Monday, March 31, 2008

If You're Reading This on a Blackberry...

You may be a driver of a horse-drawn carriage.

Who the heck are all the carriage drivers talking to? Central dispatch? Jean Kim? Are the drivers planning a meet-and-greet at City Hall? Maybe they're ordering food. How many ways can you multitask while driving a carriage in NYC traffic, anyway?

I'll be damned. I see that carriage drivers are enjoying this blog. Maybe some of the stable owners will give us an update on the goings-on at their oh-so-festive stables.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Man Who Will Be Mayor

Status quo? No! The revolution starts ... now!
Tony Avella, the Queens Democrat who introduced the bill to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City, will officially announce his mayoral bid this weekend on the steps of City Hall.
Join City Council Member Avella at a news conference on Sunday, March 30, at 1 pm on the steps of City Hall in lower Manhattan. Join the revolution!

CM Avella represents the interests of real New Yorkers, not special interest groups. He has displayed compassionate leadership time and time again, sponsoring Intro. 658 (the bill to ban horse-drawn carriages) and Intro. 13, the Pets in Housing bill--and addressing a host of quality-of-living issues that matter to people.
Come out Sunday and show your support for Tony Avella, a man of integrity and conviction.

Friday, March 28, 2008

More Tales of the Weird in Hell's Kitchen

This chilly afternoon I found myself in the badlands of W. 45th Street, home to the sad-looking Shamrock Stables. It was around 4:30 pm and a carriage driver was stuck in traffic as he headed west to 11th Avenue. (This north-south speedway is one of the scary and congested routes that the horses must travel on their way to Central Park for the night shift.)

The driver got antsy trying to weave in and out of traffic, so he steered his horse up onto the crumbling sidewalk to get into prime position to turn right onto 11th. Perhaps he deemed this strategy the lesser of two evils, since the Metropolitan Lumber workers were zipping around the other side of the street on a forklift. The white horse soldiered on, pulling the white carriage. I said a prayer under my breath, knowing how far they still had to travel in Friday afternoon traffic.

Support a ban on horse-drawn carriages in New York City. Support Intro. 658, and ask your City Council representative to do the same. This measure cannot move forward without broad support.
Not a NYC resident? Make your voice heard. Contact Mayor Bloomberg's office

Coming up: Pop quiz! Which horses have to travel the farthest to and from work? We'll map their routes at

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Say, Here's An Idea: No More Roadwork

That's not very likely to happen
Susan V. writes about a near-miss she witnessed on 57th Street at 9th Avenue:
"As a horse lover and occasional rider, I thought I was going to see a tragic end to one of those beautiful carriage horses ("You can lead a horse to water if there is any," Feb. 21). On 57th Street and 9th Avenue, a driver tried to catch the light and has his horse bolt through traffic. The horse slipped across a steel plate covering a portion of the street while running. I believe that if the horse had skidded, it would have been quite tragic, as there is building construction at this section and a lot of steel posts and pedestrians. Aren't there any guidelines? Isn't this endangerment cruelty?"
Susan V, a Metro (NY) reader from Queens; Feb. 27, 2008

Horse-drawn carriages have no place in 21st-century New York City. Ask your City Council member to co-sponsor Intro. 658, Tony Avella's bill to ban horse-drawn carriages in NYC.
Not a NYC resident? Tell the mayor that you want to see this inhumane industry banned forever.

Monday, March 24, 2008

No More Excuses Please, We Disagree

Dear Wendy,
Thanks for reading and taking the time to write. If I weren't under the weather I would have posted your comment sooner. My point is that NYC is a misery for carriage horses and cannot be made safer for these fright-and-flight animals, as you well know. The horse that is operating in a state of anxiety (as sometimes happens in NYC) is apt to balk or let this anxiety escalate into a red zone, as we both surely know. Traffic obviously doesn't favor the horses.

