What there is to know
- Carriage horse seen on video collapsing on a downtown Manhattan street, sparking renewed calls for a ban on horse-drawn carriages in the city, has been removed to a private upstate farm
- After a video showed a horse collapsing as it pulled a horse-drawn carriage down a Manhattan street, animal rights activists are now renewing their efforts to ban horse-drawn carriages in the city
- A closer examination of the horse suggests he is 26 – too old to work in the city – and almost double what a previous examination in April had reported.
The carriage horse seen on video collapsing on a downtown Manhattan street, sparking renewed calls for a ban on horse-drawn carriages in the city, has been removed to a private upstate farm.
In the two weeks since the horse, named Ryder, collapsed on a street in Hell’s Kitchen, the horse has been transferred to new owners who are caring for the animal as he receives treatment for a neurological parasite, the union that represents horse-drawn carriage drivers. said.
He was previously thought to be 13 or 14, documented in a horse examination report in April, the union says a veterinarian believes Ryder is around 26, too old to be licensed as a carriage horse in New York. He is now on a course of antibiotics as the farm owners and vet plan further care.
Also in the union’s notification of Ryder’s status was an outline of changing safety protocol at the city stable to more closely monitor workhorse conditions. These measures include bi-weekly medical checks for horse heart problems and the formation of a committee to detect and intervene early on health and safety issues.
The union said a veterinarian gave Ryder a preliminary diagnosis of EPM, or equine protozoan myeloencephalitis, an infection caused by opossum feces.
“The neurological effects of the EPM caused the horse to stumble and fall as the driver of the car tried to change lanes and turn here on 45th Street on his way home,” said Christina Hansen, spokeswoman for the car drivers union. “And once he was on the ground, he struggled to get up because of the neurological symptoms of MPE.”
Hansen said video of Ryder in the field was weaponized by activist groups and he was ‘in a bad shape’ when he entered their program after being used as a buggy horse for a Pennsylvania farmer . She also said the horse was not overheated or dehydrated.
Hard-to-watch video captured Ryder’s August 10 collapse when he suddenly fell while pulling the cart down Ninth Avenue. A witness said that after the horse fell, the man driving the car started hitting the animal with a small whip, hoping to get it back on its feet.
The driver had no choice but to leave the horse lying there, while the NYPD doused him with water and ice, assuming he had suffered from heat exhaustion. Ryder lay on the hot sidewalk for a while, but eventually got up on his own.
Central Park carriage horses have returned to work for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic hit New York last spring.
Whether Ryder collapsed due to EPM or was heat-related doesn’t matter much to critics, though. The incident reinvigorated their calls to permanently end horse-drawn carriages in the city.
“They don’t belong in the city! This needs to stop,” said Rachel Ejsmont, an animal rights activist. “We’re fed up, it’s traumatic for us.”
There are 200 licensed carriage horses in New York, an industry that includes 130 active drivers. The industry could face a seismic shift, all thanks to a bill by Queens City Councilman Robert Holden that would force car drivers to switch to electric cars – a decision that could cost between 20,000 and $30,000.
“Where they have electric cars now, drivers love it because they work in the heat, they can work in the cold,” Holden said. “It’s 2022, not 1822. We need to look at how we treat our animals, and we’re not doing a good job.”
But the drivers and their union disagree. Hansen fears that the absence of horses will mean less business from tourists and wonders who will pay for the new electric cars.
“I’m a horse lover. I’m not a golf cart driver…There’s no evidence that they’ll make enough money to support their families,” she said. “(Ryder) would have been slaughtered, except he became a carriage horse.”
Then there is the question of where would horses go without work and how would their vet bills be paid. But People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and political action group NYCLASS said that wouldn’t be a problem.
“We can ensure that a home is available for every horse used by this industry,” said group member Ashly Byrne. “We have safe, loving homes that they can be taken to, so again, there’s no excuse.”
Holden is working to get more council members to sign his bill. He says he’s spoken with Mayor Eric Adams about the bill, which Holden says is open to suggestions and more information.