Today I saw a horse fall down, crashing in a heap on the unforgiving stone streets of Via Calzaiuoli. Everyone stopped and stared as the poor creature stumbled, trying to pick itself up on shaky legs as the driver of the cart turned over his shoulder and shrugged to the 3 tourists with shocked looks on their faces sitting in the back of the carriage.
The whole scene immediately sent a shot of adrenaline coursing through my body, and my hands began to shake. How dare this man not even get out of the cart and check to see if the horse was ok? How could he just simply sit there, in his starched pinstripe shirt and Rayban sunglasses, and not DO something?
The driver turned his head and began reassuring the passengers. Don’t worry, he just tripped. He was trying to turn the corner and fell. It’s ok, nothing to worry about. The bright-pink cheeks of the people riding the cart burned into my memory, how embarassing it must be to have the whole street looking at you, scorning you for weighting down this animal in 35° (95F) weather.
A woman pushing her child had stopped on the side of the road, and began calling out after him as he pulled the horse and carriage around the corner. Trova un altro lavoro, she said. Find another job. Just don’t put this innocent creature through the burden of hauling around lazy, indulgent tourists who gobble up €10 gelato on the street corners and extend their selfie sticks directly into your pathway without glancing up.
Tradition. What’s the price? As the world grows older and wiser, things like bullfighting and utilizing animals to carry out the burdens that we humans are too weak to manage suddenly become antiquated and timeless, like a cherished grandparent who still spews racist rhetoric at the dinner table to anyone who will listen.
I can still see the chalky scrapes on the ankles of that horse as he struggled to stand up straight. How long did he continue working today? And for what purpose?