If a person owns something that makes money, that has value, that person is going to take good care of it so that it can keep making money, right? Even if that thing doesn't make money but serves a big purpose in life, for instance a car, then a person is going to take care of it so that it can keep making those trips between Point A and Point B. It's just common sense.
The second point to make is that the first point is a generalized statement. Is it true in every single case? No, but it's pretty safe to say that, for the most part, it's broadly accepted as the truth. What PETA has done in the case of carriage horses is make such a big noise about those one or two instances that don't fit into the broadly accepted generalized truth to the point where people begin to think of those random instances instead of the broadly accepted generalized truth. Ah, the power of advertising and publicity!
The life of a carriage horse is pretty sedate. In the morning they are fed and watered, then the harness goes on and they are hitched to the carriage. In larger outfits, a horse might 'work' 3 to 4 days a week, then have the rest of the week off. Once hitched, they head out to their work station where they stand, waiting for customers. Once customers decide they want a relaxing tour of the metro area, the horse heads off at a slow, cadenced walk around a block or two. Back at the work station, they lock their knees and promptly fall asleep.
"Oh, but it's so terrible for a horse to be around all that traffic and all those people!" and "All those people in the carriage must be really heavy!" and "That horse has to stand up all day." and "Boy, is that horse sweating!"
If I were a horse, I wouldn't be a carriage horse because I can't stand to be in cities, in traffic or around a lot of people. The horses that can't stand it either aren't chosen to be carriage horses. Plain and simple. A carriage horse is a "dead head" and "bomb proof." They don't react to the things that would cause other horses to turn tail and get the hell out of Dodge. Horses are born with this particular trait, which is why you will see most carriages pulled by large and steady draft breeds.
Oh, that heavy carriage bit really gets me. I am 5 foot 3 inches tall, overweight and way out of shape. The heaviest carriage my friend owns runs around 1,200 pounds, and I've pushed the thing myself quite a few times and quite a distance. No, I couldn't push it up the ramps and into the trailer myself, mostly because I couldn't keep it on the ramps, but my friend has. Trust me, those things roll easy! If they didn't, horse-drawn carriages wouldn't be possible to begin with. A horse will give up if the weight they are trying to pull doesn't move. Once a horse gives up, then you have a ruined carriage horse.
A horse is a prey animal, meaning their biggest form of self-defense, of survival is flight. You can't flee from a mountain lion wanting supper if you're laying down sound asleep. So, a horse sleeps standing up, thanks to the locking mechanism in the front legs. The eyes stay open and the ears stay on alert, and that drooping lower lip is the only thing that lets you know that the horse is asleep. Horses sleep in about 20 minute spans, and only need to go into a full sleep - laying down, stretched out and dreaming away - about once a week, and again, it's not for very long. Because of this, horses prefer to be out in the open. If left to decide for themselves, a horse would not go into a barn!
Horses are also lazy, which is another survival mechanism. They are the master of energy conservation so that they can flee whenever threatened. Horses that are required to work, expending energy to do their task, will fall right asleep to recharge their battery as soon as the opportunity arises. So, when a carriage horse comes back from taking a load of people on a short jaunt, it will cock a hind foot and fall right asleep. Look for that drooping lower lip.
When it's hot out, dogs pant, people pit out their shirts, and horses sweat. A horse sweats for the same reason that you and I sweat. The damp surface area is cooled by evaporation and a breeze. A horse will also breathe a bit harder because it is breathing out hot air and breathing in cool air. It's all built into the horse's physiology, and the same warning signs apply to horses as they do to humans. You look for signs of dehydration and cool skin, and you know you're looking at heat stroke. It's not rocket science!
My friend bought Duke a few years ago, from a trader in New England. Duke is half, if not full, Percheron, one of the draft breeds. He was a former New York City carriage horse, and when he arrived, he had his license number carved into one front hoof. The horse trader didn't know why he was retired, or I don't remember, but said he was also trained to ride.
After a few weeks of giving Duke the time to adjust to his new surroundings, my friend hooked him up to a cart. He's a "push button" horse, very well trained, and he knows his job very well. She's pulled Duke's shoes and he does his jobs wearing boots that look like sneakers made for horses. He now works one or two days a weekend and spends the rest of the time romping in the pasture, getting fat and sassy on good hay and feed.
Back around Thanksgiving, I went out to the pasture to hang out with Duke and Earl, another white carriage horse, once it became too overwhelming for me to be in the house with all the people there. I sat down on the ground, and Duke stood over me and promptly feel asleep. I wiggled over and used his front legs as a back rest and got some shut-eye myself. It's not often you'd find a horse so trusting and trustworthy as that, and I'd have to say he's a danged happy horse.
Just look at that photo and tell me he doesn't know he's awesome to look at and he's proud to do his job! Does he look neglected or mistreated in any way? You can learn more about Duke and Earl at The Princess's Carriage.
Think about this the next time you run into anything from those lunatic PETA people. Here's their attempt to 'prove' their point. I don't get it.