EDITOR, The Tribune.
Though there are many voices on this issue, the horses themselves have none.
As a life-long equestrian, both in the Bahamas and abroad, here is my opinion. I have no current ties to any special interest, just the interest of these voiceless animals who feel pain, hunger and desperation just as humans do, but are completely subject to the decisions of those same humans.
If a National Stable is established, the cost to the Bahamian taxpayer would be huge. It easily costs $1,000-$2,000/month to properly care for a working horse on the island. By “working” I mean not a horse just turned out to pasture, but one that is doing a job working for humans, be it pulling a cart or training for an equestrian sport. At this point in time, is that what Bahamians want the government to spend money on?
Vet, blacksmithing and dental care is extremely expensive and often has to be imported. For all horses, but especially working horses, these services are essential and needed often.
All commercial grade feed and bedding required for the proper care of horses has to be imported. This escalates the cost of these items to double or more what horse owners pay in places like the US, Canada or Europe.
The cost of building a proper stable would be expensive, not to mention the amount of land needed. Did you know that the recommended ratio is 1 horse: 1 acre? Horses need space to graze and stretch their neck and legs. It is no humane life for a horse to pound the hard paved streets all day and then return to the stable to stand in a 12’ x 12’ stall.
The maintenance of this stable would be organizationally complex and expensive. Stalls need to be cleaned at least twice daily, feed and bedding has to be ordered on time and stored properly so that it doesn’t spoil, the horses need to be fed and watered 2-3 times per day, a turn-out schedule for the paddocks has to be established, medication has to be given and all
necessary repairs to stalls, fences, etc has to be done. All of this and more has to be done 7 days a week, 365 days a year by compassionate,
patient, animal-loving people who are dedicated to the care of these horses.
Given the state of disrepair of the surrey shelter at the wharf, maintaining an entire stable would be challenging at best. What is the current state of many government buildings that house humans during the workday?
Downtown Nassau is congested, often sweltering hot and polluted with exhaust from trucks and buses. This, topped off by being pulled in a rickety cart by a skinny, lame and sometimes frightened, misbehaved animal is not a pleasant situation. Is this the quality experience tourists in the Bahamas should be offered?
My guess would be that most Bahamians don’t even want these horses on the street. How many times have you driven down Shirley Street and cringe at having to change lanes to pass a slow surrey? This can cause traffic accidents and just plain frustration.
Discontinue the surrey industry in Nassau.
Provide the hard-working licensed surrey drivers and owners with a fair, and attractive alternative to their surrey. How about an electric vehicle for
tours? Innovative, progressive, clean, HUMANE – all very positive for Bahamian tourism.
Work hand in hand with The Bahamas Humane Society, BAARK and other animal rights organizations to brainstorm how to allow for the humane and dignified retirement of the existing surrey horses on the island. These hard working
animals deserve to live out their lives in peace and good care. Fundraise if necessary.
The present government should take a swift, firm leadership stand regarding these surrey horses. Make the much needed, responsible humane change. It’s long overdue.
October 24, 2013