Horses used for tourist rides are commonly whipped and hit, forced to haul heavy loads all day in the heat and in all weather extremes, and made to breathe in exhaust fumes and go without food and water for long periods, leading to physical exhaustion and other serious health problems. When they’re fed, the food they’re given is often substandard, and many are so underweight and malnourished that their bones protrude under their skin. Constant physical toil on concrete roads can leave horses lame and their legs permanently damaged. Pebbles and debris can become embedded in their feet, causing injuries or thrush, a painful bacterial infection. When not being worked, these animals are typically forced to stand amid their own waste in filthy, decrepit stables. These social herd animals are meant to be grazing in fields and raising their young – not pounding the pavement.
Carriages are dangerous to both horses and humans. An unexpected horn blast or other loud noise can spook any horse – even those acclimated to traffic. Collisions with cars, as well as other accidents, are common where horse-drawn carriages are allowed. For instance, a 3-year-old child was thrown from a carriage in Thane, Maharashtra, after a passing car startled the horse pulling it. And a horse was critically injured after collapsing because of exhaustion at the Gateway of India.
Domesticated horses need specialised care. For example, they require a professional farrier to fit them with shoes – but in India, they’re often slammed to the ground so that metal shoes can be nailed to their feet by untrained handlers. Horses’ teeth should be “floated” (or filed) by a veterinarian once a year. If left untended, their teeth can become sharp, making chewing so painful that the animals may refuse to eat. Husbandry and veterinary needs are routinely ignored by carriage drivers.
The High Court of Bombay has confirmed that horse-drawn carriages are illegal, and PETA India has rescued many horses used illegally in this way, but these carriages remain common in some other parts of the country.
If you care about horses, never take a carriage ride. Spread the word to others about the misery-filled lives of horses forced to haul carriages.