The Pitiable Lot Of Carriage Horses

Everyone knows the time for carriage horses and city ‘tongas’ or ‘tangas’ is over. It is high time they are taken off – either by court order or by an enlightened local administration. Delhi has already banned horse drawn carriages. All the other major cities will have to do it sooner or later. I was inKashmir some time ago. I stayed at the Lalit Hotel. It was so hot that I almost fainted. The hotel had one white horse and carriage and in the terrible heat it carried tourists, usually young children, up and down the tarred road the entire day. I gave the horse a year more of life.
Families in the cities that depend on horses overwork them and refuse to spend money to look after them at all. Many horses have no stables: they stand in the open at night in the heat, cold and rain till they die. Some horses are painted black or white and they have skin allergies. Some have their shoes removed as people buy horse shoes for luck and the continuous nailing and removal leads to hoof injuries. They are constantly whipped and while the injuries do not show on the surface they cause acute pain to the animal. Those sores that do fester are invaded by maggots and the animal is eaten alive. Most blacksmiths lack knowledge about properly constructing horseshoes. Using poor quality iron, lack of proper farrier tools, the uneven surfaces of horse shoes lead to causing lameness in work horses. Most work horses suffer from diseases like lameness, colic, wounds and respiratory problems; their owners lack knowledge, funds or the sensitivity to deal with their medical requirements. Many of these carriage horses are given steroids to make them bigger artificially. They promote rapid muscle growth. But artificially enhanced muscle growth can be too much for the weak skeletal structure that supports it. The quality of food and water leads to malnutrition and weakened immunity which in turn makes them vulnerable to diseases.

Dr. Phiroz Khambatta of Mahalaxmi Racecourse is regarded as the best horse vet in India. He also treats the animals of the Middle East. We asked him to do a survey of the horses in Mumbai. His report listed that no horses are allowed to sit or lie down DURING THEIR ENTIRE LIVES because there was no space and this was extreme cruelty. That means they are standing from the time they were born to the time they die – imagine if you had to do that. Horses in fields sit and lie down every day. More important, he wrote, that no horse should ply on hard, unyielding ground as the shock goes to the tendons and joints and causes extreme pain with each step.

There is no shelter in any city where a sick horse can be kept till he/she is well again. Horses are regularly hit by cars or buses. They die and often the car and driver are hurt as well. In Mumbai, in December 2011 a horse and its owner were injured after a private bus rammed into them. The horse’s backbone was broken. In November a horse was hit by a bus in Thane. The impact threw the horse to the other side of the road and the owner fell on the footpath, both suffering injuries. Kolkata has the same rate of accidents. Quite recently a horse of the Kolkata Mounted Police stable died after it was knocked down by a minibus. The horse collapsed and came under the wheels of the bus. Horses that are overworked and injured by their ill-fitting harnesses are regularly abandoned on the side of the city roads where they starve to death or are killed. Many are regularly abandoned on the Mumbai beach. Under the law, each horse has to be licenced – and the licence can only be issued after a health check-up and vaccination for any diseases. No city administration bothers to do this. However, if horses were treated well by their owners in the city, should they be allowed to be there? Even then, the answer is “No”.
Dr. Phiroz Khambatta of Mahalaxmi Racecourse is regarded as the best horse vet in India. He also treats the animals of the Middle East. We asked him to do a survey of the horses in Mumbai. His report listed that no horses are allowed to sit or lie down DURING THEIR ENTIRE LIVES because there was no space and this was extreme cruelty. That means they are standing from the time they were born to the time they die – imagine if you had to do that. Horses in fields sit and lie down every day. More important, he wrote, that no horse should ply on hard, unyielding ground as the shock goes to the tendons and joints and causes extreme pain with each step. “Concrete and tar roads are inherently bad for horses. Plying horses on concrete and tar leads to crippling diseases like osteoarthritis, carthorse tendons and tendonsynovitis which cause inflammation of the joints and tendons causing pain and tenderness.” Horses require a firm but yielding surface like mud or ground. He has treated these carriage horses for the last 25 years and found each horse has a problem with hooves, tendons and ligaments. According to him “It is inherently cruel to make horses ply on concrete and tar”.
The Municipal Corporation of Delhi ban order says (in short) : “Since lakhs of vehicles are running, in addition cruelty to these animals is a regular feature on the road, there is no need, place and demand for slow moving animal driven vehicles. The animals are made to work in extreme heat and cold. The load put on them is far more than is allowed by the PCA Act 1960.There have been many accidents leading to minor/major injuries of horses and pedestrians. These equines defecate on the road causing unsanitary conditions and infectious diseases. The owners of these draught animals are not in a position to provide them a healthy wholesome diet. There is no proper housing for keeping the animals at night. Most die premature deaths. Since the carcasses have no economic value, the contractors refuse to pick up the bodies and they lie unattended. Therefore they should be removed from the city.” One time horse owners can be given scooters as the ones in Delhi were. Many can be employed with the racecourse. But it is time we reached a conclusion on this matter so that it applies all over India.

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