The industry is an incestuous and corrupt mess that would make your head spin (perhaps you know this all too well, although I believe you mentioned being in California). Even the sometime bribery defendant and industry veteran Cornelius Byrne has acknowledged in comments published two years ago in The New Yorker that the streets of the city that never sleeps are fraught with distractions for highly sensitive horses.

Byrne offered some veteran’s wisdom, won over four decades of driving a horse in the city. “One of the things horses are most afraid of is garbage trucks,” he said. “They have an odor to them and a noise to them and a size to them."
Byrne went on to say in the New Yorker piece that some horses are "bombproof," which is utter nonsense and reveals much about his attitude toward horses. Fire engines, wailing sirens, speeding automobile drivers, carriage horse drivers talking on cell phones--these are the elements with which the horses contend. Plus extreme weather and lack of water.

Support Intro. 658, the bill the ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City. A 19th-century anachronism involving animal cruelty has no place in a modern city. Find my City Council member now!
Not a New York City resident? Contact Mayor Bloomberg's office and make your voice heard!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Horse Farm Owner Dies of Injuries in Kentucky Carriage Accident

Carriage horse spooked on horse farm
An owner of a Lexington, Ky., horse farm died from injuries suffered in a carriage accident on the property. The 74-year-old woman and three other passengers were thrown from the carriage after the horse spooked. Another woman in the carriage suffered a broken leg.

It is with sadness that I post this report; it appears on this blog as a tragic reminder that horses spook in various situations, and even in familiar surroundings, despite assertions by the rental and carriage industry that horses can be controlled in every situation.

Support a ban on horse-drawn carriages in New York City. Contact Mayor Bloomberg online and state your support of Intro. 658, the bill that would ban this archaic and dangerous industry.

If you live in New York City, please contact your City Council member and ask him or her to support Intro. 658. Explain briefly why it is important to you--a constituent--to see this inherently inhumane and dangerous industry come to an end. Find my Council member

Friday, March 21, 2008

Why a Ban is Necessary? One Reason

Six months after the death of Smoothie, few answers and acute confusion
The investigation into the death in 2007 of Smoothie gives some troublesome insight into the state of affairs of the industry and its poor oversight. The first delay into the investigation, we were told in September, came because of uncertainty about which city agency had primary responsibility for doing so. “Because responsibility for this has been so fractured among city agencies,” said Geoffrey Cowley, a spokesman for the health department, “it hasn’t been absolutely clear whose jurisdiction it really fell into.” Read more

Smoothie's death came days after the city comptroller's office issued a highly critical audit that outlined lapses in the quality of care of the horses. Not enough water, infrequent veterinary care, poor record-keeping. "The agencies entrusted with oversight here have dropped the ball," comptroller William C. Thompson, Jr., said after the audit was released (pried out of the city's hands, more like it).

Why is it, for example, that the paperwork for 57 carriage horses described different animals from year to year, although the license numbers did not change? It raises disturbing questions about the motivation. Double shifts, perhaps?

Read a published account of the audit's findings
Read the audit

Preventing Colic Deaths

"If owners and veterinarians could catch all serious cases of colic within three to four hours, survival rates would go way up, and we would have finally taken steps to dramatically change how many horses are saved."
Read "Detecting Pain" by Anthony Blikslager, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS (, free registration required)

Colic was the presumptive cause of the death last month of the 8-year-old carriage horse Clancy. However, the industry refused to release the cause of death, forcing the ASPCA to file a Freedom of Information Act to gain access to the veterinary records.

Animal cruelty (in particular, working sick animals) is not entertainment. In the view of NYC carriage drivers, however, efforts at early detection of colic and early and aggressive veterinary care would take a horse out of the workforce and cut into the profit margin of this cash business. NYC carriage horses receive infrequent veterinary care--this doesn't give them a fighting chance against colic.

