The world’s craziest horse laws…

The world’s craziest horse laws – even NZ gets a mention…

Want to keep horses under control? It’s easy. Just pass a law. Neil Clarkson looks at some of the world’s silliest horse laws.
Horses tend to be law-abiding creatures. Very few end up in jail or being fined.

The same, however, cannot be said for their human counterparts. Humans, in fact, do some monumentally stupid things – and just occasionally they involve horses.

In fact, one unfortunate American woman even made the finals of the 2000 Darwin Awards for her dealings with a horse. The famous awards are given posthumously to people whose passing might, uncharitably, be considered to be improving the world’s gene pool.

The woman in question struck on the less than bright idea of using her body as a hitching post while trying to bridle a green horse. Suffice to say, she won’t be making the same mistake twice.

However, a little bit of research reveals that people don’t just do dumb things with horses, they also make dumb laws to cover them.

Yes, while horses are quietly grazing their paddocks, there are politicians and district administrators busily coming up with ever more ingenious ways to keep law and order in the horse world.

New Zealand has not been immune from this legislative barnstorming.

The nation’s Parliament passed the Police Offences Act in 1928. It remained in force until a new Act was passed in 1981.

horses are quietly grazing

The old Police Offences Act covered a raft of misdemeanours. It was, for example, an offence to allow a mare to be mated within site of a public road. Why it was all right for cattle and sheep and do the wild thing beside the road, and not horses, is now lost in the sands of time.

Mind you, the same Act also made it illegal to fly a kite, beat a rug in public, and wear slippers in a public place by night.

It was also an offence to “ride furiously”. This beautifully crafted phrase was obviously to cover the old-fashioned equivalent of reckless driving.

Make no mistake. Plenty of people died on the roads under the hooves of horses or the wheels of carriages.

Speed, as we all know, can be dangerous, whether it involves a horse or a car.

Hence, the ingenious lawmakers in Indianapolis, Indiana, hit on the brilliant idea of imposing a speed limit on horses. If you’re wondering where the speedometer is on a horse, it’s right next to the fuel gauge, just above the light switch.

Any rider doing more than 10mph was in big trouble.

Imagine the court cases:

Policeman: “I reckon he was doing 14mph.”
Defendant: “Well I reckon I wasn’t.”

Judge: “I don’t know what to reckon.”

Speed is also an issue in Rhode Island. It’s illegal to race horses on a public road, or even to “try the speed of a horse”. Expect a fine of up to $US20 or 10 days in the slammer
Horses in some parts of the world are clearly nothing but trouble. Marshalltown, Iowa, forbids horses from eating fire hydrants. I thought they were made of steel, but perhaps in Marshalltown they build them from lucerne hay.

Utah decreed that it was unlawful to fish from horseback. That’s inconvenient.

Pennsylvania outlawed singing in the bathtub. Fair enough – there’s some pretty bad singers out there. But when it came to horses, they afforded them the full protection of the law. Many years ago, farmers were none too pleased by those new fangled automobiles, so they used a bit of political pressure to enact some entirely reasonable laws.

For example, if a driver came across a team of horses they had to pull to the side of the road and cover their car with a blanket that blended into the surroundings to encourage the horses to pass.

If that failed to persuade them, the car owner had to dismantle the “machine” and hide it in the bushes. I bet a lot of car owners simply turned around and drove home again.

Things got even tougher for drivers in Pennsylvania at night. They were required to send up a rocket every mile on country roads, before waiting for 10 minutes for the road ahead to be cleared of stock. In Wilbur, Washington, it’s an offence to ride an ugly horse, while in Calgary, Canada, they’re far less concerned about ugly horses, but still have a bylaw requiring businesses to provide hitching rails.

New Orleans may have had its problem in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but they’re certainly not standing for any nonsense from horse owners. It’s illegal there to tie a horse to a tree alongside a public highway.

Oklahoma will deal with you sternly if you engage in bear wrestling. They’ve also banned “horse tripping events”. This sounds tame enough but it isn’t. Horse tripping is used in training (such as a ‘Running W’ [running wire]) or in filming motion-pictures wherein the horse is pulled down or a trip-wire is set up, rather than trained to fall. If one reviews old films, it’s easy to see where tripping is used, as the horses crash onto their faces, as opposed to trained falling horses which learn to fall when their heads are turned sideways. There’s more on this here.

In Alberta, when they say they want to get crooks out of town, they mean it. There is a law that requires any person being released from jail be given a handgun, bullets, and a horse so that they can head off into the sunset.


Acknowledgements: Neil Clarkson

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