Weary NYC Carriage Horse

Charlie Horse died on Sunday, October 23rd on the mean streets of New York. He was a NYC carriage horse on his way to work in the park. He lay there on the street, unidentified at the time – his mouth open, hooves tied together and mane flared.

" /> Weary NYC Carriage Horse Charlie Horse died on Sunday, October 23rd on the mean streets of New York. He was a NYC carriage horse on his way to work in the park. He lay there on the street, unidentified at the time – his mouth open, hooves tied together and mane flared. ">
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New York City Fails its Carriage Horses

Weary NYC Carriage Horse

Charlie Horse died on Sunday, October 23rd on the mean streets of New York. He was a NYC carriage horse on his way to work in the park. He lay there on the street, unidentified at the time – his mouth open, hooves tied together and mane flared. The beautiful 15-year old white Percheron looked so big and powerful and helpless at the same time – like the image of Pegasus struck down – so final and so alone. It was a shock.

At the time I said “Healthy horses do not just die in the street” and that “this horse must have died in the throes of agonizing pain because of the many hoof scuff marks on the street near his body.” I did not know how right I unfortunately would be.

On Monday, October 31st, the ASPCA released a statement about the necropsy report, “Charlie was not a healthy horse and was likely suffering from pain due to a pronounced ulceration of the stomach and a fractured tooth. [He] was not healthy for a career in an urban carriage horse business.”

Last week, in response to the death of the horse, Mayor Bloomberg added fuel to the fire by defending the industry. He dismissed calls for a ban saying that he could not imagine why “Anybody wants to destroy something that is part of New York’s heritage and that tourists love.“ He continuedThey’re [carriage horses] well taken care of and most of them wouldn’t be alive if they didn’t have a job.” About Charlie, he said there was “no evidence “it” had been abused.” In response to the news of Charlie’s illnesses, the mayor said “This is a horse that went to work at age 15. Without that, unfortunately, the horse probably would have been put down, and so at least “it” had a good life.”

Some people insist on living in an altered reality, wearing blinders.

New York is a world class city. People come here for the theater, shopping, night life, gourmet restaurants, and excellent museums – but not for a carriage horse ride. I often see the carriages parked waiting for customers who rarely come. The other night at the candle light vigil we held for Charlie, the carriages were lined up waiting and waiting for customers.

And who are all those people who love this industry to whom Mayor Bloomberg refers? Every poll I have seen in the last five years has shown at least 75% of respondents in favor of a ban of this trade. The most recent was from the Wall Street Journal and asked Should NYC ban horse-drawn carriages?” The latest results I checked showed a tally of 76.8% Yes and 23.2% No.

The industry refuses to accept any responsibility for carriage horse deaths, accidents, living and working conditions, or violating rules and regulations. They like to say that they love their horses and Charlie was healthy – that we are just a bunch of humaniacs, loons and bleeding hearts – that we are uninformed, liars and know nothing about horses. How wrong they are.

This was an illness whose symptoms had to be noticed by anyone who cared for that horse. Why were his cries for help unheeded? I asked Dr. Holly Cheever, world renowned equine veterinarian and expert on the carriage industry, her opinion about this tragedy. She said – “As a member of a prey species, Charlie would have concealed his pain–but a knowledgeable horse handler would have noted both lesions and would have had dental surgery to extract the tooth as well as medication and diet changes to minimize the ulcer’s pain. Such expenses are rarely acceptable to this industry.”

Susan Wagner, president of Equine Advocates, a sanctuary in upstate New York and home to 80 equines, added “I believe that Charlie’s stomach ulcer combined with the added pain of a bad tooth, with all of that metal in his mouth putting pressure on it, could have really exacerbated his stomach problem. His death probably could have been prevented and Charlie would still be alive today had he been given the medical attention he so badly needed but he never received.”

Another Horse Spooks

Just three hours after our vigil for Charlie Horse, another horse spooked and bolted into traffic on Central Park South. Philip Powell, a tourist from North Carolina, told the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages that he and his wife were walking by the carriage horse hack line on Central Park South – not far from Columbus Circle – when one of the horses spooked and charged into traffic – running west before he made a u-turn on the congested street – dragging an empty carriage behind him. The horse ran east on Central Park South and turned into the park at 7th Avenue where he crashed. This happened around 11 pm on Friday night, October 28th.

