A new process is now in place for residents who want to ride horses on city streets in Springfield.

SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- A new process is now in place for residents who want to ride horses on city streets in Springfield. The traffic commission unanimously approved its first batch of permits at a special hearing on Monday.

According to Massachusetts state law, horses are legal to ride in streets. That all changed in September 2020 when the Springfield City Council passed a new ordinance requiring riders to obtain permits.

On Monday, Jose Rubero appeared virtually before the Springfield traffic commission - the first to apply for a permit under this process.

“You need to think about your own safety, the public’s safety, the horse’s safety,” said Springfield Police Lt. Mel Kwatowski.

During the hearing, Rubero was asked to use common sense in avoiding busy situations.

“No metro, no central business district area. You can’t ride even through there to get to the other side,” Kwatowski added.

Rubero assured the commission that both the riders and the horses covered by the permit are prepared for the downtown environment.

“All the horses are trained for speeders, for honkers, or even cars coming up to them…Our horses are parade ready. They can handle that we’ve practiced that,” Rubero noted.

Horses returning to the streets have some residents concerned.

“These horses are being transferred here with the sole purpose of riding them in busy city streets…It's a danger to anybody who's traveling on our streets and just the community as a whole,” said Cristina Ferrera.

However, the permitting process does add transparency. Western Mass News obtained copies of the applications, which include detailed information about where the horses are being boarded, how they are transported, who is responsible for them if something were to happen, when and where they plan to ride, and proof the horses are up to date with veterinary care.

Ultimately, when it came time to vote, approval was given for June, July, and August of this year, beginning on June 15. It’s an outcome that brought Rubero to tears and results that Ferrera said she can live with.

“I think that the permitting process, it’s a great start…I think that this permitting process shows that the city’s elected officials care about the safety of everyone involved, I think it’s a great thing,” Ferrera noted.

Permitting for special events and parades is still handled separately with its own application process.

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