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Monday, April 7, 2014

Short Story Update!

More exciting news this month! My short story, Nightmare was published online with a popular Science Fiction website called Antipodean SF! Nightmare is a flash fiction piece (500 words or less) that was chosen to be featured for the month of April.

To view the Antipodean SF website and read my story, along with other great stories chosen to be featured this month, click on the title below:

Even crazier is that I was asked to read my story out loud so it could be featured on the Antipodean SF radio show. If you are too lazy to read and would rather listen to my story, click on the link below:

And finally, just want to remind everyone that my book, How to Rescue a Horse, is available on Amazon for only $8.99! Happy reading!!

Friday, March 14, 2014

How to Rescue a Horse

It is finally official! After years of writing, research, and hard work I have published my first book!! How to Rescue a Horse is a collection of stories of my personal experiences while working with horses - especially rescue horses. The book shares some of my funny moments, sad moments, and insightful moments that I have gained over the years from all types, breeds, and ages of horses.

Buy it Now!!

Click Here to Buy on Amazon

Click Here to Buy at Barnes and Noble

How to Rescue a Horse

Horses are one of the most magnificent animals on this earth – capturing the heart, mind, and spirit of many. But what happens when these noble creatures are starved, neglected, or abused? Through first-hand stories from the horses themselves, readers will realize how a horse’s spirit can become hidden or dulled, but it is always waiting under the surface to shine forth once more. Working with rescue horses will make you laugh and it will make you cry, but most of all, it will make you appreciate the grace and power that these animals possess.

About the Author:
Jenna Letzter has been riding and training horses for over 20 years and loves to share her experiences of horse rescue and training. She appreciates that horses, even in their darkest hour, are always capable of opening your eyes to the world around you. Formerly Barn Manager for Circle P Sanctuary, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit horse rescue organization and animal sanctuary in Marengo, OH. She currently has moved back home to the Chicago area and is now Adoption Coordinator for the Hooved Animal Humane Society in Woodstock, IL.

Circle P Sanctuary

How to Rescue a Horse took a lot of time and endless writing and rewriting, but I couldn't have ever written these stories if it wasn't for my experiences with the rescue horses at Circle P Sanctuary in Marengo, OH. Horse rescue organizations like Circle P Sanctuary sometimes are the only way these horses receive a second chance! Visit their website and donate today!

A big shout out to everyone that helped me through the jungle that is the publishing process and helping me to pick the best publishing solution for my goals! Also, I have to thank my family - without your help I would not have been as motivated to push forward with this book - not to mention, family members make great editors!! And finally, I can't forget Punchkin Entertainment for helping my technologically incapable mind format the layout of the book as well as design the cover using one of his beautiful photos!!

Punchkin Entertainment

Sunday, January 19, 2014


So as many of you know, my fiance, Michael is a photographer. He has always done weddings and other photos as a side job for years, but it is a passion of his and it is exiting that now he gets to turn that passion into something more. With the help of my most wonderful stepsister, aka "frister" for best friend/sister, Michael's company, Punchkin Entertainment now has an official website!

(click for the website)

My favorite part about dating a photographer is I know that wherever we go, whatever event we attend, or whatever vacation we take, I know I will have good photos to remember it by. Instead of having to worry about carrying my cheap camera around and trying to get awesome photos (that never quite turn out the way they looked in real life), I know that Michael has it covered! It's like having your own, 24/7 personal photographer! (Thankfully he enjoys it!)

We use a lot of his photos and frame them or put them on canvas for our house. I also rope him into taking pictures of the horses for work when I'm desperate - a good photo of an adoptable horse really gets more attention on the websites more than anything else. His photos are also going to be on this month's cover of the Hoofprints magazine, which is a publication of the Hooved Animal Humane Society (click HERE for the HAHS website).

Speaking of horses, the photo above is one of my favorites of the horse I am working with, Robin. I just love how it captured her personality! It was fun watching Michael take photos of the horses and to see how he progressed. It is not always about the quality of the picture with animals, it is also about learning to read their personalities to know when to take the picture. At first, Michael was taking pictures of horses sometimes with their ears back or a Dressage horse with it's head straight up in the air, but he quickly gained perspective on what makes a good horse picture and soon he had a bunch of happy horses with their ears forward!

Another one of my favorite horse pictures - this was taken on our dude ranch trip in Wyoming. Our horses, Thunder and Peppermint, also happened to be the best of friends and would hang out and graze together when we stopped on the trails for a break. This was also the trip that Michael proposed to me, so it was extra sweet that our horses liked each other so much too!

