Tuesday, November 4, 2014

From the Goose's Wing to the Horse's Mouth



Warrior watching over and protecting mate, Princess.
Ragged and a little banged up, Warrior, nevertheless in healing process.
"The family" wooing admirers near Bethesda Fountain.
"Man" keeping guard while rest of family partakes of treats near Bethesda Fountain. They have it all figured out.
Friendly carriage horse taking time to pose for photos as driver points out tourist attraction to passengers.
Teddy pronouncing, "Hey, I like it here! You better not think to take away!"
It was quiet yesterday on the rock to the north west side of the Boat Lake in Central Park.
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I sat with Warrior and Princess looking out over the still water.
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Warrior is a gander who appears to have been in some battles with something --either nature or otherwise (hence, the name). The front part of his neck is missing feathers and seems now to be in process of slow healing over a previous open wound. My friend, Liliana and I had talked about the possibility of rescuing Warrior a few weeks ago and bringing him to the Wild Bird Fund for treatment.  But, it was ultimately decided instead, to monitor him closely.
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Since there are so few resident geese in Central Park these days, removal of half of a bonded pair would condemn the healthy mate to status of "loner goose" -- something not usually beneficial to flock birds who mate for life.
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In retrospect, the decision seems a wise one. Though Warrior may never be quite "normal" he appears capable of dealing with whatever physical woes temporarily challenge. He flies, he swims, he eats and he protects and looks out for his mate. Though still appearing ragged and somewhat, "roughed up," he looks better than he did a few weeks ago.
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But, Warrior was anxious yesterday. Peering to the south side of the lake as if expecting the family of four geese to come charging over the water any moment to harass and chase him and Princess off the rock.
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"Don't fret," I murmured to Warrior. "Its late in the day. I trust Man, Lady and their two brats are by Bethesda Fountain to beg treats from the people."
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After some moments, Warrior finally relaxed enough to nibble a few morsels of cracked corn along with his mate. That part of the lake remained peaceful and devoid of both, other geese and ducks.
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Curious as to whether my prediction was right, I eventually left Warrior and Princess  to go look for the family.
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Walking south through the Rambles to get to Bethesda Fountain, I noticed most of the mallards were swimming in the water by Bow Bridge -- another very popular tourist spot. There, some of them came upon grass to pose for photos and occasionally garner a treat from their human admirers.
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Whoever said these are "dumb animals?"
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Chuckling to myself, I still had not found the family and so continued to Bethesda Fountain -- one of the main tourist attractions of Central Park.
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And sure enough, there they were! The four in all their glory and boldness! Posing at the edge of the asphalt embankment for two young women taking photographs. (Apparently, basking in the light of human attention and occasional chips is far more appealing to Man, Lady and the kids than even chasing out their goose competition!)
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I walked up to the four, congratulating them on how well they have it all figured out and what a "racket" they have. They know when and from where the good treats come. They enjoy the limelight and the admiration. Most of all, they seem to revel in all the human company and adulation.
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(As for "Geese Police," Man, Lady and the kids have that figured out too.  -- Just a minor inconvenience every day. Who knows? Maybe at this point, it is all a game to them. There are always the tourists at Bethesda Fountain later in the day. They have only to wait it out.)
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Laughing at the brashness and smarts of the goose family, it finally dawned on me that I was so far south in the park, I might as well continue on to see and visit some of the carriage horses.  (I left the goose family still happily posing for tourist photos in exchange for handouts.)
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It is a short walk up some steps to note some of the horses clip clopping through the drive on 72nd Street.  Sometimes they stop briefly at the entrance to Bethesda Fountain for the carriage driver to point out the popular attraction to passengers.
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One such horse stopped to the accolades of a family suddenly pulling out their cameras.
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"He's so beautiful!" squealed a little girl, about ten-years-old in delight. The horse looked at her as if understanding the compliment and posing for a head shot. "Did you get the photo?" her father asked. "That should be a really good one!"
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I stood there thinking how much the behavior of the horse was similar to the goose family I had just left. I too, took a photo of the horse who was so accommodating.
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Feeling good, I continued on to 59th Street to meet and greet a few other horses. The time was approaching 6PM -- apparently when some horses are coming off shift and the evening horses come on.
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One horse nearing end of her shift, was "Shaya" (not sure of the spelling). Shaya is a beautiful, chestnut 6-year-old mare who despite just having eaten a pail of oats, confidently nudged my chest for either treat or a rub.  Not having carrots on me, she had to be content with a pat and numerous compliments. "Wow" I said to her handler, "for a horse coming off shift, she doesn't seem at all tired. She seems raring to go!"
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"Ah, yes," Shaya's owner/driver responded proudly. "She's a great horse, full of spirit and enthusiasm. Shaya would just as soon gallop back to the stables now as much as she wants to gallop coming here at the start of the day. I have to rein her back." 
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John (I think) continued to tell me that Shaya was originally from Ohio, but purchased from Lancaster, PA (Amish country). Apparently seeing her job in Central Park as a piece of cake compared to harder work on Amish farms, Shaya was the picture of a contented horse seeming to enjoy and revel in the activity and compliments around her. (Unfortunately, the photos I took of Shaya were too close, and due to flash, too bright and washed out.)
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Moving along, I happened along two drivers laughingly debating on who had the handsomest horse.  "There is no more handsome horse here than my Teddy!" declared one of the owners.
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Fascinated by this bold assertion, I had to stop and inquire.
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Teddy indeed is a very handsome and powerful looking draft horse who would be very hard to beat in the looks department. 
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Though appearing far younger, Teddy's owner told me he is 13-years-old and has been working some years as a carriage horse. "He loves it here!" Angel said with total confidence.  "There's no where Teddy would rather be. Isn't that right, Teddy?"
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Hearing the words and appearing to understand, Teddy pricked his ears forward and looked back at his owner. Yeah! Let no one take this away from me!  (OK, I am just imagining the latter, but that's what Teddy appeared to be saying.)
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Asked if they were worried about the proposed ban on carriage horses, Angel displayed the same confidence that he did for his horse. "It will never happen!" he proclaimed. "We love our horses and our horses are happy. There is no way you can take that away."
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John, the first driver spoken with, seemed far more concerned.  "I've been doing this for 13 years. I love getting up in the morning and getting to spend the day with my horse. There is nothing like it. But, yes, I am worried. These people are relentless and you cannot reason with them. 3,000 horses going to slaughter every week and they target us who love and take care of our horses.  I don't understand it." 
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But, at least for those few moments last night, no one was picketing or shouting protests.
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Walking home, watching the working carriage horses leisurely and confidently clip clopping through the park -- even amongst the rush hour traffic allowed for a few hours in the early evening -- I was struck by just how well they adapt to all the noises and stresses of the city --very much like the goose family at the Boat Lake.
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From the goose's wing to the horse's mouth, "We like it here. We like the people and no one and nothing is making us go!"
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That only that may be so for both, our beloved horses and our treasured geese.  -- PCA
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3 comments:

