Horse-drawn carriage
(Doug Clement Photography)

An animal rights group called the Victoria Horse Alliance is asking Victorians to sign a petition calling on a ban of horse-drawn carriages by end of 2017.

VHA’s petition argues that:

  • In 20 years there have been 20 collisions between horses and vehicles.
  • They believe that carriage equipment is not properly maintained and that drivers have been reckless when operating carriages.
  • The group takes issue with the shoes on horses feet, claiming they, “indicate improper and inadequate care which has been condemned by certified farriers.
  • They feel that “the “bit” used to communicate with the horses in the Victoria horse carriage industry causes them pain and discomfort which can lead to chronic physiological and psychological health issues.
  • The group also believe that there is a loss of $20,000 in annual revenue from the current rental agreement established between the City and the horse carriage companies.

The President of Tally-Ho Carriage Tours, Donna Friedlander, responded in a letter to Mayor Helps and Counselor Thornton-Joe today, outlining the thorough and regular physical check-ups of the horses, and daily maintenance inspections of all equipment:

All horses receive the following physical health treatments:
Veterinary inspection – minimum twice per year as per regulations, and then as needed. This includes:

  • General health and wellness assessments, and treatments
  • Dental assessments and care
  • Vaccinations and worming
  • A feed program that is designed specifically for the needs of each horse

Certified farrier care:

  • Daily inspections and care of foot health
  • Specially formulated and fitted shoes that provide traction and promote joint health
  • Alternative therapies, including chiropractic and massage

Ad hoc farm inspections by the SPCA and City of Victoria (as per regulations) to ensure acceptable living standards as prescribed in Canada’s Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Equines.

Ms. Friedlander also spoke to the importance of emotional well-being of the horses:

“At Tally-Ho we delight each morning in seeing our horses lined up at the gates, hoping it’s their day to go to work. They come when called, each by their own name. Part of our responsibility to each of our equine partners is to ensure that they like their job. They are 1,800 pound, live, thinking animals and will clearly show us through body language if they are unhappy, uncomfortable or threatened (for example, not allowing humans to catch them in the field, pinning their ears, biting, kicking and/or generally being unwilling). If it’s not safe, we don’t do it.”

“The balanced health of the horses (mind, body, soul) is a primary focus for both companies. Horses and humans are better together then they could ever be apart. We learn lessons from horses that are very rarely found elsewhere. They are a gift to us, and we have a major responsibility to give an equally big gift back to them: with the right approach our horses can become calmer, braver, smarter and more athletic on a daily basis, which makes them more comfortable in all of their surroundings.”

In reference to the claims made by the Victoria Horse Alliance, Tally-Ho Carriage Tours tells Victoria Buzz “the number of horse drawn carriage collisions quoted is a misstatement of fact as this data includes all reports of any nature within the industry, no matter how trivial.  We are proud of our safety record as safety is our paramount goal and we have documented processes in place to ensure safety checks of horses and equipment are performed multiple times each day.  With regard to using a bit in a horse’s mouth, improper use could certainly cause damage (just like improper use of any equipment in any industry).  As in all equine activities, a bit must be fitted properly and used with respect for the horse: all carriage drivers are highly experienced in this regard.

Counselor Charlayne Thornton-Joe spoke on CFAX this morning stating that all the horses have passed their veterinary health checks this season.

The Victoria Horse Alliance is planning to present its petition to council on Thursday.

A second petition has since launched by a newly formed group called, Victoria Horse Protection Alliance, encouraging people to sign if they want to see the horse carriage service in Victoria remain.