This holiday season you won’t be seeing horse drawn carriages in downtown Salt Lake City. The only company providing rides to paying customers has quietly closed-to the cheers of PETA supporters. You might recall the sad pictures in the press during the summer of 2013 when Jerry, the dapple gray horse belonging to ‘Carriage for Hire’ collapsed on the road during a brutally hot 97 degree August day. The poor animal was so weak that he couldn’t get up and his owners had to come lift him with ropes and drag him onto a trailer and take him away. The company tried to cover up the wellness of Jerry by later saying he had been put out to pasture, but we all later learned that the horse had died.
The City Council of Salt Lake was petitioned endlessly afterwards by PETA and others to make horse drawn carriages illegal and mounted a direct protest near the horse stands and on the Capitol steps after the horse’s demise. The City did not outlaw the carriage companies and the ability of people to hire carriages for rides around the Temple but the pressure was too much for the last surviving carriage company to stay afloat.
Horse transportation is of course an outdated mode of transportation to get from your uptown condo to your downtown job. But there are remnants of this past-gone era all over the city. In the Avenues and Capitol Hill residents are lucky to have enough land to allow for a garage, and what’s often there is merely an old carriage house left over from the turn of the century. Carriages or buggies were commonly some 5 foot wide. Unless you own a Mini it’s likely your car is over 5′ wide and would be hard to get into one of these old barns. Most often the horses for the carriages were kept somewhere else, like down the street in a community barn/pasture because of the flies and smell of their manure. Homeowners would share the costs of bringing in feed, grooming, and medical service in these communal plots. The evidence of these old days is also visible in the alleyways behind many homes. Basically, the horses might be kept down the street and brought up to the rear of the homes on a shared dirt road so that the animals could be harnessed to buggy or vehicle of some kind.
Not everyone could afford carriages and buggies before the early 1900’s. Horses were the primary mode of transportation before trains and cars came about.
We’ve got gas stations for our modern buggies. Back in the days of horses, citified animals had to have their hay and seed brought in by a delivery man. An average horse eats at least 2% of their body weight daily and needs a fair amount of water and grain supplements in its diet. If you happen to see an Avenues or carriage house in the valley that is two stories tall, that would be an indication of a place that stored hay and grain for the animals of the horse owners.
Sad to see a charming piece of history go away forever. I didn’t like seeing the horses plod along on our hot city streets either. At Burning Man creative artists replace the actual mammal at the front of creative carriages with plastic or metal versions. Hey, that’s it…bring the carriages back with artsy electric powered beasts to take folks on city tours for the 21st century!