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Some happy, some frustrated as horse-drawn carriage rides return to Country Club Plaza for holiday season

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Horse-drawn carriage rides are back this season at the Country Club Plaza.

“Families from all over come in to the Country Club Plaza to take a carriage ride," said Bobby McGee, spokesperson for Kansas City Carriages. "It's a family tradition as we like to call it.”

From November to mid-January, Kansas City Carriages offers horse-drawn carriage rides to the public.

“My wife always wanted to do this," Ryan Scott said Friday. "I should have done it a long time ago, so we decided to do it today."

And ridership really picks up once the Plaza's lights are activated Thanksgiving night.

“With over 90 years of lights on the Plaza, it's a fun-filled time for hot chocolates, hot coffee," McGee said. "You can get on the carriages; you can ride the sleighs -- the horse-drawn sleighs -- and you can have a great time with your family and friends."

But not everyone is excited to see this tradition return.

“I am a little disappointed because last year we garnered almost 20,000 signatures of different people in Kansas City who would like to see these horses retired and this tradition either changed or ended,” Blythe Cooper with Animal Action of Kansas City said.

After a 2016 crash involving a horse-drawn carriage at the Plaza and another incident in Saint Louis where a horse carrying a carriage drowned, some don’t think these rides should continue.

“It's just not good for them, and just the hope is that they wouldn't be carrying that much weight on their body because even their horse shoes are not meant for that much weight on the pavement, all day long like this,” Cooper said.

Kansas City Carriage Company managers said they operate with safety in mind.

“We keep about 25 horses total so that they rotate through," McGee said. "None of the horses work more than four days a week and never more than six hours a day. They get breaks when they do work."

The carriage rides are offered on Fridays and Saturdays until Thanksgiving. After the Plaza lights go on, rides are available daily from the corner of Nichols Road and Pennsylvania Avenue.

Representatives with Animal Action of Kansas City said they’ll continue to hold demonstrations and collect petitions signatures to raise awareness for their cause.