Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Blush Off The Rose

New York is a lot of things. Gentle, it is not.

I was walking to my yearly GYN appointment (if you must know) which takes me all the way across Central Park South to the East Side. Central Park South is a lovely expanse of ritzy NYC real estate, stretching from the huge new mall at Columbus Circle to the Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue. But it also happens to be where all the horse-drawn carriages park while they wait for visitors to drive around Central Park. On a windy March day, Central Park South is eardrum-freezing bitter and yet still stifling with the smell of horse manure. With just a dash of horse urine for luck. A waft of cow manure makes me homesick for Central PA. Horse manure, on the other hand, does not. When I was pregnant and yarfy, this walk along Central Park South was like running the gauntlet. I am proud to say I never once puked on Central Park South.

So I was walking across the bottom of the Park last week. I take it as something of a compliment that the carriage drivers don't proposition me for a ride. Despite the LL Bean jacket, I guess after seventeen years maybe I do look angry enough to be a local. I'm walking by and they're all hanging out, some in grungy top hats. Some in baseball caps. Chatting and waiting. When all of a sudden one of the horses kicks over his feed pail, spilling a decent amount, but certainly not the whole bucket, on the street. And the driver grabs the bucket and yells, "F--- you, you f---ing idiot!" He yells this at the HORSE. And something in the way he yelled it was kind of dark. More like a wife-beater than a business partner. Reflexive and violent. And it just kinda made me wonder...

Oh it's soooo romantic...a carriage ride through Central Park....snuggling under the blanket with your sweetie....snapping pics of the forsythia and daffodils.

Welcome to New York City 2010.

Kinda takes the blush off the rose a bit, doesn't it?


alone ... with cats said...

I bet the horse took being called an "idiot" with a grain of salt. Now if the driver had said "jackass," it'd be an entirely different story. Because that's just insulting ... to a horse.

Anonymous said...

these drivers have no respect or love for their horses. The horses are a money ticket. I have heard them say worse things to a horse who does not do "exactly" as they say - letting lose a barrage of curse words. Once I saw a driver allow his horse to drink from the filthy water trough in the park only to pull her head up after a few swallows and say to his passengers, "I'll show her who's boss." NYC does not need this inhumane "industry." It brings embarrassment and shame to NYC.

Anonymous said...

As the 1 of the few women that not only own muliple horses and carriages in nyc as well as my own stable,I think the smell of horses compared to diesel fumes across central park to be quite refreshing.AS for the driver who supposedly cursed at his horse,why does that register as a wife beater type person to you?Since you say you live in nyc,you for sure heard much worse by taxi drivers,truck drivers and even pedicab riders.I hardly think the horse in question was insulted,hey,maybe he don't understand English.WE have many Hebrew horses,Turkish Horses,Italian Horses and a few Irish horses left.Unless the horse was talented to know several languages I don't think there is need to stress over it.

Wendy said...

Thanks for all the response. I do find it interesting that the following two commenters chose to be anonymous. I know that there are lots of strong opinions about the carriage industry in NYC. I don't agree as the first Anonymous said, that the carriage drivers across the board to not have any respect or love for their horses. I feel like that's a blanket statement that I can't support in any way based on my observation and knowledge. Though I know emotions run high on this issue.

For instance, it sounds like Anonymous #2 is a caring and respectful owner. I agree that diesel fumes are horrid. I just don't find the horse urine smell to be refreshing personally. And as I said, I do admit to finding the cow manure smell comforting because I grew up with it! I am a country girl at heart!

Regarding my impressions of the driver I wrote about, all I can say is that based on my observation it was a cruel, abusive kind of moment. Despite the fact that the horse may not speak any languages, I do believe animals are sensitive enough to pick up on negative nasty energy. I have heard a lot of cussing in my nearly twenty years in NYC. And honestly, the fact that this incident even caught my attention is testament to what I found to be an unusual degree of viciousness in a curse. And really, the fact that the horse doesn't speak English (so far as we know) made it somehow a little nastier. Like swearing at a toddler. That's why it caught my eye and I wrote about it.

Tess said...

It is sad to read comments from people who either think that it's a big joke to abuse an animal, or try to excuse it in some way. These horses live miserable lives. Many come from the Amish who are not famous for treating their animals kindly. After spending an average of four years as a NY City carriage horse, walking every day through congested city traffic, breathing in fumes from cars, trucks and buses, to Central Park where they work nine hours, they are then walked back to the "stables", which are dilapidated buildings on the West Side of NY, and up steep narrow ramps to upper floors of the building and kept in cramped stalls.

Six months out of the year, the water in Central Park is turned off, so there isn't any fresh water for the horses to drink during their nine hours in the Park. Portable troughs are filled by the ASPCA when they can, but these troughs are usually almost empty, and the water is always dirty.

After their four year "stint" as a carriage horse, the horses quietly disappear. The carriage industry says that they are retired to idyllic farms to live out their lives. There are over 200 carriage horses in NYC at a time. There is a turnover every four years. The upkeep of each horse including food, lodging and veterinary care is very expensive. So every four years 200 more are being sent to these retirement farms?

Vans from some of the stables have been spotted and photographed at New Holland Auction in Pennsylvania, a place where horses are sold to be shipped to slaughter houses.

Mike Cubbin said...

I am with those anonymous comments - why would you draw the straightest line of analogy to "wife beating"? I guess that's why this is your blog and not a news broadcast. Seventeen years here and you are this affected by a carriage driver? I take these comments (when said in earshot of a woman) to be more an indicator of our society aligning itself with the burning of Rome. We are in "decline" mode and this is the kind of behavior you will hear from people at this level in societal history. Wife beater maybe, but I wouldn't go with that right out of the box. Seventeen years? Too touchy.