This one of my stepsister and her horse out in the field is just breathtaking - I couldn't imagine a better photo that captures the feeling you get when riding your horse! It is so open and they look so free, I just love it. 

Even though Michael focuses more on family portraits and weddings and those types of photos - I just love when he takes the horse and nature types too! 

I often complain about him taking my picture and his response is usually, "Well that sucks, but you are dating a photographer." But I have to admit, the photos he does take, even though I protest the whole time, are all usually my favorites and the ones I use the most. I was surprised how often I find myself in need of a professional photo of myself, for example, I just had to send in a picture and biography for the website my short story is going to be published in and I actually had one that I could use!

This photo is one of my absolute favorites that Michael took of me. I was so engrossed in the landscape that I actually had no idea he was taking the photo. When I look at this photo I feel like I am right back on the top of that mountain in Wyoming and can even recall how wonderful that day was. When I am having a bad day, it is good to look at this photo and relax.

For this photo, unlike the other photo of me, I totally knew that he was trying to get a picture. I remember because I complained the entire time! We were out exploring a park in Ohio called Old Man's Cave and I had found this neat little cave by the river and climbed into it. I was sitting on the ledge just looking at the surroundings and he had climbed way back into the darkest, creepiest part of the cave to try to frame me sitting there in the opening. It was so funny because every time he asked me to move my leg or my arm I would grumble and do so unwillingly. It probably took far longer for him to get the photo than was necessary because I wasn't being cooperative - he probably has an easier time taking pictures of kids. And the entire time he was laying on his stomach on this damp, cold cave floor and probably loving every minute of it. 

Sometimes it is hard to get Michael to stop taking photos, but for this, it was worth it. We were still out hiking and he had finally put his camera away, but then I saw this bridge. An old stone bridge all covered in moss and deep in the forest and above it, the sunlight sending perfect rays right through the treetops. It was the most beautiful thing, I thought it near impossible to be able to capture such an image on a photograph. Michael took one good look at it and thought out loud, "I wonder how I could catch those light beams." He then adjusted some settings on his camera (he will tell me it was something with the F stop and the ISO, but I really don't understand it at all, so I can't explain in detail what he did) and then he stood square and snapped the shot. "That's how!" he said and turned to me with a big grin to display this perfect photo on the screen - he got it on the first shot. He makes good photography looks easy.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Resume Fun

When I started this blog back in September of last year, one of my earliest posts was about the trails and errors of job hunting (Resume). I had just moved back to the Chicago area and was spending hours at a time every day searching and applying for various jobs that I thought I would like and could be good at. I don't think there is anything as tedious and boring as applying for jobs, and yet, the activity still manages to make you nervous and tense the entire time. After spending an hour filling out a long application and re-typing everything that was on my resume into their website form, I had a thought. What if I sent in a brutally honest resume? What if, instead of trying to make my high school job at a grocery store sound more glamorous than it really was, I just told it like it was?

Now that I have a job, I figured it would be a fun little experiment to actually send out this honest resume to a few select companies in the Chicago area (that I plan on never actually trying to work for), just to see what kind of response I get. So without further ado.... here are the results:

Job #1
Convention Services Coordinator
Westin Hotel

This was the job description from their website:
"Come exhilarate your senses with the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center! We are currently looking for a fun and upbeat candidate to join our Meetings and Events Department. The Coordinator for Meetings and Events will detail group events and supports and assists designated managers or departments in daily administrative duties.  The person who will fills this important role will be responsible for interacting with guests, clients, and associates to ensure excellent guest service and to communicate the goals of the department and needs of clients. The ideal candidate will be an organized, personable and enthusiastic individual that keeps confidentiality as the highest priority.  Other responsibilities may include but are not limited to:  receiving incoming calls, handling guest and associate requests,  maintaining various tracking and filing systems, acting as a liaison between departments, generating reports and creating presentations.  This position is critical to the successful operation of the department as well as the hotel and is a key factor in contributing to a professional environment."

I applied to a variety of jobs using this resume and the Westin was kind of my high end company to test out. I felt like maybe they could appreciate the humor as something creative and fun and I paired it with a professional, business standard cover letter. 

Although they didn't seem to find this too amusing, at least I got a response (however bland and generic it may be):

Dear Jenna Letzter,

Thank you again for your interest in Starwood. As you know, we received your application forConvention Services Coordinator - 20149682. We regret to inform you that we are not able to offer you a position at this time.