Powell was fairly close to the horse when he noticed him jerk his head upright and then bolt into traffic. He said it was quiet at the time. Powell told New York State Senator Tony Avella and us that “It’s an absolute miracle that the horse and no pedestrians were seriously hurt. The entire incident happened so fast and was extremely shocking. The horse took off at top speed and could not be stopped. He could have easily trampled a pedestrian.”

When Powell and his wife finally caught up with the horse, he witnessed an overturned, damaged carriage at the intersection of West and Center Drive, just off Seventh Avenue. “When we arrived, the horse was standing, but trapped in the gear. Several men tried to free him. They eventually left after a man led the horse away and some other men were cleaning up the broken carriage. “ The police arrived, joining what appeared to be a dark unmarked car with officials asking the crowds to get back.

This accident is consistent with the nature of a horse. They are unpredictable, nervous prey animals and can spook at the slightest provocation. It does not have to be a loud noise, but could be a shadow, odd shape, rustling leaves, even an odor. They run from what they perceive to be a danger and become an unwitting, powerful weapon. It is fortunate that the horse did not get killed or kill anyone in his panicked flight.

We checked with the two local police precincts and they oddly did not have any record of the incident even though the police were reported to be at the accident site. The ASPCA did, however, confirm this accident with Senator Tony Avella’s office.

I have long suspected that there are many more accidents like this that get covered up because I hear about them from tourists and New Yorkers but they never make the press and information is not available through the government agencies – even when we have documenting photos.

We do not know how much longer this abominable, archaic and politically connected industry will continue getting away with what they do.

It is inhumane, which has been confirmed by Charlie’s death, and it is unsafe, which has been confirmed by the nameless horse’s spooking accident.

But we are going to stay in this fight until the industry is shut down and the horses saved. We support Senator Avella’s and Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal’s bill in Albany, which would prohibit the use of horse-drawn carriages in New York City. Bills #S5013 (Senate) and #A7748 (Assembly). Show your Support for the new bill by signing this petition.

We believe the bill will have a better chance in Albany, away from the unreasonable, political favoritism of New York City.

Weary NYC Carriage Horse Image Source: Catherine Nance

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17 comments on “New York City Fails its Carriage Horses”

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5 Years Ago


Carriage Horse Owner
6 Years Ago

THis just happened Nov 6, 2011---- "Hickstead is dead. Eric Lamaze’s famed stallion Hickstead collapsed on course at the Rolex FEI World Cup™ in Verona, Italy today. The pair finished a four fault round and were walking out of the ring when Hickstead stumbled, then fell over in what appears to be a heart attack. He was taken from the ring in an ambulance. According to Lamaze’s Facebook page, Hickstead has passed away." - quited from a Show Jumping website. Why are the Radical Animal Rights Activists like yourselves not up in arms over THIS horse's sudden death?Why wasn't the Italian version of the ASPCA on hand to immediately demand the owner sign a release so they could take Hickstead's body for necropsy? Why does the ASPCA sponsor show jumping competition? From this report, anyone could conclude that show jumping is every bit as hard on horses as pulling a carriage is. Where's the public outcry over Hickstead's death? I am very sorry for the deaths of both Charlie and Hickstead, but baffled by ann the accusations of "abuse" and "cruelty" leveled at Charlie's owners by the ASPCA, while there hasn't a peep out of them about HIckstead's possible treatment before his death. Something sure is rotten - and it ain't in Denmark- it's in NYC. Could it be that the ACPCA was so quick with assumptions and accusations over Charlie's death becasue one of their big donors is a real estate developer who wants to buy the property that houses the NYC carriage horses? Could it be because the director of the ASPCA is also a member of NYCLASS, which is sponsored by the same developer?

05 Dec 2011

I'm sorry for the loss of your horse. With that said, you must have seen signs that he was in pain. Why was he tied to a post unattended? If you were conscientious he would not have had to suffer. All carriage horse owners should put the horse before earning money. Sorry that a weeks pay needs to be lost to treat your horse for an ulcer and an abscessed tooth. Good horse husbandry would have prevented his death and suffering. Both are easily treatable. Your methods have attracted the animal rights people not your sport/business.

Rina Deych, RN
6 Years Ago

This cruel, abominable industry MUST be banned. Horses don't belong in city traffic, period, much less in NYC, which is so congested. Shame on the delusional and callous Mayor Bloomberg. Most DECENT people don't want to see sick, exhausted, depressed animals lugging around selfish, clueless tourists. The horse-drawn carriages are a tourist DETERRENT, not an attraction.

