisk in your horse as you trot past the brownstones on the Westside on your way to the park. Very, very special.

The whiffle tree as metaphor....

Ah, more whiffle tree talk ~ just what you were hoping for, I'm sure. lol Well, other than it sounding rather whimsical, there is a reason for the name of this blog....

The two main points of contact between the horse and the carriage can be found on either end of the whiffle tree. This is the fulcrum, the point where the kinetic energy that makes a carriage ride possible is transfered from the movement of the horse's massive shoulders, to the collar, along the 'line of draft' through the traces, to the carriage.
So there it is. I'd like this place to be a virtual "whiffle tree"~ a transfer point where the energy from the exchange of ideas, information, and history provides the reader with a delightful and insightful "ride" into the rich and colorful world of NYC's Horse-Drawn Carriages.

Friday, April 25, 2008

What is a "whiffle tree"?

For the uninitiated:


n. Northeastern U.S.
Pronunciation: 'hwi-f&l-tree'
The pivoted horizontal crossbar to which the harness traces of a draft animal are attached and which is in turn attached to a vehicle or an implement. Also called singletree, swingletree; also called regionally whippletree.
[Variant of whippletree.]
Regional Note: Whiffletree, a term primarily used in the northeast United States, is derived from the older term whippletree, which is used in the Upper Northern states farther to the west. The fact that whiffletree, the newer term, is used in the Northeast, the older dialect area, illustrates the process of linguistic change. Even as the older word whippletree was spreading westward into a new dialect area, it was evolving into something differentwhiffletreein the area where it originated, as if the older dialect area were somehow trying to keep a step ahead.

Shew! Probably much more than you wanted to know about the etymology, but I like to be comprehensive ;-)