We appreciate your interest in Starwood, and wish you good luck and success in your job search.  We invite you to visit us at to view and apply for future opportunities.


Human Resources Department

Job #2
Market Asset Protection Manager
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

With a strike out on Job #1, I tried to go for a company that may not be as posh as a Westin Hotel, but still was a big business with a lot of jobs available. As before, I took a swing at sending this resume just too see if they would find it creative and/or amusing, but I had lower hopes of actually getting a response. 

This was the position description from their website:

Position Description
  • Coordinates, completes, and oversees job-related activities and assignments for asset protection
  • Develops talent in the assigned business area
  • Drives safety results across the facilities
  • Ensures facilities in the business area are prepared for crises
  • Meets expected facility level shrink goals
  • Minimizes financial risk
  • Provides supervision and development opportunities for associates

I was surprised when I actually got a response back (once again, generic and bland), but it was a response! I like how this one is very cordial and encourages you to keep looking for opportunities within the company, and ends with a "do not reply to this email" at the end. It's like, we are here to encourage and uplift you, but don't actually try to contact us again.

Dear Jenna Letzter,
Thanks for your interest in joining the Walmart/Sam's Club team. At this time, we're considering other candidates for the following position: 282690BR, Market Asset Protection Mgr -Joliet, IL, located in PLAINFIELD, IL. 

We encourage you to visit again and take advantage of our search tool. It will help you find other Walmart opportunities that best match your unique qualifications. 

Thanks again.

* Please do not reply to this email. 

Job #3
Graybar Electric
Customer Service Representative

I chose company #3 more so because of the position available, rather than the company itself. I figured a customer service representative would have to have good humor in order to deal with cranky customers all day. 

The key word I took from the job description on their website was, "enthusiastic:" 

"Graybar is looking for talented, enthusiastic people to help us maintain the highest levels of customer satisfaction in every area of our business. We are a Company that recognizes talent and provides the opportunity for training and development for your career growth."

Sadly, it has been several months and still no reply from Graybar. So much for customer service...

Job #4
The Onion
Web Video - Writing/Research Internship

For Job #4, I was certain I was going to get a call back or at least an email acknowledging that my resume was kind of funny. Heck, with a company like The Onion, I was half expecting to actually get the job. I mean, isn't the whole purpose of The Onion about satire and making important or mundane things ridiculous? As with the other jobs, I still added a cover letter that was on a more serious and professional note, with the idea being the cover letter showing I actually have the skills needed for the job and the resume kind of showing off my more creative side. Add on that this position is for an internship and I was certain that this company, out of all of them, would at least give me a chuckle.

 For those of you who don't read The Onion, here is their company description from their website:

"Onion Inc. is an American multimedia news organization. It features satirical articles and reporting on international, national, and local news as well as an entertainment newspaper and website known as A.V. Club.
The Onion's articles comment on current events, both real and imagined. It parodies traditional newspaper and media features, such as editorials, man-on-the-street interviews, and stock quotes, as well as traditional newspaper layout and AP-style editorial voice. Much of its humor depends on presenting everyday events as newsworthy items, and by playing on commonly used phrases, as in the headline, "Drugs Win Drug War”."

This, out of all the companies I applied for, was the most disappointing that I did not receive a response back. I guess The Onion doesn't appreciate humor as much as I was expecting.

Job #5
Jimmy John's
Sandwich Slinger

Job #5 was my final chance - when I saw the job wanted ad, I thought it would be perfect! I feel like I don't even need to explain why I thought this job and my resume would be a good match, just read the job description from their website and everything makes sense:

Rock Star Wanted 
"Are you a Rock Star?! Jimmy John's is growing fast and our team is always looking for hard-working people who crave the world's greatest gourmet sandwiches. And we're not talking success as in "shiny new car" success - we're talking success as in "position of power in a worldwide sandwich empire" success.
When you join the Jimmy John's family, anything is possible. It really doesn't matter if you're a delivery driver or a corporate honcho. If you're an entrepreneurial type who's got a strong sense of responsibility and a sense of humor to match, Jimmy John's offers awesome opportunities for growth and adventure.
Sandwich Slinger
We need people who have an upbeat attitude, readiness to smile and the desire to kick some a$$ and take names, or at least, sandwich orders! In-Shop Sandwich Makers are responsible for the successful execution of fast, accurate sandwiches and world-class customer service while maintaining a clean, organized shift. Afternoon and Evening shifts available."

