Recently there have been several incidents that brought horse-drawn carriages into the media. Most recently in Charleston, a woman dressed up in an inflatable t-rex costume and deliberately tried to “spook” the horses, hoping to draw attention to the negative outcome she expected would occur. It would seem that she stuck around and growled at the horses a moment too long because by-standers saw her and witnessed the antagonizing. Why am I talking about horse-drawn carriages on my pr/social media marketing site? Well, because this industry is currently under attack by a number of people who are quite literally ignorant when it comes to horses and the care they require. A good PR strategy can be the carriage industry’s savior.
“My Two Cents” that I shared on my personal Facebook page:
“I generally stay pretty quiet on this matter. Horse people, let alone people who have no education of horses, all have their own opinions on what the best practices are for horses. But, as I read the comments on this story about the lady dressed up as a T-rex antagonizing and growling at carriage horses in Charleston (not this particular post), I realized that if my voicing my opinion about this, even if just once, helps educate one person about the needs of a horse and the humane treatment of carriage horses, then I should probably speak up. My husband and I own 3 horses. They get fed before us each morning and each night. They are on the top of our priority list. We will own each of them and will continue to take the best possible care of them until the day they die. (Hopefully not any time soon.)
Would you believe me if I said that carriage company owners, especially the one we consider a friend, love their horses just as much as we do? They love their horses so much that they want to share the pleasure of being with them and experiencing them with visitors to our city. “Animal advocates” say it’s wrong to make the horses work, to have them in a city area, to “enslave” them. The likely alternative for these carriage horses if these “animal advocates” force the carriage companies to close is SLAUGHTER.
Are any of those so-called advocates willing to adopt/purchase the horses? To take on the care- the time required, the money that must be spent on feed, hay, farrier, vet bills and boarding? Just to feed our three horses grain and hay twice a day, it costs roughly $300 a month per horse. The farrier is upwards of $40 every six weeks per horse, and that’s cheap because they just get their hooves trimmed, not shod. Our vet comes out multiple times a year for bi-annual shots, coggins, teeth floating, plus anything else that comes up. (For example in our case for Rowdy, a hematoma in the sinus cavity & cancer on his nose/mouth & penis.) If you don’t have your own property, boarding costs vary, but I can assure you, they’re not “cheap.” The owners of these carriage companies aren’t in it “for the money” because most of the money is spent on the care of the horses. Horses are legally considered “livestock” animals. Livestock is defined as “animals kept or raised for use or pleasure; especially: farm animals kept for use and profit.” So, these horses aren’t on the “farm.” In a lot of ways, they get better treatment working in the city than they would on the farm. (An Amish horse’s life is not an easy one.) And in the life of a carriage horse, they provide a service and a pleasure pulling a carriage that even I can move when it has no passengers. (They’re actually very light.)
These carriage horses are extremely well taken care of. Their bodies are in optimal shape and body condition. Their hair/coats are shiny and healthy. They get the exercise and attention they need. A horse is similar to a dog in that they yearn for exercise and purpose. If they don’t get the exercise they need, they will create “jobs” for themselves which more than often is considered misbehavior to us, similarly to a bored dog chewing things they’re not supposed to. Before you attack the diligent, loving owners of these horses, who have chosen a life caring for equines, think about the well-being of these horses. Would you rather them dead? Those calling for the carriage horses being “saved” and let “free” onto farms obviously know nothing of horses. I’d think that true animal advocates would appreciate the impeccable care these carriage horses receive.
In terms of treatment, I would equate it to parents and their children. Some parents go above and beyond to care for their children. Others not so much. There are the rare bad eggs in anything, but overall, carriage horses are pretty pampered and very well provided for. Draft horses are so large because they were bred to slowly pull heavy workloads. They’re amazing really. Horses were bred for purposes just like dogs were. They enjoy doing what their purposes are. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t do it. They’re big enough to be noticeably defiant if they didn’t like their treatment. In regards to hot temperatures, they’ve adapted just like we have. We drink extra water/Gatorade, hose off or go swimming, take breaks, etc. So do they. [ See Weather Channel’s helping-horses-when-temps-get-hot ]
Draft horses are our favorite, and I would hate to see them cast aside or lose their worth because they’ve become targeted.
We will continue to support horse drawn carriages because we know how much she loves her horses and how well taken care of they are, just as much as ours are. If you want to get behind a movement, look up equestrian cross country/eventing deaths, where riders and horses alike frequently die or are severely injured. Or look up what happens to off the track thoroughbreds that didn’t make a name for themselves. (Side Note Here: Not every horse in these industries experience mistreatment.)
There are lots of things to get upset about. Hating the carriage companies because they love their horses shouldn’t be one of them.”
I shared the above with a video of the exceptional press conference that Palmetto Carriage Works held after the targeted attack on their horses, their driver and their guests. I definitely recommend you watch it. Live with Tom Doyle at Palmetto Carriage Works
So from a Public Relations standpoint, what should the carriage companies do? Inform. Inform. Inform.
Many of the people who are “against” horse drawn carriages simply do not know the physical and mental stimulation needs of a horse. They simply just don’t know horses. It’s not an easy fix to the mob mentality that surrounds and is against this industry right now, but this is a straight forward plan. Inform them.
Readily Provide Information About:
- History of draft horses
- Daily ins and outs of horse care
- Cool down procedures during hot temperatures
- Why horses can’t just be set free onto a farm (There are both health and safety reasons.)
- What would happen to these draft horses if a carriage industry did not exist
- Visual comparison of a healthy horse’s body condition along side an unhealthy horse’s body condition
- Visual comparison of healthy hooves along side unhealthy hooves
- Cost of owning a horse (per horse, per day, per month, per year, per average lifetime)
There are various ways to reach the target market, but a few ideas are:
- Discussing the information within the carriage tour itself
- Visually appealing and organized pamphlets on the carriages
- Hosting a meet and greet with the horses
- Signage near the horses’ main post
- Q&A session with an equine vet
This isn’t an exhaustive list. It’s just a start. Unfortunately, I don’t think everyone will listen. You’ll have those individuals that would rather hold onto their ignorance than allow themselves to be educated on the matter.
Even if you help just one person learn and understand more about horses and the carriage industry, it is all worth it in the end.