Animal welfare and horse-drawn carriages – two words that are connected by many people, but most of the time in a negative context. On the first glance, this seems understandable. But who takes a closer look and informs him- or herself knows that carriages and animal welfare don’t have to be a contradiction – on the contrary.
Even more would it mean to us if you gave us the next few minutes of your precious time and get to the bottom of some myths about animal welfare.
Let’s answer the question short and clearly: NO!
None of the fiaker horses in Vienna have to work 7 days a week. In Austria, we are in the fortunate position that we have very strict animal welfare laws, especially for working with horses. They are allowed to work 4.5 days a week – 2.5 days a week have to be off days. Of course, this also applies to horse-drawn carriage horses, as well as to the horses which are used by the City of Vienna for example for the forest work (Here you can find more about the forest work of the horses, if you haven’t heard about it yet).
In addition to the 2.5 legally required days off per week, every horse at Fiaker Paul and us also gets between 5-7 weeks of vacation throughout the year. In short, our horses don’t have to work more than you or we do – to exaggerate, it’s almost the opposite, you might think.
Every year we are confronted with this accusation and every year we try to clarify the subject. Long story short: It’s a fact that in 2008, the Animal Welfare Ombuds Office of the City of Vienna commissioned a study on “Heat measurement of fiaker horses in Vienna” at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna. Of course, the study can be read any time. However, if you want to avoid the lengthy, professional study, and are not convinced that the heat and ground heat aren’t a particular strain for our loved ones, you can also take the self-test in summer any time.
This is how the test works: If you happen to pass one of the carriage stands in the summer, just go to the horses (but please ask the coachman if you are allowed to touch the horses – even horses can have a bad day and snap if they’re grumpy) and put your hand on the ribs (flank) of the horses. Even the horses that have just come back from a tour don’t really sweat. This is simply due to the fat that approximately 90 % of the work with our horses is done at walking speed and the heart rate remains constant over long distances.
A myth or rather a prejudice that hits us very much in the heart! Because with us, no animal is tortured or forced. Anyone who’s ever owned a horse, knows how large and powerful these animals are. Anyone who’s ever tried to put a harness on a horse although it didn’t want him or her to do it, knows what we’re talking about. Horses are sensitive and strong at the same time; they could stamp us to death every day if they would like to. People often forget that! Besides, the horses were bred for what they do. They consider their daily activity as a purpose in life – how do we know? You just feel how a horse feels, you notice it on the coachbox, and you see it on them! Because horses communicate in their own way.
One question remains: what happens if a horse cannot be harnessed? Nothing. Out of 10 pairs of horses trained at Fiaker Paul, maybe 1 pair doesn’t work. The horses are then either re-trained as riding horses, or if that also doesn’t work, they stay on the farm for the rest of their lives.
Basically, the horses are also trained in the countryside for about 1 year before they ride with guests for the first time in Schönbrunn and then in the city centre. It is important that the horses are carefully coached, that the coachman builds trust in them and that they are slowly introduced to their duties.
This myth in particular is very widespread. However, we believe that this is also due to the fact that many people often do not recognize the difference between a healthy horse and a sick horse. We have prepared a small graphic so that you can immediately recognize what is important in the future.
(picture) blanket: to keep the kidneys & organs warm; well-fed trunk & strong neck; friendly ear-play; relaxed foot posture; How to recognize whether a fiaker horse is treated well and feels comfortable (cold season)
Of course, as in every industry, there are black sheep in the horse-drawn carriage industry and people who think they don’t have to obey the law. However, we can assure you that such cases are always reported. What many people don’t know is that there are very strict inspections by official veterinarians, especially in summer – partly announced and partly unannounced. Since 2008, the coachman has also been obliged to record the feedings of his animal in the logbook. And last but not least, there is also a so-called chief-usher on the larger fiaker stalls in Vienna, whose job it is to water, feed an empty the horses’ dung bags. The chief usher is an important pat of the horse-drawn carriages and supports the coachmen and horses as best as he can.
One question in between: Do you know how many litres of water a working horse drinks daily? – approximately 30 – 60 litres daily.
We’ve already mentioned it in myth #4… there may be one or the other who does this, but for us the question is: why should we treat our animals badly? They are our capital, they are the most important employees in our concept – without them we couldn’t live. We just love our horses and everyone who knows us knows that. Stop it, stop it!