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October 5, 2018: Part II Smoky and Friends

We walked over to the entrance of Central Park after our morning at CBS studio. We then went for a carriage ride, which was something I’d wanted to do since I was a child. When I was ten my mother took El and me to Quebec where there were carriage horses. I begged her to take me on a ride but she said it was too expensive. I finally came full circle in being able to afford to do this now.

I got really excited when I saw the carriage horses, many of whom had brightly colored plumes on their heads. They moved about calmly on the heavily trafficked streets. They were not all draft horses, but a mix. And they were large and small.

El arranged for this outing. Earlier in the day she texted a fellow named John who said that he’d meet us at the park at 1 p.m. We didn’t know which driver he was, so I went up to one of the drivers and asked him where John might be. He then asked, “which John? Irish John? Red John? Tall John? I didn’t wait for further explanation. Instead, I went down the row and just kept asking the drivers if they had received a text from Eleanor. Finally, a fellow named John said that he was our driver.

Cental Park Carraige Horses

I then began asking John innumerable questions. He confirmed my suspicion, that the carriage horses are all of differing breeds, and many come from Lancaster, PA, which is Amish country. I gathered that they come to NYC trained to pull carts, but of course they have to be desensitized – they do this by immediately putting them to work. They then quickly learn to deal with construction noise, heavy traffic, overly loud passengers, and the like.

John told us he owns two additional horses beside Smoky – he keeps them in an eight stall barn outside of town. Smoky, age 18, is the oldest. Smoky, I noticed, moved quite slowly. He also had numbers engraved in his left front hoof. This way, I was told, he could be identified if someone determined that something was amiss with his care.

John, in so many words, said that the NYC carriage horse industry is heavily regulated. I noticed that the horses that were resting were eating grain out of buckets. I did not see that any were getting hay. Seems to me that this would be better for them, but oh well. The horses are reshod every five weeks – they wear steel shoes. There were no horses wearing plastic shoes or going around barefoot.

My sense was that these horses work hard and in fairly tough conditions. Those I saw seemed resigned to their fate. Yes, resigned best describes their attitude. I think that there should be stables and a carriage horse interpretive center located right in Central Park. This interpretive center would have historical information and information about the care and feeding of carriage horses. This idea is so good that it most likely will never come to be.

Next: 279. 10/6/18: Home Away from Home

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