Horse-drawn carriage petition gains momentum, brought to City Council

Horses at the Carson Valley Ranch, owned and operated by the Borges family.
Ashleigh Goodwin / Tahoe Daily Tribune

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – During the Aug. 8 meeting of South Lake Tahoe City Council, members of the community stepped forward to ask council to ban the horse drawn carriages in the Heavenly Village, citing alleged mistreatment of the horses.

“We care about bears and puppies in Tahoe, we should give equal concern and care to horses,” Angie Reegan, owner of Peace Love Tahoe said in a statement to City Council, asking the council members to further look into the carriages.

A petition gained rapid support after it was launched followed by public outcry, but according to Dwight and Dianna Borges, owners of Borges Sleigh & Carriage Rides, the petition is not based in facts. The Borges family has been operating the business for five decades. 

“[The business] started in 1965, and since that time we have learned a lot,” Dwight told the Tribune. As a result from their learnings over the years, Dwight said, “Our horses are the best cared for around.”

The Borges family keeps their horses at Carson Valley Ranch, which is home to 12 Belgian Draft horses, where they graze along 40 acres of pasture. 

Dwight and Dianna Borges’ 12 Belgian Draft horses live on 40 acres of land.
Ashleigh Goodwin / Tahoe Daily Tribune

“It’s insulting and unfortunate the way things have turned out, but the tourism community has come out to support me directly,” Dwight said. 

Duane Wallace, executive director of the South Tahoe Chamber of Commerce, told the Tribune the horses are not just part of the Borges family business, but they are also part of their family. 

Dianna reflects, stating the petition has drawn some hideous actions from passers-by, screaming hate filled messages at the teamsters, horses and patrons, such as, “your horses would be better off dead.” 

This recent petition is not the first time the Borges family has come under fire. 

“We have been dealing with animal rights activists for many years and they have made suggestions for shade and more water and we have made adjustments,” Dwight said. “We have umbrellas for the horses even though they shake and move and spook the horses, but we’ve always had water for them.”

Long time local and animal rights activist Michelle Schultz filed a witness report with the El Dorado County Animal Services, in which she included photos of the horses without water and the dash gauge in her vehicle showing 91 degrees outside.

While the temperature may be inaccurate for the air, it is indicative of the conditions present. “Hot pavement in addition to exhaust fumes create a dangerous environment for the horses,” Schultz told the Tribune.

The report was given to El Dorado County Animal Services and, officials say, an investigation is being completed.

In response to the “lame” horse seen on Facebook, Dwight explained while the horses have been specifically bred for the type of work they do, accidents happen.

“We’ve had a difficult winter, I’m not blaming anyone on pot holes, they happen, but sometimes they’re unavoidable. If the horses do twist an ankle they either stay off it or walk it off,” Dwight said. “One such day a horse did walk into one and had a bit of soreness, and we put the horse out in the pasture for two weeks and the vet checked on it a couple times.”

Following doctors orders, the horse was given a fresh pair of heat-resistant shoes to protect the horses hooves, which was completed by Dwight himself and soon after, was given a clean bill of health to return to work. 

Heat Resistant horse shoes were created and installed by farrier and owner Dwight Borges.
Ashleigh Goodwin / Tahoe Daily Tribune

Of the 12 horses, only three horses are at work each of the four days they’re open from noon to 6 p.m., working a total of 18 hours a week, or less. 

The family is open to communication to better the lives of their horses and welcome the clarity City Council could offer with ordinances, should they so choose to establish them. 

“The City does not currently have any ordinances that regulate horse drawn carriages,” Heather Stroud, attorney for the City of South Lake Tahoe said.

City manager Joe Irvin added, “At this time city staff has received no direction to do anything with regards to horse drawn carriages in the city.”

The petition presently has 4,215 signatures and multiple comments from people stating they live in the area and have witnessed animal cruelty. 

“As a resident with a business in the casino corridor, where these horses work, I have to agree that these horses carry people in very hot conditions sometimes, and always amidst car and pedestrian traffic,” Jana Menard, a petition supporter said. “If the carriage rides were off the road, done only in modest amounts, and in consideration of the weather, fine. But sadly that’s not the case.” 

The company has been in operation for 50 years but many think the practice is outdated.
Provided / Borges Sleigh and Carriage Ride

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