The horse-driven carriages in New York City have been popular for years and are an iconic tourist attraction. They transport lovers and others in Central Park and travel around the midtown area.
On one of the hottest days of the year, in the 90’s, in the Big Apple, a driver of a horse-driven carriage was seen flogging his horse, after it seemed to have collapsed from heat exhaustion.
The incident occurred on 9th Avenue near West 45th Street, in the height of rush hour traffic. The horse’s knees buckled and it fell to the ground. The driver struck the horse and pulled forcefully on the reins, ordering it to get up.
Onlookers streaked with dismay as the incident caused a chaotic scene, with the heat, the traffic, and the bustling sidewalk pedestrians.
“Get up! Get up! Get up! C’mon, get up,” the frustrated driver shouted as the carriage backed up traffic on the busy street.
“Stop slapping him,” onlookers were heard screaming.
The horse turned on his side and put his head on the street. A pedestrian helped the driver move the carriage.
Police officers came to help and doused the horse with water, and got him on his feet. It took them over an hour.
“I saw the horse collapse. He obviously was malnourished, dehydrated, hungry. The guy started whipping his horse and telling him to get back up instead of giving him water,” an Uber Eats driver, Kelvin Gonzalez, 25, told reporters.
Gonzalez said the horse tried to get up about ten times unsuccessfully. He said the police gave the horse a shot of adrenalin (unconfirmed).
In the sad scene, the horse was seen desperately licking water off the ground. One witness said the horse had a bleeding knee.
A bystander, who claimed to be knowledgable about horses, told the driver to take off the bridle so it would be easier for the horse to drink the water.
“How many more incidents like this do we need? This is clearly animal abuse and it must be stopped,” said New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets Executive Director Edita Birnkrant in a statement.
The New York City Council has been considering a proposal to get rid of the horse-drawn carriages and replace them with electronic vehicles.
Nathan Semmel, 52, an advocate for Voters for Animal Rights said, “It’s time that we replace horses with modern technology. The city can provide better benefits to the drivers and protect the horses. These horses have been suffering for years. There is nothing romantic about seeing a horse fighting for his life laying on the ground.”
There have been other reports over the years of horses collapsing on NYC streets or colliding into cars or buses. Many feel the use of horses in this day and age is inhumane and outdated. If the new measure is passed, drivers of the carriages would be able to get licenses for electric carriages and would be paid union wages. The drivers are members of the Transport Workers Union.
The president of Transport Workers Union Local 100, Tony Utano, defended the carriage driver to some extent, saying that the horse was sick according to a veterinarian, with a neurological disease. He said people shouldn’t make assumptions about their treatment of the horses. “We thank everyone for their concern about Ryder, one of the beloved Central Park carriage horses.”
“This is another example why people shouldn’t rush to judgment about our horses or the blue-collar men and women who choose to work with them and care for them,” Utano added.
If the horse has a neurological disease, it doesn’t make the sympathy for it much less than if it suffered from heat exhaustion, as stated multiple times on social media. It actually makes one feel even more sorry for the horse.
Mayor Eric Adams has said he doesn’t support the carriage ban, known to attract tourists to Central Park and the famous hotel and shop-lined streets around the park.
It may not be good for the horses, but it’s good for the city.