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Strange Horse Laws
 By Winniefield Park   •   2nd Feb 2018   •   1,072 views   •   0 comments
Strange Horse Laws

It’s always good to see our elected officials hard at work and earning their keep. Take, for example, House Majority Whip John G. Edwards of Rhode Island. He’s doing some cleaning. Seems Rhode Island has a lot of obsolete laws and he’s planning to KonMari the law books of the state. Rather than keeping laws that ‘spark joy’, Edwards plans to develop the “Joint Committee of the Repealer”, a group of people whose job it is to suss out obsolete laws and suggest they be repealed. In addition to requiring people to honk when passing on the left, and prohibiting state non-residents from gathering seaweed on the beach, one of the laws to be cleaned from the books is a law making it illegal to race or “test the speed of a horse” on a public highway. The penalty for breaking this law is $20 or 10 days in jail.

This law was no doubt relevant back in the days of horse and buggy. Back then, some drivers felt the need for speed, just as they seem to now. That endangered those who prefer a more sedate, safe pace. And like most laws, it was enacted to stop people from doing stupid things that can result in self-damage, hurting others or damaging property. So, in that light, you have to wonder what events led to the creation of laws against donkeys sleeping in bathtubs.

Apparently, there are several states where there is a law against donkeys or in some cases horses sleeping in bathtubs, and one state even stipulates what times a donkey may or may not sleep in a bathtub. Frankly, this law sounds like an urban legend. But, the fact-checking site Snopes.com makes no mention of the law. And, an explanation of why the law was enacted is retold on the websites of several lawyers. So, it must be true, right? Interestingly though, not all of the stories are the same. Which could only mean that donkeys in bathtubs can cause a variety of serious problems most of them coming under the category of ‘public nuisance’.

Not so strange, and still in the law books of many states and provinces are rules about doing anything that might scare a horse being ridden, driven or led along a roadside. That makes good sense, even now, as pleasure riders and drivers and those who use horse-drawn equipment still use roadways. But one of the more unusual laws states that you must honk your horn when coming into the city limits of Lawrence, Kansas to let the horses know you are there. And, in South Carolina, you are supposed to fire a gun into the air as you approach an intersection in a non-horse drawn vehicle. Don’t open an umbrella suddenly on a sidewalk, however. This sure-fire horse spook instigator is prohibited in several states.

In New York, you must keep at least one hand on the reins while riding your horse along a roadway. So if you’re going to do some shopping, make sure you put the saddlebags on. And you’ll want to follow the rules of the road in New York too. Bring your horse to a full stop before entering a roadway. If you’re riding along a roadway, make sure that you’re home well before sunset, or you could get fined.

New Jersey law requires that you tie your horse securely when you get out of your horse-drawn vehicle. But don’t tie it in a way that will trip someone walking on the sidewalk. Here too, you’re not allowed to try a horse for speed along a roadway, and for heaven’s sake, don’t let go of the reins. Mind you don’t use your whip too vigorously, and before you start out again, make sure all your harness is done up properly or not only will you cause a wreck but you could get a fine too. And make sure those chimes and bells on your vehicle aren’t clogged with snow and are working as “No person shall drive a horse attached to a sleigh or sled on a highway unless there are a sufficient number of bells attached to the horse’s harness to give warning of its approach.”

In several states, it’s apparently illegal to bring a horse or mule into specific buildings. For example, in Cripple Creek, Colorado, you can't bring a horse into the ground floor of any building. Would the second or third floor be okay? In South Dakota, horses are not allowed in Fountain Inn unless they are wearing pants. There must be some very interesting stories behind the making of those laws, although proof that they existed is hard to find. Apparently, in Marshalltown, Iowa, horses are not allowed to eat fire hydrants. Rightly so, fire hydrants shouldn’t be tampered with. But, there appears to be no actual reference to this ‘law’ in the online Marshalltown Code of Ordinances.
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