- Proof of liability insurance and validating it
- Rules of the road
- Humane operations
- Carriage service safety 101
- Know who you are doing business with
- Verifying competency
- When too much regulation is counter productive
- How to deal effectively with animal rights harassment
- How to deal with an carriage accident in your city
- How to reprimand a non-compliant carriage company
- How to spot the BEST Operator(s)
- Proof of liability and validating it
First things first and the first thing is to ask for proof of liability insurance. After you receive it call the number and validate that it is in force.
- Rules of the road:
Horse drawn carriages equipped with head lamps, turn signals, running lights and four way flashers are as street legal as any car. Being equipped with a slow moving vehicle sign is required in all 50 states. If the carriage is on the roads as a private hire and they have the above equipment and SMV sign they are of no real concern, and will probably be off the roads in two hours or less. Many times just minutes from one location to another three miles or less apart. However…If horse drawn carriages are using your city streets to solicit walk up rides you may and should require that your town has some ordinances in place so that you know who they are and insure that they follow any requirements you may have. A few common sense ordinances to ensure public safety, proper insurance, and to collect any owed taxes from the activity should be required. We can help you with that here (insert common sense ordinance link)
- Humane operations
You will also want to ensure that a street ride carriage service in your town is operating in a humane way with their horses. Generally speaking horses working shifts of three or more hours should be working at a walk at all times excepting for a need to get through a traffic light or other traffic issue quicker than a walk for safety purposes. Even so they should never be seen working faster than a trot. Your town’s carriage service should have attractive well cared for animals that have adequate flesh to cover their ribs and well cared for hooves. Learn more about horse condition here and acceptable hoof care here The horse’s harness should fit and be in excellent repair- Learn more harness information here. Make sure that the carriage company has a way to offer water regularly and a safe place to stage that they are required to keep free of manure and disinfect any urine that happens. Lastly if you have questions surrounding the consideration of a carriage service in your town, or… concerns about an existing one we are here for you. Call, send photos, or both and we will be happy to discuss what can be done to rectify any issues or concerns your municipality might have.
- Carriage Safety 101
While not specific to commercial horse drawn carriage operations, these long standing carriage driving organizations offer the blueprints on many of the basics of how to safely operate a horse drawn vehicle.
Go to The ADS (American Driving Society) www.americandrivingsociety.org Go to members>New Drivers>Safety
The CAA ( The Carriage Association of America) offers a carriage drivers proficiency testing. You can find information about that here: www.carriageassociationofamerica.com/driver-profiency-program/
The BDA (British Driving Society) has some useful information here: http://www.britishdrivingsociety.co.uk/road-driving-assessment/
To share a quick list of things we sometimes see that shouldn’t be happening in the commercial carriage industry are:
- An unattended horse. A carriage operator should never be more than arm’s length away from a horse hitched to a carriage.
- An operator allowing passengers to enter the carriage before he/she is seated in the driver’s seat and holding the horses reins.
- A poorly adjusted and/or ill-fitting ineffective harnessing of the horse. This can be dangerous and is certainly uncomfortable for the horse.
- Operators allowing passengers to ride next to them in the driver’s seat and/or allowing a passenger to handle the horses reins
- Operators allowing a person to sit on the back of the harnessed and hitched horse for any reason. This should not be allowed even if the carriage is not moving.
- Not having proper lighting on a carriage. Carriages should at least have front lamps, rear running lights, 4 way flasher capabilities, and a slow moving vehicle sign.
- Not having the adequate experience before deciding to engage in commercial carriage operations. Not knowing basic safety so not employing it. Not having a good understanding of all that can happen with a horse in a public setting, and therefore not being properly prepared. This is blatantly obvious in many instances and also by the number of people that enter the industry and are out of the business shortly after.
- Verifying competency:
The problem for municipalities being approached for a carriage service in their area is not knowing who actually knows how to operate safely, humanely, and competently, and… who doesn’t. That is what we are here for. We give you the tools to easily figure that out. Our material is simple and easy to understand. Anyone should be able to look at the entries and tell if something looks the way it is supposed to, or if it is being executed properly. We provide ample pictorial guidance and remember if you have any questions or are struggling understanding something call us! We are here to help. We can also help you with tools to vet a potential new company into your town.
- When too much regulation is counterproductive:
There is an old saying “If isn’t broke, it doesn’t need fixed” and when it comes to carriage service providers there is a lot of truth to that saying. If the horses in your town are well groomed, well shod, well fed, and are not having accidents that are the directly the fault of poor safety practices you doubtfully need to interfere with their business. Nor need to add additional regulations that may burden them.
