Horse (of a horse-drawn carriage) collapsed on the streets of Melbourne: how is this justifiable? 


Left: Horse-drawn carriage in Melbourne. Right: Wild horses living naturally.

When I was young, I always dreamed of riding on a horse-drawn carriage through NYC. It was such an overly-romanticised idea that was irresistible to even the most cynical of people. Strangely, it was while watching the episode of Seinfeld wherein Kramer looked after one of these horses that I began to question the ethics of such a practice. It was an odd notion to me at 8yrs old to view an animal as a vehicle, let alone one that was expected to compete with cars, buses, trucks etc. on busy city roads.

Yesterday this video emerged of a horse that collapsed on the streets of Melbourne. The person who captured the video alleged that the horse collapsed due to dehydration, which would seem a more than likely scenario. Though, the owner, Dean Crichton, from Unique Carriage Hire, has since threatened that they’re considering legal action against the Melbourne teen, claiming that the horse was not dehydrated. Regardless, the scene was a horrid sight. The video did not go viral because of the concerned teen’s assumption that the horse was dehydrated, it went viral because it was a wake-up call to Australians that a most-likely terrified horse was helplessly collapsed in the street, surrounded by cars and people.

Somehow this is still an acceptable and apparently lucrative practice. Perhaps it is the lack of knowledge that leads people to believe that this is an acceptable practice, but most likely it is due to their cognitive dissonance. We’ve learned to live with the idea that animals are nothing more than tools, food, entertainment, etc. but isn’t there something wonderful in the idea of evolving beyond this? Imagine a horse in the wild – in its natural environment, roaming free. Now imagine a horse, battling traffic, breathing toxic fumes, braving the scorching heat with no respite and hauling heavy loads every single day. And for what? For a moment of perceived joy in some person’s life. I would wager that most who choose to pay for the trip wouldn’t do it twice for sheer lack of interest and would enjoy the journey for perceived nostalgic purposes only.

An injured carriage horse in NYC (click for source).

The above is devastating to me. The footage, even more painful. But what is confusing is that not everyone feels this way, and that people still continue to legally use these old-fashioned gimmicks in the streets of Melbourne. Aren’t we better than this? In an age when we are finally starting to collectively understand the cruelty involved in greyhound and horse racing, how are we not aware of the impact that pulling a heavy cart on asphalt has on horses?

Aside from the actual car vs. horse accidents that occur, the day-to-day damage to these horses is undeniable. Their legs suffer from beating the asphalt each day. It is painful and dangerous, because once their legs give out, they are deemed permanently useless.

Then of course there’s the impact on their lungs. Imagine having to walk through traffic day-in, day-out. How do you think your lungs would handle the fumes? We barely keep our windows down in traffic due to the overwhelming toxicity of petrol fumes – how we expect these gentle giants to deal with it is beyond comprehension.

In some instances, (and perhaps narrowly avoided yesterday), horses have dropped dead from heatstroke after working in harsh heat and humidity.

Many claim that the drivers of these cruel modes of transport “love and respect” these animals. I greatly beg to differ. In an article about a horse that had the carriage collapse on it when it was spooked in Manhattan traffic, the driver openly blames the horse and offered it no care or concern. To add insult to the horse’s (literal) injury, the driver was witnessed “shouting at the horse” before the crash. One witness said “it looked like the driver was having a fit. He was screaming. He couldn’t control the horse,” So much for love and respect.

What ‘love and respect’ looks like – a horse spooked and subsequently crushed by its cart in NYC (click for source).

Perhaps it’s years of conditioning – being immersed in a society where we believe that horses belong in saddles and bridles. But if you think back to what a horse is supposed to be; a gentle, free, wild beast, it is absolutely heartbreaking to juxtapose this image with what a horse is to us now.

You can take action now by signing this petition and/or joining the ‘March for the horses‘ on October 9th, 12:30pm-2:30pm at Bourke St Mall, Melbourne. If you’re a Melbourne local, it’s worth following the page Melbourne Against Horse-Drawn Carriages. You can also take a stand by boycotting this cruel and outdated practice and urging others to follow suit.

UPDATE: the teen who posted the video has apologised for the “misrepresentation” after being threatened with legal action. Somehow people view this as vindication for the carriage owner, rather than a pressured apology. Regardless of how or why the horse fell – whether it was a bite from another horse, dehydration or being spooked – people were still outraged to see this beautiful beast collapsed in the street because it simply did not belong there. Taking this post at face value is naive, just as it is naive to take the word of carriage drivers as gospel. Of course they’re defending the way they treat their horses, but that’s not the issue. Using them to fight traffic every day is, in my opinion, careless and vile. If you are curious about whether this is an ethical practice or not, don’t take anyone’s word for it, do a quick Google search. What you see might hurt you more than you think. 


24 thoughts on “Horse (of a horse-drawn carriage) collapsed on the streets of Melbourne: how is this justifiable? 

    1. sigh

      Actually, horses ARE bred for this. Hundreds of years of selective breeding to produce a horse with the bone, conformation and stamina to do the job easily. This is not an issue. There are BLINDINGLY horrible animal welfare cases everywhere, everyday, yet people take one incidence twist it into their own agenda filling diatribe, and everyone loses their minds.

      1. Derp

        Well said. Theres hundreds of thousands of “pets” thst a malnoirished and mistreated in Australia but people only jump up and down when theres a video on the internet.

        Horses that arent galloping can do so on hard surfaces. Infact a way to overcome shinsoreness in a horse is to walk it on hard surfaces as it conditions the legs.