Jimmy John's has always portrayed itself as a hip, fun place to work and I figured they would like a hip, fun resume.... But not so much, I didn't even get a generically bland response! Nothing! Oh well, with this dismal no response, I called an end to my resume experiment. I was going to apply for some more, but filling out job applications online really is not fun at all - especially when you are only doing it for "fun." I could only make myself apply to so many before I wanted to cry. 

Although I tweaked my cover letters to fit in with the job, perhaps I should try to tweak the resume a bit to fit in even more with each job. Or perhaps funny just isn't the way to go when you are applying for a job.....              


Monday, January 6, 2014

Mind Over Matter

People used to think that the world was flat, the earth was the center of the universe, planets were pushed around their orbits by angels, and objects fell to the earth because of their desire for the “cosmic center.” At first, ideas about gravity, friction, and laws of motion were crazy and unbelievable. Is this not the same situation presented here today concerning classical physics versus quantum mechanics?  John Bell believed that quantum mechanics “reveals the incompleteness of our worldview.” His concern with quantum mechanics “is not that an error will be found in any of its predictions, but that it is not the whole story.”

Classic mechanics explains how a physical object will act or react in a given situation (think back to when you learned about gravity and friction). Classical mechanics shows us a deterministic worldview – it shows that any object is created with a specific instruction set on how it must act and, on its most basic level, we can calculate what will happen in any given situation with a formula. Classical physics only deals with matter, you know there is a mind, but prefer to keep the two separate.

Experimental demonstrations of quantum theory, however, forces physics to acknowledge both the mind and the matter. Quantum mechanics is the theory that atoms do not act solely as waves or solely as particles, but rather, a combination of both. Essentially, this means that an atom can either be everywhere or nowhere – we only see the atom when we actively observe it.

Even classical physicists are forced to accept quantum mechanics on some level. In order to work with the benefits of quantum mechanics many adopted the Copenhagen Theory on quantum mechanics. This theory explains out much of the weirdness and allows physicists to use quantum mechanics without thinking about what the implications of quantum mechanics really are. It basically says that it is okay to treat the microscopic realm differently than the macroscopic realm. But why should they be treated differently?  A water molecule is a water molecule because of the atoms that combine to create it, so why would the individual atoms and the collection of atoms be treated differently?

 Quantum Enigma by Fred Kuttner and Bruce Rosenblum is an excellent book that explains all the details of the Quantum Theory and is quoted in this blog. Click HERE for more information

 Besides the idea that an atom is both ‘everywhere and nowhere,’ the quantum theory also demonstrates that “an observation of one object can instantaneously influence the behavior of another greatly distant object – even if no physical force connects the two” (think Butterfly Effect here). The worldview promoted with this scientific theory is one of free will:  something or somebody somewhere makes a free will choice and this choice can have implications all over the world.

Einstein labeled quantum mechanics as “spooky.” One third of our economy today depends on products based off of the predictions of the quantum theory, but the implications of this theory (not the practical uses) are what Einstein and many modern scientists today cannot believe. Basically, the quantum theory at its core states that an atom is everywhere – or nowhere – until it is observed. Since everything is made up of atoms, like a chair, this would mean that a chair isn’t there unless it is being observed. The more interesting part of this theory is what defines being “observed.” One explanation of who’s or what’s observation counts to make the chair exist is called entanglement. Basically, it says that everything in the universe is entangled with other things in some way (a form of observation) – which makes it possible for the chair to always seem to exist. 

Einstein and several other great scientists went out to prove one day that the quantum theory is wrong. Instead, their experiment not only showed them that the theory was correct, but the atoms seem to have instantaneous communication as well. This is even spookier because it means that somehow the atoms are able to influence each other by means faster than the speed of light – something that scientists have said is not possible. Entanglement once again would explain this instantaneous communication because everything is interconnected. Although quantum theory is still very much a mystery, the idea of entanglement and that somehow the whole universe works together almost as a force of its own seems to be very similar to eastern religion philosophy that the Ultimate Reality is more of a force or an “it” – not a “he” or God that rules over everything.

These articles seem to prove that entanglement theory may be possible… Makes you think!