portwashguy said...

I know there is so much controversy about the carriage horses in NYC. There was a time when I was unsure too. But one of the things that convinced me that they belong here doing what they are doing, was repeated walks along 59th Street and watching them, "talking" to them, seeing how they interact with their drivers and watching how they ham it up with little kids who want their pictures taken. It seems to me that few if any of the opponents of these horses have taken the time to do this. Yet this simple "investigation" seems so basic and simple to me. Please please keep up your wonderful blog posts.

PCA said...

Thank you, PortWashguy for very insightfful comment. As you correctly observe, truly "abused" animals are usually fearful of and try to avoid humans as much as possible. The fact that the carriage horses of Central Park so willingly and confidently engage with people, respond positively to their names and seem,from every indication, to enjoy and excell in their work, suggests not "abused" animals, but animals who in fact are happy and well cared for. It is a mystery why those who campaign so hard for the banishment of the horses from CP don't spend time actually interacting with them and the drivers. They might be in for some pleasant surprises as we have been. Thanks again for commenting.

PCA said...

Thank you, PortWashguy for very insightfful comment. As you correctly observe, truly "abused" animals are usually fearful of and try to avoid humans as much as possible. The fact that the carriage horses of Central Park so willingly and confidently engage with people, respond positively to their names and seem,from every indication, to enjoy and excell in their work, suggests not "abused" animals, but animals who in fact are happy and well cared for. It is a mystery why those who campaign so hard for the banishment of the horses from CP don't spend time actually interacting with them and the drivers. They might be in for some pleasant surprises as we have been. Thanks again for commenting.