Why the Long Face?
BY Lawrence Ferber
March 12 2009 12:00 AM ET
And you initially planned to just make a short piece for
I didn't have a background in filmmaking, but I was
interested in documentaries so I went out and bought the video
and audio equipment and said I'm going to start making a
documentary for YouTube. One expert interview led to another
and one accident and abuse witness led to another and before I
knew it I had what could be a three-hour movie, but because
it's such an obscure topic I kept it to 50 minutes, which was
the right length for TV.
I have to admit that before seeing it, I never thought about
many of the issues brought to light in the documentary -- from
how easily startled horses are and the accidents that result to
how horrible city conditions are for them.
Horses are prey animals and "spook" by any number of
stimuli -- potholes, dogs barking, horns. When a horse spooks
in a pasture [and runs off in a panic], nobody gets hurt. But
when a horse spooks with a carriage attached with tourists in
it and runs down 9th Avenue, people can get hurt or killed and
the horses often get hit by cars and killed. The fact that
there is no pasture in NYC where they can graze and roll and
run for even a few minutes a day, they've literally been
stripped of the ability to do anything that comes naturally to
them just so that tourists can get a 15-minute ride through the
lower loop of Central Park or Times Square. If the public saw
the truth they would be outraged, and that's why I want as many
people as possible to be educated -- it's not just a New York
issue. There are horse-drawn carriages operating in city
centers in Chicago, New Orleans, Charleston, Philadelphia,
Boston, and they simply don't belong in the streets with
Some of the carriage drivers come across like real cretins,
but did any of them seem like good people and actually worship
or love their horses? You do feature one guy who seems amicable
Interestingly, subsequent to making the movie someone else shot
footage of him and his horse had an open sore, and in order to
get it to move he was whipping the sore. So he's not as kind a
guy as he comes across in the movie. I've only met a
handful of drivers and I've seen a lot of them testify at
City Hall. I'm sure some of them are very nice and care
about their horses, however the point one equine expert after
another made is that the bottom line is there are certain
conditions in NYC that cannot be corrected in a way that would
make the industry humane or safe and the only solution is to
take the lead from Paris, Beijing, and Toronto and take
horse-drawn carriages off the streets altogether.
You end the film with a shot that presents a solution of
sorts: an army of pedicabs riding through Central Park. I've
actually noticed a growing number of cute, young foreign guys
pedaling those around the city nowadays, so they're hotter to
The horse-drawn carriage operators are nothing to look at,
that's for sure. And they're homophobic. I was walking by
with a Provincetown T-shirt and one went "Faggot, faggot,
faggot!" You can
see it on YouTube
Has Mayor Mike Bloomberg seen
I don't know if he's even aware of its existence. I sent a
copy to his daughter, who's a very famous equestrian, and
she hasn't responded to any of the contacts.
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