The universe has been around for 15 billion years, while human history has been around for merely 5,000 years. What is interesting about this is that if the universe has been around for so long without humans why do some religions insist that there is a human specific God. I believe that the universe is run by something, some force, which is more encompassing of time and everything in the universe – not just encompassing of the humans and their short time on earth. I feel that every person has a right to their own religion – why do some people think then that only one religion is the “right” one? Why can’t some force or energy that has been present in the universe for billions of years be the all-encompassing answer?

We are in an age where science is our predominant worldview – and many people depend on science and nothing else to explain why things happen a certain way. Just think back to the beginnings of religion – something more of an animistic type of religion. They would see something fall to the earth and explain that spirits caused the thing to fall to the earth. In the modern world, many today would say that it wasn’t spirits, but gravity that caused the thing to fall to the earth. The even more modern and groundbreaking idea is that Einstein’s theory of relativity is not enough to explain the intricacies of how gravity works and that perhaps there is something more to it, something more to do with quantum mechanics, something called the quantum theory of gravity. Science is ever changing and as we learn more and more. We once thought the world was flat. Who is to say that the modern day theories of how life works and how the world is will stand up to the test of time and further research and studies??

The Hindu view of the Ultimate Reality is Brahman – or a sort of ultimate force or power that permeates everything. Although many of the Hindu religion choose their own personal deity (such as Vishnu or Shiva) to help them relate to Brahman, the main philosophy of Brahman is similar to ideas put forth in quantum theory. For the world to remain in balance it is important to believe that all humans, animals, and nature are all of the same stuff and are all interconnected. Not only is this important in religion, it is important in the way we live – as shown through basic scientific, epidemiologic, and ecologic principles. You could say that you are the Ultimate Reality, as long as you did so with the understanding that you are not the ultimate reality as in a god, but as a small essential piece of the whole.

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne tells us how to use positive energy to tell the universe what you want.
Click HERE for more information.

A small essential piece of the whole. Every tiny atom in the universe has energy that contributes to the flow of energy all over the world. The key is learning how to focus that energy to achieve your own goals. How do you do it? I believe it is all in the mind. It is by sparking a reaction in the universe by your free will choice to achieve something you want (recall that this would be a form of observation in the entanglement theory). Whatever you want can be great or small.

Talking with Horses by Henry Blake is a great introduction on the basics of horse communication using your body energy. Click HERE for more information.

 I like to think about using this type of energy while I am working and communicating with horses: think about how when you are angry, or energetic, or sad and how the horse knows this and feeds of your energy. When you are anxious or nervous, so is your horse. When you are confident and calm, your horse will trust you and feed off that energy. When I am working with horses on the ground, I can change my energy to get them to respond how I want. If I want a horse to get away or move forward, I increase my body energy – I stand tall, a move with power, I focus on what I want – I direct this energy towards the horse so that he moves likewise.

My favorite little experiment I test to see if it is the cues and actions that prompt the horse or the energy that you use to do so, is to work with a new horse person. When I have a horse loose in an arena, I can ask it to walk, trot, canter, turn, or stop based on the position of my body and the amount of energy I “push” towards the horse (When horses are really responsive, I can do this by barely moving at all. Sometimes, however, I do need to use my arm as a pointer or a whip). I often teach new horse people this technique in lessons to get a horse to respect and listen to them. Using the same horse, the lesson student will try to do the same thing I just did. This time, however, even with the use of a whip, the student has trouble even getting the horse to move forward and I will find them right next to the horse, tapping it with the whip with no response. Why can I stand in the middle of the arena and have the horse move around me and why can the student get right next to the horse with no response? It is all about the energy! The student’s energy is unsure, maybe even a little timid. Therefore, the horse feels no need to listen to them.

Horse trainer, Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling, is a master of using body language and energy to work with horses. Watch how closely the horse mimics each movement he makes on the ground.

My own example of riding a horse using body language and proper energy. Watch at the end of the video how interested and happy the horse seems to be with me.

Your mind is really a powerful tool. Think about how you want to direct your energy – whether it is on something small like focusing on asking a horse to move, or on something big like landing that new job by thinking positively. I admit, this does seem really far-fetched. I find it interesting, however, that similar theories have been present in religions as old as Hinduism and in groundbreaking scientific theories as new as quantum mechanics. What I know for sure is that the world and the universe it is a part of is a very strange place and we are not even close to discovering half of its mysteries.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013


It is 1893. Fluorescent light bulbs are just starting to become available to a broader section of the public and Charles Darwin just released his theory of natural selection. The Great Chicago Fire, a disaster that decimated close to one third of the city, had happened a mere 22 years earlier. Chicago in 1893 sets the stage for the World's Fair. Of the roughly 67 million-person population, 25 million people went to the fair. Some even mortgaged their house to be able to go! It was an event like none other and helped to put Chicago back on the map. The fair also featured the world’s first Ferris Wheel! If anyone has been to Chicago, the sight of a gigantic (not the original, however) Ferris wheel on Navy Pier is in part a symbol of Chicago. The fair was a way for the city to showcase itself as well as show people things that they had never even thought could exist.

