The Legend of the Great Horse trilogy was inspired by man’s partnership with horses … the following is a response to an exceptional challenge to the horse’s place in society today.
The NYC carriage horse situation has given me the idea to ask the horse welfare activists to help with a project for the future of horses—by helping reconnect the public with their equestrian roots.
A New Era
The recent move to ban horse carriages in NYC follows a number of controversies involving the place for horses in modern society. The struggle against horse slaughter, the fight to keep free-running mustangs in the American West, and, for me locally, the disbanding of the Boston police horses and detached dismanagement of Suffolk Downs—these issues point to a need for an informed public conversation about horsemanship’s role in the modern era.
This is a conversation for our time. The discussion couldn’t have been had in 1900 when cavalry competitions in Jumping were new and gaining unprecedented popularity with horse-experienced audiences. In the following decades the ‘horse and buggy’ was being replaced by automobiles and made into a cliché of being old-fashioned and obsolete. A conversation about the future of horses wouldn’t have been hopeful in the WWI & II years as 21 million US farm horses were summarily ‘retired’ in favor of tractors and horse cavalries were being disbanded the world over. Even as new recreational forms of horsemanship were growing in the post-war era, it was too soon to see whether popularity would sustain or how the new forms would develop.
Today we have the evidence that human interest in horses goes beyond their use in transportation and war, and valuable experience in how humane forms of horsemanship can continue to benefit mankind. We are at a historic crossroads and, as the challenges to the horse’s presence in society are showing, we need to have that conversation for the good of our horses and future generations.
My proposal is to ask Mayor de Blasio to set aside in perpetuity a quiet 1.5 acre plot in the 840-acre Central Park for a ‘Horse Village’ dedicated to sharing horses with the public.