One such common thing we see often in this regard are regulations surrounding weather conditions. While well intended they can really make it difficult for a carriage company to survive and are rarely based in any real need. Horses live outside in all weather extremes. They are not subject to the same discomfort a person experiences in weather that is very hot, very cold, or rain. They do not need a coat (or horse blanket) to be outside in less than ideal weather yet this is regulation in some places.
Rather than put arbitrary numbers in Fahrenheit on what a horse can or can’t work in it makes far more sense to know that the people driving the carriages know what a heat stressed horse looks like and when to check its temperature. Just like people some horses are more or less sensitive to weather related conditions that others. I.e. Arabian horses can travel many miles in desert heat, and a black horse will absorb heat far more than a white one. An extremely large horse can sometimes get winded from just moving his own body weight.
When it comes to cold there is not much that bothers a working horse. Horses actually enjoy the cold are usually frisky because of it. A wet and cold rain can cause a horse to shiver while far colder temperatures with snow are not bothersome to the horse. So if you are going to call for blankets on working carriage horses for weather conditions it should be for cold soaking rain and not the cold itself. The truth is when the weather gets unbearable for carriage drivers they go in, and the horse is much more adapted to weather extremes than the human is. This fact is actually a naturally built in safety net for carriage horses.
This is just one example of sometimes oppressive regulation. Listen to your carriage companies. They will usually know what is and isn’t needed. Some of the best most common sense regulations we have seen in cities were actually written by the carriage company owners themselves. Know that it is in their own best interest to take good care of their horses and to look after their continued wellbeing. Good safe carriage horses are not a dime and dozen and nobody in the industry wants to lose one. This is a fact you can take to the bank.
- How to deal effectively with animal rights groups:
We know it is very important to our democracy for people to have the freedom to express their individual opinions. However…those opinions are far from mainstream, and nowhere even near anything resembling reality. They employ the use of untruths, propaganda, and when they cross the line to interfere with a legal business it is time to set some limits. Animal rights activists have been known to physically attack carriage drivers (insert video of that) and to yell terrible things to families with children making them cry (insert video of that).
The best thing to do is set distances they are required to be from the carriages. We recommend the distance of a football field. Also make sure your carriage operators have support from you police departments. Some of these radicals will intentionally try to spook a horse or horses. In the interest of public safety municipalities are better off if they do what they can to solve this problem before it becomes a problem. B.E.S.T. carriage companies are educated about how to best deal with radical animal rights protestors.
- How to deal with an accident or incident in your city:
First of all do not panic. Carriage accidents are like car accidents in the fact that no matter how professional and experienced a driver is an accident can happen. That is why they are called accidents. Serious injury is extremely rare. It is nearly unheard of for a horse to get more than a few scrapes. This is true even when the carriage is forcibly rear ended by a car and the horse knocked off its feet. Most carriage traffic accidents are caused by distracted automobile operators. Most runaway horse accidents are preventable with the employment of good safety practices.
More often today the most common thing a municipality will deal with is an incident rather than an accident. Incidents are situations where someone or some group has made a big deal out of something minor by going to the press and raising a stink about it. They are not founded in reality but the overactive imagination of the one(s) complaining. You can see lots of examples of this by reading the ban horse drawn carriage pages on facebook. Video is taken out of context, photos are manipulated by deceiving captions and a whole host of wild claims are made. Most of the time these claims are made by people that either genuinely concerned but misinformed, or they are animal rights minded and driven by that agenda. The very best thing you can do is talk to the carriage company first, then if your still concerned talk to their veterinarian directly. Take the word of the professionals rather than the hysterical. You will find that the truth serves everyone concerned the best.
- How to reprimand a non-compliant carriage company:
We have spent a lot of effort to assure you that the lion’s shares of carriage operators are professionals that do a good job. This is fact. However…like all professions there will be those that are sloppy and dangerous and throw all common sense, and caution to the wind. Some might even be neglectful of their animals and we denounce those operators passionately. The best way to avoid this pitfall is to have someone who is willing to spend a little time to understand and know what negligence looks like at a glance. If you notice something clearly amiss looking a bit closer usually reveals more. i.e. a skinny carriage horse with all its ribs showing will likely have poorly cared for hooves, and may also be wearing ill-fitting harness, or be dirty looking among other signs of negligence. Willful negligence is in the form of operating without respect for your town’s rules and regulations as written.
We suggest having a ticketing procedure in place and making sure your PD knows what the most likely infractions are going to be. Besides breaking traffic rules, things like: leaving a horse unattended, loading passengers before the driver is seated, putting a passenger in the driver’s seat, putting a person on the back of the horse hitched to a carriage, removing the bridle off of a horse still hitched to a carriage, excessive trotting other than through intersections or for safety reasons, using an obviously underweight horse for paid rides, using a visibly lame horse for carriage rides. We would consider all of these to be reasonable ticketed offenses.