You might have heard that there have been a few incidents involving carriage horses in New York City in the past. While on duty, the horses in these accidents either got hit by a car, died while working, or got spooked for one reason or another. this is not right!

Carriage horses in Central Park

If you have ever been to NYC, and especially around Central park/Columbus Circle/5th Avenue, you have seen the carriages and their horses lined up waiting for tourists to go on a “romantic” trip. But do they know what the horses’ daily life is like, I wonder? Truth is that they have to work almost every day, and it doesn’t matter how hot or how cold, they have to work daily in a noisy and polluted city with dangerous traffic. They breathe in continuously the dirty air from the traffic. The horses live in small stables (sometimes even on the second floor of a building!) that can be fire hazards. There is no space to turn them out in a meadow. They literally can look at the beautiful fields in Central Park but can never stretch their legs there when off-duty. And if there is a weather emergency, the horses are holed up in their stables as there is no indoors to have them relax for a bit.

I think years ago, and I mean decades ago, it was a romantic idea of going around town in a carriage, but reality is that in the meantime the traffic in the city has increased by 1000% or so, and it is just not safe anymore. I am confident we can take all the carriage horses off the streets, by buying the rights from the owners and bringing them to safe pastures somewhere in the countryside. These horses are sweet natured, but don’t belong in the city. It is not safe for them, but these horse drawn carriages are also not safe for pedestrians and other people that take part in the traffic everyday.

There is a lot of danger for the carriage horses as well as traffic like cyclists and pedestrians
There is a lot of danger for the carriage horses as well as traffic like cyclists and pedestrians

RELATED: PETA made a list of horse-drawn carriage incidents

One good thing is that Mayor DeBlasio finally made a part of his election promise happen : The waiting line has been moved inside Central Park which makes it a bit safer for the horses and the pedestrians. A judge ordered the carriage horse industry to do so in February 2019. Unfortunately I noticed that the horses are less protected from the Sun in the Summer, as they are further away from the buildings that would shield them from Sun most of the day. And the horses still have to travel far to their stables that are located on the West Side of Manhattan after a long days of work.

 

Carriage horses at Central Park
From the waiting line at the border of Central park in busy traffic…
.. to the waiting line just inside Central Park away from busy traffic
.. to the waiting line just inside Central Park away from busy traffic

Carriage horse Oreo

One of these accidents happend with a 6 year old horse named “Oreo” (love the name) bolted as he got spooked by a car that honked near him.

*6 year old is very young for a horse to let you know. It is logical that he doesn’t know everything yet and can get scared. Actually, it does not matter how old or young the horse is, it is a living creature with feelings and emotions and any horse could spook.

On board were the driver and a couple hoping for a nice ride through the park. What they got was a horse that took off and had them falling off and getting hurt. He took off and an onlooker a few blocks down managed to capture Oreo. Of course Oreo was so scared of everything around him (he is a horse and he was in the middle of traffic alone) So when the police came, they had to shoot him with a tranquilizer shot. He fell to the ground and people passing by were watching this in horror. Read what happened exactly here. What I have read is that the injuries of the people were not major. And Oreo? They are giving him another vet check, but the first check showed only some bruises around his mouth. Yeah right, let’s not mention the psychological trauma he endured that he has to live with for the rest of his life. This happened in 2012, many accidents have happened after this one. Also, I do not know if Oreo is still working as a carriage horse, retired, sold to someone else, or was sold off to a slaughterhouse. Who knows?

UPDATE: Oreo, now Orion was adopted by the wife of the President of  the NY Yankees, Randy and Mindy Levine.

Well, that video does not look pretty. Ono top of that Oreo’s bit is so tight in his mouth it must hurt him a lot!

Carriage horses should be retired

I love horses, and I live in NYC. Therefore  I am excited that we CAN stop this because there is a great alternative! The people of NYCLASS continuously protest the horse drawn carriage industry in NYC, and actually have designed an electrical car or “horseless carriage” to drive tourists around Central Park. This way the transportation of people who want to see the beautiful views of New York City, can be safe and clean too. I love the idea!  I think it is a great solution, very fun and a good looking idea too. And the horses should enjoy a lovely retirement in a large meadow. NYCLASS once said that they already have places for all of these horses to go to! Because most of the time retired carriage horses are send off to slaughter and transported in deplorable conditions. Because in America you cannot slaughter horses, they are sent to Mexico on days long journeys. That is not what they deserve after serving so many tourists!

READ MORE: NYCLASS

We should get these cars all over the City. Do you have any ideas how we can do this? I wish I could adopt a carriage horse like Oreo and find a place upstate… we would only do fun rides in the woods and he would be in the pasture the rest of the day! I hope this will one day be reality instead of a dream.. Horse drawn carriages in NYC are so 1904!

carriage horses walking on Central Park West
carriage horses walking in traffic on Central Park West

p.s You can sign this petition to demand the NYC council to vote for the The Carriage Horse Heat Relief Bill, Intro 1425. This new bill will keep NYC carriage horses OFF the streets when the ‘heat index’ reaches 90 degrees or above. Sign the petition, or contact your local council members.

UPDATE October 30th 2019: the bill was signed into Law so horses cannot work anymore when the temperature gets too hot.

Carriage horse working in NYC on a hot Summer day
Carriage horse working in NYC on a hot Summer day

 

UPDATE: Christine Hansen, the face of the Carriage industry in NYC only needed a short amount of time to respond to my tweet about this article. Their PR machine is huge. She invited me to the stables, but besides that I have seen their stables before, what use is that of my time? I am sure they can make it look great for that moment in time, I have experienced that with my own horses in the past. It does not say anything about day to day conduct of drivers and the horses, it does not change the horses’ daily dangerous work in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the World, the breathing in of toxic fumes every day, and the lack of outdoor space where horses can graze together, rolling and stretch their legs. That last point, together with interaction between horses, is essential in the wellbeing for any horse. By the way, Christine Hansen is the woman that was once in the news by working her horse in extreme hot weather when operation was already suspended by the City. 

Love, Lonneke

Me with one of my horses: Cooper Milo
With one of my horses: Cooper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First published on December 18th 2013, Updated in 2019