The debut of the great Ferris Wheel in 1893

A modern Ferris Wheel is located today at Navy Pier and overlooks the Chicago Skyline

It is hard to imagine the world in 1893. Instead of the largely scientific based minds of today, many more people relied heavily on religion to explain mysteries of nature. The idea of natural selection and evolution was very new at this point in time and I am sure many people did not believe in it at all. Ideas of space and the universe were even more mystifying. Meteorites on display were accompanied by signs explaining their mysterious origin from the sky. One meteorite was blessed and kept in a church to pray over. Another meteorite, I am only assuming one that did damage when it fell, was kept locked up in a cell so its evil could not escape.

The World’s Fair also featured items and goods from countries all over the world. Imagine seeing a stuffed lion, an elephant skeleton, dyes from India, and wheat from Russia for the first time! How large the world must have seemed then, to be seeing and learning about some of these things for the first time!

An image from the Fair of a Russian Exhibit

The world was so vast and unexplored to the majority of the population at the time that it also led to ignorance and lack of education about certain cultures. Displays from cultures and countries all over the world depicted Native Americans as savages that were far less superior to the white man. Hunting gear and other tools from African culture displayed the people to be very primitive and fierce – a people far below those viewing the booths in Chicago. I feel that looking back on how people viewed the modern world in 1893 shows us today how much the human race has progressed and grown through science and technology – for the better and the worse.

I like to imagine myself as someone attending the Worlds Fair in 1893. I would be baffled by how much was in the world that I had never known about before. I would gaze at the lion and try to imagine that something that big and ferocious existed out there somewhere. Would the meteorites make me wonder about the possibilities other planets or just make me have more respect for God? I wonder what my idea of the future would be? If my 1893 self could time travel and meet my 2013 self, I bet I would be amazed and boggled by how much the world has advanced. Cartoons like the Jetsons wouldn’t air for another 70 years. And even though the Jetsons era seemed to think that we would all be driving hover cars by now, I still think they would be impressed by our modern day world.

Modern windmills now tower over fields of cows and wooden farmhouses - changing the landscape dramatically

Today we take things like laundry machines, cars that can go 120mph, MapQuest, and GPS for granted. I have travelled all over the world and stay in contact with my new friends with the help of technology like Facebook and Skype. I carry a phone the size of my palm around that can calculate tips on restaurant bills, check my email, take pictures, watch videos, and record voice notes. We watch movies in 3-D, 4-D, HD, and on Ultrascreens and then can buy them digitally from a tablet. Just look at all the thrill rides at your nearest amusement park – where the Ferris Wheel was the highlight of the World’s Fair in 1893, it is probably now one of the more boring rides offered today. No matter what I want to do or where I want to go, there is some sort of technology that will make it easier for me. Penicillin was not discovered until 1928 – can you imagine what they would think when they see us take a pill and magically fight off infection or prevent a disease? Knowledge about everything and anything is easily accessible – literally just a click or two away. Stepping back and thinking about how far and fast this world has progressed is quite amazing. Human curiosity and human ingenuity is a natural thing that is always going to press us onwards and forwards. Looking back, it is hard to distinguish what creations and inventions were more helpful or harmful to humankind. Who knows what the world will be like in another 120 years?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Carriage Horses

Carriage rides are a staple in the downtown Chicago area – especially in tourist crowded areas like Michigan Avenue. Recently, however, the carriage drivers have run into some changes that don’t particularly go over well. This flurry of changes has come about in the last few years due to several carriage horse accidents over the country that made their way into the news. Once such story was that of Charlie, a New York City carriage horse that dropped dead in October 2011 while trotting on his way to Central Park. Or there was Jerry, a horse in Salt Lake City, Utah that collapsed while pulling a carriage in the sweltering heat and died two days later.