Support Intro. 658/2007, the bill to ban horse-drawn carriages. Ask your City Council member to co-sponsor this important bill. Take Action Now

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Even in a Steady Rain, Cash is Cash

This rainy evening, on West 45th Street between 9th and10th Avenues, a soaked horse was trotting westward to his home at Shamrock Stables. I wondered why the driver had him out. It rained all day long, as the weather forecasters had predicted.

Same the week before, when a biblical rain blew through NYC. Another horse being trotted back to the stable, in a driving rain.

Tourists being dragged around Central Park in the rain? Pathetic.
Support the proposed ban on carriage horses in New York City. New York City residents, let your City Council member hear from you. Ask him or her to co-sponsor Intro. 658/2007, the measure introduced by Tony Avella.

Ian McKeever

Aye, that's a good laddie. I just like saying his name.
Ian McKeever's stables are looking a little different these days (at least from the outside). I can't quite put my finger on what the transformation is. I'll have to think on that.

The ever-articulate Mr. McKeever is an erstwhile spokesman for the industry, from the days before the golden-tongued Ms. Daly signed on to be a spokeswoman. It could be said that they're cut from the same bolt. In this blethering New York Post article from October 2007, Mr. McKeever calls the activists "extremists" and "idiots." Ms. Daly's word of choice is "extremist." She likes this word a lot.

You know the way that journalists and late-night comics love George W. Bush? I love Ian and Carolyn.

In seriousness, the players are inconsequential except for the horses.
Support Intro. 658, the bill to ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Hey, Good Looking!

And suddenly the memory revealed itself
Always the urban pioneer, I found myself walking across W. 45th St. on the evening of St. Patrick's Day. Between 10th and 11th Avenues, even. And there it was: Shamrock Stables. It looks different to me, in recent weeks. Seems spiffy! (I know, difficult to tell.) Maybe it's my fevered imagination, but it looks cleaner. Whitewashed, even. Reminds me of something.

Oh, now I remember. It reminds me of how China is "cleaning up" ahead of the Olympic games.

Read a recipe that I came across for making your own whitewash, which the authors say gives barns a real "neat and clean" feel.

If you visit New York, visit Hell's Kitchen (now Clinton). Still the grittiest and most authentic NYC neighborhood, it's now in danger of being too darn trendy. That water, that sunset, that barbed wire, that marijuana stench. It's the neighborhood of choice for the horse stables.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

What We Know & What We Think We Know

A close call in Aspen for a 5-year-old girl who was trapped underneath an overturned carriage

Horses spook, and no horse is unspookable. This is patently clear and yet we continue to see disturbing and even gruesome images of accidents involving carriage horses that spooked, even in beautiful places like Aspen, Colo., which is decidedly less frantic a setting than New York City. (Photo credit: Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)

In the Aspen accident, a car pulled up alongside the horse, causing it to spook, back up, and flail--overturning the carriage and spilling the driver and the family of five onto the sidewalk. The girl was trapped briefly but escaped serious injury. The horse was not injured. (Statistically speaking, this is highly unusual).

Aspen Police Sgt. Bill Linn was quoted as saying that horse-drawn carriages are not vehicles..."they're basically an amusement ride." This statement is not only misguided, but it poses a serious threat to public safety. It also demonstrates a disregard of the cruelty that is inherent in putting a horse into traffic.

A 1500-pound horse that spooks in traffic is a dangerous weapon. Statistically, this accident is unique in that no one was killed. Horses have an innate and finely tuned fight-or-flight instinct. They pose clear danger to themselves as well as public safety when they spook.

Learn more: Read "No Such Thing As an Unspookable Horse (Jan. 1, 2008 post, HorseWatchNYC)

New York residents (5 boroughs): Ask your elected Council Member to support Intro. 658, the bill to ban horse-drawn carriages -- Find Your Council Member Act now!
Call the mayor's office at 311 and voice your support of Intro. 658, the bill to ban horse-drawn carriages.