        But hey. What do actual horse people know about the maintinence and care of the animals they love.

      2. lesley

        my god how about you go breath those fumes into your lungs at close quarters daily, whilst you stand on hard ash-felt in all conditions pulling heavy loads that are unsteady all the while battling traffic and being restricted on any natural grazing(which by the way as your so keen on what they have been designed for, Horses are herbivores and as such have a digestive tract that should be constantly catered to by 24hr access to grazing or forage, not standing for 16 to 18hrs a day waiting to eat or drink)Horses have NOT be selectively bred, they have been used and abused by man to profit from since time began, and its time the human race evolved. Carriages have no place in a modern city, if you want carriage rides get them out of city areas.

      1. Supply and demand

        Maybe so but not in traffic with fumes noise and stress also not really necessary now days with other means of transport available its just a money maker abd maybe if idiots didn’t treat the animals cruelly abd other idiots stopped wanting this outmoded form c of transport this could dissappear its like bali and the way they still abuse the little horses and idiots still wanting to contribute to it supoly and demand

  1. Pamela

    At the end of the day it is all about making money. The general public haven’t a clue of the harm that’s being done to these long suffering animals because on the surface it all looks so perfect. The more publicity the better, education is what is needed, and then things will change.

  2. Hayley Heferen

    How disgraceful is this?????
    Poor Horse’s the human’s should be charged with animal cruelty and given a huge fine!!
    Putrid money hungry scum

    1. Missinformation

      No evidence of animal cruelty here, only allegations based off miss-information and lies. It was reported that lawyers were saying there was a very strong case for a defamation lawsuit.

  3. walknyc

    Well said. Thank you for sharing this. You may not be aware, but the cover photo that is accompanying this post in newsfeeds shows a September 2013 accident from New York City, and it would be a more powerful story for you to show a photo of the white horse. You have some excellent photos in this blog post. Use them!!!

    1. leesalittle Post author

      Thanks for the feedback! WordPress seems to have chosen the cover photo for this post. I selected the white horses as the title image but the photo being shown on the shared link is still the brown U.S. horse. I’ll work on getting this fixed when I get home and see if it can be changed.

  4. Celia Walsh

    It is cruel to the animals and not acceptable in this day and age to continue to allow A practice that is harmful to animals. Melbourbe you are more intelligent and aware, more educated and kind than this. Pease help us stop the business of horse cruelty in the city of Melbourne.
    Thank you on behalf of all the pretty horses.

  5. Ann

    Best to amend this post, since the author of the video has publicly retracted his comments, wihdrawn the video and apologised to the business for making it all up. The horse slipped, fell, and was back on his feet completely unharmed in minutes.

  6. shaiarabians

    I also took the time to follow the YouTube back to the original filmer as their fb page is linked, they have aplogized to the carriage owner fir the misrepresentation.

  7. Alana

    Your lack of research and supporting evidence of your claims actually made me laugh. This is not animal cruelty. In fact, these horses receive the very best in care! How do I know? Because this is my job!!! I drive a carriage with a beautiful big shire whom, I can assure you, receives the absolute best care! He was selectively bred to pull the carriage he drives. He has the best carrier to make sure his hooves are well maintained to suit his job, he has the best diet, is offered water every half an hour (not that they drink this often), is not driven on a day when it is above 36 deg, has his own personal chiropractor for weekly maintenance to make sure he is sound, he is stabled rugged and brushed every day, and most of all, he LOVES his job!
    So take your apparent rumoured ‘abuse’ spreading elsewhere. There certainly is plenty of it out there, just not here.

  8. mishel

    They ARE bred for this and DO enjoy it.
    I know a school horse in his late 20’s, they retired him, but when they go to collect the other horses, he stands at the gate, wanting to go out. If they leave him behind, he stands at gate. They realised he wants to work, so just put beginners who walk only on him.
    My grandfather retired his work horse abd noticed her acting strange, coming to the gate, so he harnessed her. up and gave her a slab to drag around her paddock so she thought she was working.
    I didn’t get up to ride my horse for 4 days just last week. When I got there, my horse came galloping up to me, put his own head in halter, when I bridled him, he couldn’t open his mouth quickly enough, he actually had his mouth open and waiting for me. I think he missed me.
    Lets talk race horses, I agree they start them too young, before bones have finished growing. 2 yr old racing should be banned and it would cut down on many injuries. But I can tell you, tbe ones that win, love it, those that don’t get retired quickly. They are no differdnt to any other athlete, you can train stamina and strength and fitness, but you have to have the will to win.
    Most horse owners know if their horse likes jumping, dressage, or trail riding, they tell us in their own way and go sour if we try to push them in a didcipline they don’t enjoy.
    You can romantacise about wild horses all you like, but in the wild they live to about 15, have worms, bad feet. In captivity, they live til about 30.
    You know nothing Jon Snow.

  9. Pamela

    I feel very depressed reading some of these posts, if you have empathy with horses, try and see it from their side, or put yourself in their position. At rest horses breath 150 litres of air per breath, and they have not evolved to breath in pollution. Horses do not deal with stress very well, at best they just shut down, they are also herd animals and need to be near other horses, their legs cannot take the jarring on tarmac day after day. I would hope that these owners give their horses time off in the country, where they can live a more natural life for a time, that is the least they can do for them, and do they? Does anyone know? And to end, if I was a horse and have a choice, I would rather be free and live a shorter happier life in the wild with my family band, as I was meant too. Good on the post author, I am right with you!


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