The scene as Charlie was moved from the New York City street

And then there are other stories, that show how ill-suited horses are today to be working on city streets. A horse in Philadelphia slipped and fell on a manhole cover while pulling a carriage. Although the horse was able to walk away from the incident, it was only luck that the horse and people in the carriage did not get hurt.

Although this horse was able to walk away uninjured after slipping and falling, many people mistakenly thought this horse had died

Horses are flight animals and even the best trained horses can spook at something – a runaway horse poses a threat to itself, the safety of its passengers, and even pedestrians and cars on the street. September of this year a horse named Chris was pulling a carriage in New York when he spooked, sideswiped a car and flipped the carriage. The horse and driver where fine, and luckily there were no passengers in the carriage at the time. In fact, there have been several incidents in New York where a horse has bolted and either pulled a carriage through heavy car and pedestrian traffic or spooked and flipped a carriage. The list of horse drawn carriage accidents relating to horses spooking and bolting goes on and on – some ending in serious injury or death for both horse and human.

The scene after a horse bolted and sideswiped a car

The life of a carriage horse is hard. The constant noise and bustle of the city competes with having to travel through cars and intersections. Carriage horses must wear special shoes with grips on them so they will not slip on the pavement, but sometimes these shoes only make the impact greater when hoof hits the pavement. It takes an especially fit horse to be able to work seven days a week pulling a carriage. The toll of the hard pavement and the steady work can sometimes be too much for horses, leading to foot problems like navicular or sometimes something even worse.

The City of Chicago has created several rules and regulations that all carriage drivers must follow if they want to work in the city. Although certain things like the ban on advertisements on carriages, fees drivers must pay, carriage inspections, and insurance requirements are all put in place by the city of Chicago, not all drivers agree with these strict regulations and high fees. The good news for horse lovers everywhere is the stricter set of rules set out for the health and safety of the horse pulling the carriage.

In order for carriage drivers to make any sort of profit during the season, many work seven days a week, which can be tough on a horse. To help ease things, news rules in place make a 15 minute water and rest break mandatory every hour and a horse is only allowed to work for 5 hours a day. The horse must be groomed daily and must not be lame, injured, or sick while working. Harsh use of the whip is also prohibited and the horse must never go faster than a slow trot. Proper fitting tack and an appropriate bit must be used while the horse is working and the carriage must never be overloaded for the health of the horse and for the safety of the passengers.

Horse safety and health is now also being regulated further, with the City of Chicago requiring a mandatory health check be conducted by a licensed veterinarian every three months for the horse to be allowed to work in the city. When not working, horses must have at least a 10 foot by 10 foot stall inside of a well ventilated and drained barn that is kept clean and dry.

A notice must be posted on the carriage alerting passengers to rules concerning the weather. If it is hotter than 90 degrees in the city or colder than 15 degrees in the city, the horse is not allowed to work and must be returned to its stable and unharnessed. A big change in the law is that the temperature is taken closer to the city for a more accurate reading, as opposed to how it used to be taken from O’Hare International Airport. Under consideration is possibly posting a notice stating the passengers should report any signs of animal cruelty or abuse through the violation of any of these rules.

Although controversial, the sight of this horse and carriage on 
Michigan Avenue makes a picturesque scene

Although the life of a carriage horse still is prone to be hard and accidents are always bound to happen when you put a horse in such a busy city setting, the City of Chicago has taken several important steps to making sure that carriage horses are healthy and fit for work. 

In New York City, carriage horses are also regulated so that they must have proper fitting tack, must not be lame or injured, and cannot work in adverse weather conditions. Horses in New York City also cannot work when it is above 90 degrees, but there is no regulation on how cold it can be before a horse has to stop work, instead the law states that horses must wear blankets when waiting for passengers. New York City only requires horses to have a 10 foot by 4 foot stall (which would make it difficult, if not impossible for a horse to lay down or turn around). Carriage horses in New York City can work for up to ten hours a day and are only required a 15 minute break every two hours. Veterinarian inspections are required for a horse to pull a carriage in the city, but only once or twice a year. Compare these rules to those set out by the city of Chicago, and it becomes clear whey New York City carriage horse deaths and accidents are at the top of the news reports.

Based off of the new rules and regulations set in place by the City of Chicago, it is clear that they are attempting to make the life of a carriage horse more humane. There will still be accidents and problems, but at least there are laws in place now that are taking steps to better treatment. There is still a long way to go for the welfare of carriage horses, especially in New York, but every day a change is made for the better is a time to rejoice.