Short Skirt, Long Jacket
6 Years Ago

The article is excellent but troubling. Although the final necropsy report is pending (or has yet to be released), the preliminary findings suggest a picture of misery for Charlie. Regardless of how long he worked for NYC's carriage industry, he surely must have been a sick horse for some time. The ASPCA's voluntary role has long been a problem indeed. If the horse were known to come back from farms looking worse for the wear, why wasn't this made an issue? And as we long known, and saw in the Oct. 28 spooking accident, the police department did respond. But where are the incident reports? Why does this city support this dangerous, inhumane industry? It posts serious injury risks for animals and people, including motorists, and thus represents a substantial liability risk to the city as a licensing agent. Industry trolls like to suggest that we advocates for a ban don't like people. Why would you think that? We support an electric car bill that would provide good jobs--without working horses to death. And the trols will be along to suggest that the city is doing a noble and merciful thing by giving these horses jobs. That argument is absurd and no one is buying it. The horses can be at auction, fast-track to slaughter, with the blessing of New York City under current law, and this happens. So, they already go to slaughter once they used-up, ulcers and cracked teeth and all. If they don't die on the streets. The state bill introduced by Sen. Avella and co-sponsored in the assembly by Linda Rosenthal would put an end to this inhumane and dangerous trade, which in surveys is shown to be unpopular with most respondents (approximately 75%).

Elizabeth Forel
6 Years Ago

The drivers will NEVER take responsibility for anything having to do with the many faults of the industry. They are trying to spin new ways to distance themselves from Charlie - sure he was working only a few weeks - that is the ticket to support their irresponsibility - but not in my book. Since they always claim to know more than anyone on earth about horses, Charlie's owner should have been able to detect something off with this horse. The way he chewed his food would have been a dead give-a-way - showing discomfort from his fractured tooth, maybe dropping too much food on the ground. His movements and the way he carried himself would have been another. It is obvious to me and everyone else not in the industry that who ever owned him just did not care enough. Charlie was the means to make a buck and he worked him to death. Also - if he found out that Charlie did have PAINFUL ulcers, would he have been willing to spend the high price of medications on him? What ever blah blah blah they say about the horse not really working 9 hours a day 7 days a week or living in comfortable box stalls, the fact remains that the LAW that they helped write stipulates that the horses may work for 9 hours a day, 7 days a week and live in minimum of 60 sq. ft. If they want to change that law, why don't they. With the snap of their Teamster fingers, they could get Christine Quinn to bring in a new bill that would change these regulations to something more humane - something that is codified and not up to the individual slave driver. And what about that accident the other night. Once again we have drivers not paying attention and shooting the breeze with the other drivers while their horses wait and wait and wait. If that driver stayed with the horse instead of ignoring him, he would have been able to detect as he was getting agitated and perhaps been able to calm him down. I have only seen one carriage driver successfully do this. Anyway - it is an argument that is not winnable because of their thick head and the fact that they dig in their heels on this issue. They are never wrong and do not accept responsibility. They have been infantilized by their political cover and entitlements; But it will not last forever. This anti carriage movement is here to stay - it is international. Peggy Parker in the 1980s and 90s never asked for a ban. She wanted improvements - she wanted compassion. She was virtually a one woman show and when she gave up, her campaign stopped. But we are many. We are several organizations. It is different now and we are not giving up.

Carriage Horse Owner
6 Years Ago

If the NYC carriage horses are being beaten and sent to slaughter like one of the posters using FB claims- WHERE IS THE PROOF? If these horses lead such miserable lives, WHERE IS THE PROOF? If Charlie's driver did anything "wrong", then why has't the ASPCA issued him a citation or arrested him? If they can "PROVE" Charlie was in constant pain, then why haven't they issued a citation for "neglect" like their agents are always shown doing on their self-serving TV Show- Animal Precinct? I've lost count of the number of "citations" they were shown issuing to hapless dog and cat owners, but none to carriage drivers. How come? Could it be because they haven't ever had any legitimate "grounds" to issue such? Just wondering. NYC carriage horses are among the most inspected and regulated horses in the USA. My top hat is off to the NYC carriage horses and drivers who daily put up with abuse and hecklers just to do their jobs, and try to make a living.

