Wednesday, April 15, 2015

baltimore's arabbers

We have street vendors in Baltimore called Arabbers - men who lead horse-drawn carts through the city selling fresh produce. The horses are mostly shaggy pony-type things and they pull red and yellow carts covered in bells that make the most distinctive and cheerful jingle as the horses walk down the road. 

pics are all a little blurry bc it was dark and rainy...

The vendors seem to cover regular routes, and can be found at most city festivals (and we actually have a quite a few!). Obviously they're not out much during the winter, but now that Spring is here they're back in action. So now they come down my street almost every night! I still get so excited when I hear them coming (even tho I've lived in this apartment for years haha), but it's usually right around dusk and too dark to get a photo. 


they usually have the sweetest black pony on this route (i've pet her before!) - but tonight was a cute chestnut that i think i've seen too

Like many things related to animals and/or city life, it's a somewhat controversial topic, with one side concerned about the welfare of the horses, and the other holding true to the history and culture behind the Arabbers. 


see the rain blanket?

I honestly don't know enough about them to pass judgement one way or another (tho I've never personally seen one of their horses in worrisome condition, and I HAVE seen vendors grooming and brushing the horses during lulls). All I know is that I love seeing them and run to my window to watch whenever I hear the telltale 'tinkle' signaling their approach. 



For various reasons, it seems like this tradition is going extinct (this article says there are only 6 left in the city)... whether bc it's not financially sustainable or there's just too much pressure to take the horses off the streets... whatever the reason it makes me a little sad.



But for now I'm still going to get excited whenever they go down my street on their way home. If you're interested in reading more about the vendors and their horses (and looking at pictures far better than my own), here's a great feature article.

What about where you live - are horses still at all involved in day-to-day life and work?

32 comments:

  1. Never heard of them before! How interesting!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. they used to be in philly and NYC i think too... but have gone much the way of the carriage horse in those cities

      Delete
  2. This is very cool!! The majority of 'working' horses like this are cared for very well, I think it's so neat to see them doing old school jobs like this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i agree - i love seeing them in these roles and also want very much to believe the horses are well cared for. every now and then there are big headlines saying some arabber stable or another was raided and the horses rescued... but the rescue operation that they go to has been working with the arabbers forever so i kinda sometimes wonder if it's less about a 'raid' and more about the planned retirement of some of the horses, with some fanfare for the sake of fanfare??? idk tho, that sounds pretty cynical doesn't it haha

      Delete
  3. I love this! I've never heard of these guys before, but now I'm going to do some research. I do know that you've made me want to visit you and Baltimore some weekend after we move! Up for that?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just invited myself to this. I hope that's cool. I'll bring snacks.

      Delete
    2. yessssss!!!!! you absolutely have to come visit when you move down here (dc itself is a pretty easy drive - just depends where you settle) - and everyone else in the region should come too!!!

      Delete
    3. If you promise to bring snacks, you can pretty much join me anywhere. ;)

      Delete
    4. haha i think these needs to happen now :)

      Delete
  4. What a cool article! I joke all the time about how much better things would be if we could just ride horses everywhere, but there's a bit too much car traffic in NOVA...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. haha right?? i'd love riding my horse around town...

      re: the traffic thing, these guys actually tend to stick to kinda low-ish socioeconomic neighborhoods where high traffic volume isn't a huge worry. i live on a very busy street and suspect they're just using my street to get home - they never stop. and they pass by late enough that rush hour is over

      Delete
  5. That is so cool! I have never heard of them! Sounds like a tradition that should be cherished and protected.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Cool! Didn't know that Baltimore had ponies like this? That is so cute!

    I'm pro cart horses- as long as they have a job and are taken care of, they are way better there than (sorry to be dismal) on a double decker to Canada or Mexico.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. they're super adorable - and i kinda feel the same way about this situation being better than going to slaughter... obvi that's not an excuse for terrible treatment, but it keeps things in perspective!

      Delete
  7. That is so neat! Makes me think of Napoleon from The Black Stallion. :)

    It's not at all uncommon here for people to still use horses for farming, particularly for sugaring season, right now. There are people at my barn who make a side income driving horses for sugaring in March-April.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. that's pretty cool too!! we see a lot of amish horses not too far north of here, but that seems like kinda a different thing altogether. it would be cool to see more of those modern applications of horse power :)

      Delete
  8. My friend Kathy's mare Queenie was seized from the Baltimore Arabbers for neglect. She actually didn't look bad at all when she was taken, but some of the other horses in the group did. The Arabbers adore their horses but the big problem is that they don't have the resources to feed and take care of them the way they are supposed to. It's the biggest controversy around them. I think there's also a tradition thing: they've done things with the horses a certain way for such a long time without major problems that they don't all see the need to sign them up for regular vet and farrier care. My vet is part of a group involved in helping provide them free to low cost basic care for the horses (vaccines, deworming, etc). It's great to know that there are people out there trying to help them; I just wish they would all allow themselves to be helped so the tradition could continue!

    The horses that have belonged to the Arabbers are the calmest, most bombproof horses you will ever meet. You can tell Queenie only ever knew love in her life as she is absolutely fearless. And there is another woman in the MD trail rider's group TROT that also has an Arabber horse who is the same way.

    No one can deny that they love their horses! I'm glad you get to see them. I think I'd be just as excited as you to see them go by regularly! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. interesting! that's kinda in line with a lot of what i've heard about them - they love the horses but the care isn't always top notch. tho i've also heard that there IS somewhat of a support network for them, in the way of vets / farriers / and rescue operations when they can't keep the horses any more.

      glad to hear that these horses are finding success in second careers too!!

      Delete
  9. That's so cool! I'd love that view out my window :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. it's really kind of special - and i hope i never lose the childish horse-craziness that draws me to the window every time :)

      Delete
  10. What a great tradition. So much better than the annoying ice cream vendor with the creepy vans and circus music. Where I am in Orange County there are no horses doing jobs such as that. However, in my "homeland" of Chicago, there are carriage horses downtown and police horses on the streets.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. haha well we do have the ice cream vendors too (including the variety that run late at night doing only god knows what), and the mounted policeman that i also adore... we used to have carriage horses but they got phased out when i was still pretty young

      Delete
  11. Very neat! I had never heard of these folks before! I think it's important to have horses/livestock/agriculture present in city life when possible - I like to think it keeps people connected to agriculture a little bit more. Glad these guys are still around and that they seem to have a good network!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i'm glad they're around too. they also add an element of 'door to door' service for folks who don't have the means or ability to get to the grocery store themselves

      Delete
  12. Replies
    1. i kinda wish they were more common haha

      Delete
  13. Neat! I'd never heard of them either, and I've been to Baltimore many times as I have family there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. no kidding! i think they mostly hang out in west baltimore, but can be seen centrally (where i live) and at festival type stuff. neat that you have family here too - it's kinda a cool town :)

      Delete
  14. Replies
    1. i always think so too - like, oh hey there's a random horse-drawn cart in the middle of the city, neato. lol

      Delete