Over the centuries, laws have been developed to cover every conceivable situation and so, of course, there have been many that relate directly to horses. I thought it might be fun to take a look at some of these weird and wacky laws.
The funniest thing is that a lot of the laws that have been developed over the years have never been repealed, for one reason or another. In effect, these laws are still on the statute books and still, in fact, the law, regardless of how bizarre they seem in these modern times.
Many of these laws were developed before the advent of mechanized transportation. Oftentimes, they relate to the treatment and care of horses. Consider, for example, that in Kansas, all places of business are required by law to provide a water trough for horses, or that in Alabama, it is an offense to open an umbrella on the street, since it might spook horses. In California, you are breaking the law if you pile horse manure more than six feet high on a street corner. (You would never do that, would you?)
Some laws obviously stem from the days of the Wild West. For example, in Texas, while it’s against the law for anyone to drive a horse and buggy through the town square, it’s perfectly acceptable to ride your horse into the saloon! In LaCrosse, Wisconsin, it’s illegal to tie your horse up along Third Street (an obvious attempt to prevent riding under the influence, since Third Street was the location of a number of saloons) and in Arizona, you can get arrested if you try riding your horse up the steps of the county court house.
To illustrate how the horse was an integral part of life even north of the border, in Canada there is a law that states that anyone being released from prison should be provided with a horse, a gun and some ammunition, so you can ride out of town (and presumably not come back).
The advent of the horseless carriage brought about some laws that were designed to lessen the chance of clashes and accidents between horse-drawn and horse-less modes of transport.
Riders who are obliged to ride their horses on busy streets and highways today may wish that some of these laws were still enforced. For example, in Pennsylvania, if a driver sees a horse-drawn carriage coming toward him, he must pull over, cover his car with a blanket so as not to frighten the horses, and allow them to pass. In Indiana and New Jersey, it is against the law for a car to pass a horse and carriage on the street.
I’m not sure that a law in South Carolina wouldn’t cause more chaos than it hoped to alleviate. The law states that drivers of automobiles must stop 100 yards from an intersection and fire a shot into the air to warn horse traffic of their approach. And in Kansas, all cars entering town must sound their horn to warn horse riders of their arrival. In Forest City, North Carolina, you are required to stop at the outskirts of town and call City Hall before entering, to allow the townsfolk to go outside and hold their horses while you drive through town!
You have to wonder what incident influenced law makers to come up with some laws. For example, what on earth happened in Iowa to prompt the lawmakers to make it illegal for horses to eat fire hydrants?
And my vote for the wierdest and wackiest law is the Washington State law that makes it illegal for any person to ride an ugly horse. (Can’t you almost visualize two sheriff’s men watching a horse and rider go by — “Gee, that sure is one ugly horse, I’m going to arrest that man!” “It’s not that ugly, give the guy a break.”)
If you think I’m making these up, I’m not! You can find these, and many more, on a site called, naturally, DumbLaws.com. Take a look, you’ll be amazed — and amused.