Petition circulates to ban horse-drawn carriages; Owners of carriage company respond

The company has been in operation for 50 years but many think the practice is outdated.
Provided / Borges Sleigh and Carriage Ride

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – A petition is gaining speed in South Lake Tahoe that would push the City Council to ban horse-drawn carriages, leading the long-time owners of the attraction to push-back on allegations of mistreatment of their horses. 

The petition was launched by a part-time South Lake Tahoe resident, following the American Century Championship which brought thousands of tourists to the area.

“After the golf tournament, we witnessed a lame horse carting a carriage full of tourists around in the 87-degree heat by the Casinos. I have a video of this I can share,” the resident said in an email to the Tribune. “The horses pulling these carriages looked overheated, broken, and depressed. It was heartbreaking to see this in a community that prides itself on wildlife conservation and preserving our ecosystem. How can we not give the same respect to our horses?”

The petition was launched on July 17 with a goal of 500 signatures. It quickly reached its goal and by the morning of Thursday July 20, more than 3,000 people had signed the petition. 

“Horses are forced to toil in all weather extremes, dodge traffic, and pound the pavement all day long. These gentle animals suffer from respiratory ailments because they breathe in exhaust fumes, and they develop debilitating leg problems from walking on hard surfaces,” the petition states, citing an article by the animal welfare organization PETA. 

The horse-drawn carriages in the casino corridor are provided by Borges Sleigh & Carriage Rides, which is owned by long-time community members Dwight and Dianna Borges. 

Dwight’s father, Sam Borges, won his first horse in a raffle, which he named Little Joe and kept at his house in the Tahoe Keys. Dwight’s mother was pregnant with him at the time, leading him to quip that he’s owned horses since before he was born. 

Shortly after, the Borges’ built their own sleigh to give children living the Tahoe Keys rides to and from the school bus during the winter. 

Sam started Borges Sleigh Rides in 1967, Dwight and his wife Dianna took over the business sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s. The family switched to using draft horses, which are large horses bred to do manual labor such as plowing fields.

They later expanded the business to include carriage rides in the summer. 

“Of the 50 years we’ve been operating, around 20 years into that we realized, ‘okay we have these horses and they do great in the winter but that’s around four or five months out of the year,'” Dianna Borges said. “If you just leave them in pastors [the other five or six months out of the year] they get sick and die. It’s just not as healthy, their bones don’t stay strong, their muscles don’t stay strong.” 

Borges said they love their horses as pets and that like many working animals, they enjoy their jobs. 

The Borges usually have anywhere from six to 12 horses at a time and they rotate the horses they use. She added they don’t work if the temperature is 90 degrees or higher, which she said is the industry standard, the horses don’t work more than six hours a day and they don’t work at night. 

The debate on the ethicality of horse-drawn carriages is being drawn-out on stages across the United States. According to a National Geographic article, a spotlight was shown on the practice when a horse collapsed in New York City in 2020. 

The American Veterinary Medical Association says there are risks to horses working in an urban setting but doesn’t outright condone the practice. 

“Horses that live and work in urban environments can face some unique conditions that impact their safety, health and well-being. Precautions should be taken to address hazards such as pollution, climatic extremes, and physical stresses,” a AVMA pamphlet on urban work horses states. 

While the petition to ban the practice in South Lake Tahoe has gained a lot of traction, the list of signatures does not include zip codes or addresses, so it’s unclear how many residents of South Lake Tahoe are for or against the issue. 

“This issue was brought to my attention and that of the business owner and other parties a couple months ago. I’ve spoken with [Police] Chief Stevenson and the [South Lake Tahoe Police Department] is looking into it,” said Mayor Cristi Creegan. 

In the meantime, Borges said she doesn’t want to completely phase out horses because she thinks the rides give people the opportunity to interact and learn about an animal they don’t get to see everyday but they have invested in electric carriages that allow them to provide tours at night and on hot days. 

To learn more about the Borges’, visit To learn more about the petition, visit

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