05 Nov 2011

I was hoping you would have some compassion. You know the laws are fucked up regarding animal welfare so for you to say "give me proof" makes me feel extremely sorry for you. You are not noble nor very human. Put yourself in the horses' shoes- You should get right with the world. I bet you are a christian who will then hide behind the bible and it's bullsht concerning animal welfare.

6 Years Ago

aliceruth- Really, you must not have read very much about poor Charlie or you would have known he had been working as a NYC carriage horse for just a couple of weeks, so he had not "suffered" at all much, less "suffered for who knows how long." Since the ASPCA is the organization that is in charge of making inspections and doing vet exams, if his exams were only "cursory," whose fault was that? Certainly not his owner's or the driver's. NO carriage drivers have been ticketed, cited or arrested for cruelty, inhumane treatyment of horses, abuse or neglect,that I could find any record of, so if this is the case, it means either the drivers take very good care of their EXPENSIVE horses or the ASPCA is not doing its job. Which is it? If accidents go unreported or are "covered up" as you claim, and the ASPCA is supposed to oversee the NYC carriages, are you saying they are part of a cover up? Or are you implying that the NYPD is part of a cover up? NYC carriage horses work only a 9-hour shift. And they are probably not actually "working" the entire 9 hours because they only work when they have passengers. FYI- Horses in a pasture stand around about 23 hours and 40 minutes in a 24 hour cycle. Horses rarely, lie down for more than about 20 to 30 minutes a day. It is part of their make-up as "prey animals." They don't lie down unless they feel completely safe. There are 24 hours in a day so that means NYC carriage horses are resting or eating for the other 15 hours - not counting the hours they stand still waiting for passengers during the 9 hour shift. And aliceruth, you don't sound very compassionate toward your fellow human beings. It almost sounds like you are wishing for a human fatality so you can use that as "proof" that carriages are "outdated, dangerous, and inhumane." Horses have worked in harness and under saddle for thousands of years. Horse-powered vehicles and farm implements DO NOT cause the pollution that the use of fossil fueled vehicles and equipment causes. Horse "exhaust" is biudegradable and useful as fertilizer. We need more carriages and fewer motorized vehicles on crowded city streets. More carriages, fewer cars!

06 Nov 2011

amanda, horses have worked in harness and under saddle for thouands of yrs. the fact is that times change. we have evolved to the point that we should no longer need animals for transport, entertainment, or food. man has a moral obligation to animals. what if the shoe was on the other foot and animals dined on humans would that be wrong? and we are only required to work an 8-hour shift. horses are not ppl that depend on the 40 hr work week, they derive no benefit or pay for their services. the only ppl profiting from this are the owners. i urge all residents and tourists to boycott this outdated "heritage of nyc" ,according to mayor bloomburg. and, mayor bloomburg, they hardly had a good life. when did tourism replace humanity in ur city?

Ruth Eisenbud
6 Years Ago

In Delhi, India carriage horses have been banned for several years because the hindu jain tradition has more compassion for animals than the judeo.christian tradition.

Sherrie Zabinski
04 Nov 2011

In India they ride river buffalo instead of horses. Get YOUR story straight.

6 Years Ago

This article by Elizabeth Forel is indeed heartbreaking. That poor horse suffered, for who knows how long. What was his last night on Earth like, in his NYC stable? What about his morning? No rest for the weary, and only "cursory" veterinary examinations, to quote the ASPCA. The entire "system" is a failure, and there is plenty of blame to go around. No one single person is at fault. The city must shoulder the blame along with NYC's outdated, dangerous, and inhumane carriage trade. About that accident Friday night--now we have a photo--you'll be seeing it soon. But how many accidents go unreported, because the carriage industry quickly cleans up and covers its tracks? It will be interesting to see what the mayor will say when there is a human fatality. Does his ultra-insensitivity and ignorance about this issue signal that he will not be appointing himself for a third term as mayor? Small blessings. And the industry's response is as absurd and shameful as the mayor's answer: all living beings must die. That really isn't the point, is it.

05 Nov 2011

I can't believe people are doubting your word Alice. It is all truth if you have a bit of common sense. If folks cry 'no abuse done here" then somehow they are justifying this cruelty because of MONEY! REmember money won't get you into 'heaven"! Just saying. Keep up the "fight for animals, Alice.

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