Love and marriage, horse and carriage

Elinor Tatum | 12/18/2014, 1:17 p.m.
As the harness is placed around Ruby’s neck, she knows it is time to go to work.
A Horse and carriage trots down Park Avenue in Manhattan

As the harness is placed around Ruby’s neck, she knows it is time to go to work. She stands almost motionless, like a supermodel being preened for the runway. A twitch of her ear, back and forth, reveals that she’s aware of what’s going on around her. The last buckles are fastened, the last feather is put in place, and out the door she goes, showing the world that she is strong, beautiful and proud.

Horses like having jobs. They thrive on doing something well, making their partner (rider, driver, audience) happy. They strive to please and their work ethic is strong, yet at the same time, they know their own limitations and will not do anything they do not wish to do. Think about it. Wrestling with an 1,800-pound animal is not easy, and if they are not willing partners, you are going nowhere. Carriage horses in NYC are willing and quite able partners.

Images of New York through the ages show that horses have been an integral part of the city’s storied past. They helped build New York and continue to create the iconic scenes that NYC is known for. Horses and carriages in Central Park are as connected to New York as the Empire State Building. Tourists, and New Yorkers alike see them as part of the city’s fabulous fabric.

Imagine these moments: a first-date carriage ride through the park; a marriage proposal in the back of a hansom cab; delivery of a bride to her wedding ceremony; one of our beloved carried to a final resting place in a glass coach. All this is part of New York. And this legacy has been in place since 1834.

The hansom cab industry has provided a livelihood to families for generations. There are third- generation owners, second-generation owners and drivers who make the loop in Central Park every day. New immigrants to this country have started out as stable boys and have worked their way up to owners. But when I use that word owner, I use it delicately. I do so because these owners/drivers and these horses have a different relationship. They are partners. They have a love and an admiration for one another. And that partnership combines a level of trust, security and protection. These men and women will protect their horses. Some families may even say, “They love their horses more than us.”

The idea that New York could lose an industry so rooted in its history is ludicrous and unfathomable. We don’t need electric car replicas. We need these majestic animals. They bring smiles to the faces of children and the nostalgia of yesteryear.

Tell the mayor that we want our fairy tales. We want our carriages. We want our horses, and we want the jobs that are associated with the industry. In many respects, we share a mutual happiness with the carriage horses, because everybody should be pleased with a job well done, as we are sure they are.

As the horses return to their stable at the end of the evening, they retire to their stalls with a bed of fresh straw, a meal of fresh oats and alfalfa, with a side of Timothy Hay and a carrot to top it off. They close their eyes and take a rest, excited for the next sunrise, ready to take to the streets to do their job, because it makes them happy.