Non-New Yorkers: Tell the mayor's office that you don't want to visit New York until horse-drawn carriages are banned.
Email the mayor's office
Call the mayor's office at: 212-NEW-YORK (outside NYC)
Write the mayor:
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
City Hall
New York, NY 10007

Monday, March 10, 2008

ASPCA To Provide Water for Horses

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has agreed to provide water from trucks to New York City's carriage horses, beginning March 10. This is significant, because the water troughs in Central Park are shut off from November to March and the troughs have been empty, except for occasional rubbish tossed into them by passersby.

As New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson's audit found in 2007, the city has simply dropped the ball in assuring even the most rudimentary care of the horses--and that includes assuring that they have adequate drinking water. It is painfully obvious to observers that the horses have no water and that the city has turned a blind eye to the plight of these animals. We can only hope that the drivers do not continue to withhold water out of spitefulness.

Please thank ASPCA President Ed Sayres (212-876-7700, for his work in coordinating with the drivers and the Parks Department to accomplish this feat.

Historically speaking, the ASPCA has a storied history of helping the horses in just this way. Read a New York Times article from 1906 about the ASPCA's work to help horses.

Water or no water, the ASPCA now supports an outright ban on horse-drawn carriages in New York City, as does the Humane Society of the United States. Improvements are no longer a viable option.

Support Intro. 658, the bill to ban the abusive horse-drawn carriage industry in New York City.

Tragedy in Tennessee

A 39-year-old man was killed in Waynesboro, Tenn., on Sunday when the horse-drawn carriage that he and his teen-age daughter were riding in was struck by a car. His daughter was thrown from the carriage but was not seriously injured. The horse was killed by the impact of the crash.
Read the story as published on
Note: This news item is published on the blog as a somber reminder that cars, roadways, and horses do not mix under any circumstances, whether the setting is a scenic highway or a gridlocked cityscape. The dangers are great and risks of tragedy predictable.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

How Many Horses Have to Die?

No secret that I have had some fun at the expense of Council Member Jessica Lappin, who I'm told is responding to all constituents who have asked her to support a ban on horse-drawn carriages (Intro. 658/2007). She was endorsed for election in 2005 by the League of Humane Voters-NYC, and the following year she endorsed a humane education program. She also co-sponsored Tony Avella's important pets in housing bill.

I do hold out hope for Jessica Lappin on this matter. Let's face it, the political machinery of the NYC carriage industry is a truly scary thing. If you are new to this issue, trust me when I tell you that many in the carriage industry are abusive to the point that I fear them. However, in 2008 we have to look forward, not backward to the 19th century. The facts are incontrovertible: the horse-drawn carriage industry in New York City is inherently inhumane and cannot be made safer. How many horses have to die?

New York is one of the world's great cities. It is time to ban this inhumane industry.

Why a full ban? Learn more
Sign the petition to ban horse-drawn carriages in NYC

New York residents (5 boroughs): Ask your elected Council Member to support Intro. 658, the bill to ban horse-drawn carriages -- Find Your Council Member This is important! Constituents' opinions matter.

New York residents: Call the mayor's office at 311 and voice your support of Intro. 658

Non-New Yorkers: Tell the mayor's office that you don't want to visit New York until horse-drawn carriages are banned.
Email the mayor's office
Call the mayor's office at: 212-NEW-YORK (outside NYC)
Write the mayor:
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
City Hall
New York, NY 10007

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Abusive Industry Deters Tourism

Marcela D. posted a note on the Web site of the Toronto Humane Society upon hearing the news in late 2007 that another NYC carriage horse, Smoothie, had died.

This is it! Another horse suffering a needless and horrifying death. I will never visit New York again until horse-carriages are banned. I urge everyone to call or write the Mayor of New York and tell him he will be losing a lot of tourism dollars because of this.
Marcela D, Sept. 17, 2007, following the death of Smoothie
Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council, please take note: Tourism suffers when visitors see the abuse that is inherent in the horse-drawn carriage industry. Marcela D said it best: She won't travel to New York until the industry is banned. We can no longer turn our heads in the face of animal abuse in the name of profit.

