This is from the 28 October 2010 edition of here.
SAINT JOHN – Though many in Saint John are unaware, there is a downtrodden group of history buffs and animal activists in the city. Day after day, they pass historical monuments in uptown Saint John, lamenting the ongoing, unabated decay. They are friends of horses, they are a little weird, and they will be kicking up a fuss if their demands are not met.
The Saint John Society for the Preservation of Horse Troughs has about 40 members and a twofold goal: preserve valuable historical monuments, and ensure that all working horses in the city have potable drinking water.
“Let’s say you’re a tourist. Imagine being in one of these horse-drawn carts, and the horse may be thirsty, and so it moseys up to this trough and has a drink. It would add to the experience. It would be a conversation piece, whereas at the moment it’s a garbage bin,” said Peter Josselyn, horse trough historian and co-founder of the society.
After moving back to Saint John following an undergrad degree in Toronto, Josselyn wanted to fire up a project that combined his love of history with some form of social activism. The result was a tongue-in-cheek group (motto: Hey – it’s good for horses) that hopes to convince city council to remove soil and flowers from a number of “planters” around town – planters that were once used to water horses.
“We’re pretty lucky, the troughs are pretty well-documented. If something’s from the 1880s, and looks like a bathtub, and it’s outside, there’s a pretty good chance that it’s a horse trough. The one on the west side isn’t even used as a planter, it just fills up with disgusting rainwater,” said Josselyn.
Another, in the uptown core, was donated by the SPCA in 1882 and holds only perennials now.
“Horses can’t drink soil and flowers,” said Josselyn.
It’s not that he’s accusing local tour operators of animal cruelty, or causing a fuss for no particular reason; rather, Josselyn hates to see artifacts disintegrate in a city that prides itself on heritage preservation.
And though no one in the society actually owns a horse, Josselyn said they haven’t ruled out a protest, march, or perhaps even a trail ride to city hall to convince the mayor it’s time to refurbish the handful of remaining horse troughs in Saint John, making them usable for friendly equines once more. He has no idea how much this plan would actually cost, but insisted it’s worth whatever council might have to shell out.
“Can you really put a price on the life of a horse? More money has been spent on worse,” said Josselyn.
Contact Saint John reporter Paige Aarhus at firstname.lastname@example.org