The impact of New York's supporting an abusive industry is devastating, because New York City is a global trend-setter. Conversely, if the city joins the 21st century and enacts a ban--as so many other cities worldwide already have done--the impact would be tremendous.

Attention, non-New Yorkers: Contact Mayor Bloomberg's office and ask for support of a ban. Your opinion matters--and your tourism dollars count.

The voices of voting NYC residents who care about carriage horses are critically important. Please make known your support for Intro. 658, the bill to ban horse-drawn carriages. Your City Council member needs to hear from you. Explain briefly that the industry is inhumane and cannot be improved. Ask your Council Member to co-sponsor Tony Avella's groundbreaking bill to end this 19th-century anachronism. If the City Council does not hear from you, your good intentions will not be enough. Please write today, and call.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

What Does the City Audit Say?

The horse-drawn carriage industry in New York City is inherently inhumane and cannot be made safer, chiefly because the horses must travel up to 4 miles a day in heavy traffic to and from their stables. Legislation to ban the industry has been introduced by Tony Avella. (Intro. 658/2007)

The city audit of the horse-drawn carriage industry in 2007 found that the horses have inadequate water, infrequent veterinary care, and must stand in their own waste--in short, a host of problems plague this troubled industry. The inconsistencies extend to record-keeping as well.

From the New York Times article on the Audit of Horse-Drawn Carriages (2007)

Audit language is invariably bland, cautious and inoffensive, but the comptroller’s report says — on the verge of snidely? ­– that “it would seem important for the [Department of Health] veterinarian to carefully review and compare the current information with the information on prior years’ certificates to ensure that horses are not being switched or that one license number is used for several horses.”

If you are new to this issue and weighing the evidence, please try to learn more about why this industry is inherently inhumane and should be banned.

Take a look at these resources:
Comptroller William C. Thompson's audit of the NYC horse-drawn carriage industry
"A litany of problems" found in the carriage industry (Times article, Sept. 6, 2007)
Why a Horse-Drawn Carriage Ban Is Necessary (Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages)
Expert Opinion: Holly Cheever, DVM ("Vet: Carriage Horses Suffering," Feb. 26, 2008, METRO, New York)
"You Can Lead a Horse to Water, If There Is Any" (Elizabeth Forel, Feb. 21, 2008, METRO, New York)

Clearing the Air

New York City carriage horses lead a true nose-to-tailpipe existence, and equine veterinarians have detailed the ways in which this compromises the health of horses. Worse still, the horses get little respite in their stables, where the air quality is also poor.

Poor air quality is common in all horse stables. A full 25% to 80% of stabled horses devleop neutrophilic airway inflammation, a disorder caused by a type of white blood cell that helps kill and digest microorganisms. The average barn or stable has levels of airborne particulates that are "off the chart,"according to Melissa R. Mazan, DVM, a faculty member at the Tufts University School of Medicine and a diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. "It is difficult to persuade trainers and owners that there might be anything wrong with a barn," she explained. "Hard data can be worth a thousand words."

Learn more about air quality in stables.
Note: Accessing articles on requires registration, but it's fast and free.

New York's carriage horse stables are dirty places with steep ramps that the horses must climb. The stalls are cramped, and the horses often stand in their own waste--just as they do outside of Central Park. Conditions cannot be made safer for New York carriage horses, who travel to and from their stables every day in city traffic. Please support Intro. 658, a bill to ban horse-drawn carriages.

Examine the evidence. NYC carriage horses don't get enough water and receive only infrequent veterinary care. Read the full city audit of the New York City carriage horse industry.

Urge your Council Member to co-sponsor Intro. 658 in support of a full ban. Respectfully ask for a response.