Monday, October 10, 2011

A very dangerous mix

Central Park looked a little like a Six Flags amusement park on Sunday. Watch these accidents waiting to happen: the careless children riding bikes in front of horses, the drivers turned around backward, the sirens and speeding cars, the pedicabs zig-zagging on East Drive at 72nd Street. The person who sent me this asked me to delete a few expletives.

Also notice the white horse who stumbles (cue in to 12 seconds).

Take action to help the horses. Visit the website of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages (if you're on the fence about a ban, this website ( explains why an outright ban is needed). Also sign these petitions: Intro. 670, which would close the current loophole that allows NYC carriage horses to end up at kill auctions, which are a one-way trip to the slaughterhouse; and a New York state bill that would ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City.

How can New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn support this dangerous industry? There is going to be a gruesome accident. The question is not if, but when.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


July 27, 2011 at the hack line near the Plaza Hotel in New York City. If tourists knew the dangers of this scenario to horses and people, taking a ride would not be an option.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Horses + traffic = danger ahead

Six blocks from the place where the carriage horse Spotty died in a horrific spooking accident in 2006, the white horse (in front of the building) is seen yesterday sandwiched in between parked cars and moving taxicabs.

A recipe for trouble, considering how easily horses spook and the consequences when a 1,500-pound animal runs wild.

This is business as usual for the carriage horses who live in the cramped and substandard stables at West Side Livery and Central Park Carriages. Both of these are on the far west side of Manhattan, below the Lincoln Tunnel. At 42nd Street, the scene is chaos--two bus lanes feeding eastward into the Port Authority, cars coming up Tenth Avenue, either via the tunnel or from lower Manhattan. This video from "HorsesinNYC" tells the story and shows the traffic and dangerous conditions that are a fact of life for the horses.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Bucolic Central Park? Not exactly

Central Park is one of the most beautiful places in New York City. Its pastoral settings pay tribute to Frederick Law Olmsted, who together with Calvert Vaux, designed the park in a simpler era. He had a great deal of foresight yet surely could not imagine how crowded parts of the park would become. Ironically, the most congested part of the park is section in which horse-drawn carriages are largely confined--the so-called "lower loop." See the first photo? These guys are about to make a left turn--in front of the horse.

This 1.7-mile oval stretches from the park's southern boundary at 59th Street to the east-west transverse at 72nd Street. And make no mistake--there are dangers to pedestrians, bikers, skateboarders, and horses in this part of the park.

The junction immediately southeast of 72nd street is easily the most hazardous part of the park in terms of collisions, which often are associated with injuries to people. Runners and bicyclists are aware, if not always mindful, of the risks, and accidents occur here--on this hill--with some regularity.

Car, pedicab, and carriage traffic moves around this loop in a counterclockwise direction, and car and taxicab traffic feeds into the park at 72nd Street from Fifth Avenue.

Skateboarders swarm the area, loving its hills.

Runners, walkers, skateboarders, and bicyclists have the option of going left on 72nd Street toward the west side, or continuing north on East Drive up the hill toward the Metropolitan Museum or Great Lawn. All the while, cars and carriages are bearing down and making a left turn as people either cross 72nd St. to go north, or bear left.

Decisions are made quickly, and often a horse-drawn carriage will be cut off abruptly. That is unwise.

Nearly 5,100 runners took part in a New York Road Runners Race on May 8, and they poured out of the park at E. 72nd Street in droves, as they typically do on any given weekend. Tourists were out on rented bicycles, maps in hand. Fast racing-type bicyclists are always out.

I observed this junction for about 10 minutes and saw a runner very nearly get run over by a pedicab (which, like carriage, can't exactly stop on a dime!). In this dangerous mix, the carriages are working, and the drivers often have their back turned so that the can chat with the passengers (as I have documented on this blog). Among all the many near-misses, a serious accident is waiting to happen. The many recent horse spooking incidents, including a runaway horse who tossed his rider during the royal wedding procession, underscore the danger of putting horses into loud and chaotic situations.

Get the facts about carriage rides, carriage accidents, and what you can do to help the horses.
Did you know? There's a global coalition called Horses Without Carriages International

Horses Without Carriages International Day is June 4, 2011

Friday, April 29, 2011

Horses spook, royal wedding edition

It seems that good sense goes out the window at weddings. From royalty to commoners, and all the bridezillas in between, people can't resist putting horses into loud and chaotic situations that can easily cause a horse to spook. That's what happened after the wedding of England's Prince William and Kate Middleton. A runaway horse tossed his rider a few yards away from the royal carriage as Prince William and Duchess Kate were leaving Westminster Abbey.

Reports have cited a couple of possible reasons for the horse to panic: some said crowds were screaming, others blamed a trumpeter. Either way, horses spook easily and it is perfectly predictable to expect them to do so. As prey animals, they will panic and flee from frightening situations--and it doesn't take much. In New York City, Smoothie and Spotty both died after spooking and bolting. And when a horse bolts, it is a very dangerous situation. Last year was a particularly gruesome year from carriage horse spooking accidents worldwide, and weddings are another prime setting for horse spooking accidents.

Planning a wedding, or know someone who is? Be reasonable and compassionate, and say no to putting horses into the middle of those spooky situations. It isn't too difficult to imagine what could happen if a panicked horse were to a trample a child. It happened last year in Iowa.
Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images

And...they're off!

The slave drivers are gearing up for another steamy summer. This is Tenth Avenue, around 44th Street. The general vicinity of one of the most gruesome carriage horse spooking accidents in recent memory, the accident that killed a young horse named Spotty in 2006. I've got plenty of spies in Hell's Kitchen and the one who snapped this photo tells me that this horse was making very good time making his way up the avenue. Hope the driver is watching out for those post-winter epic potholes.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Shamrock Stables, not long for W. 45th Street

Demolition is under way at the building that was Shamrock Stables. It was kept running for years with a $55,000 monthly subsidy from the city. This, at a time of painful cuts to budgets, agencies, and programs.

The city supports the industry and overlooks its numerous violations of law regarding the care of the horses, fares, and other aspects of the cash-only industry.

After several threats of closure, the stable shut down on June 7, 2010. Most of the horses were crammed into other city stables, which already had substandard stall sizes. Some other Shamrock horses almost certainly didn't fare as well. The same day of the closing, a trailer from Shamrock was seen in New Holland, Pa., at the auction, where "kill buyers" buy horses for meat.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Be safe, Paddy

New York City welcomes best-selling Irish-American author Mary Higgins Clark as the grand marshal for the St. Patrick's Day parade on Thursday. In a break with the event's tradition of having the grand marshal walk the parade route, Ms. Clark will ride in a horse-drawn carriage to be pulled by a horse named Paddy. A very bad idea, indeed, although neither Ms. Clark nor the city seems to have given it much thought.

This decision immediately brought to mind the well-known dangers of putting horses into parades, especially large and noisy ones that are lined with noisy revelers and filled with pipes and drums.

A July Fourth parade last year in Bellevue, Iowa took a deadly turn when two horses spooked and bolted, killing a 61-year-old woman (the carriage driver's wife) and injuring 24 others, mostly small children who lined the parade route. One of the horses was killed. "It looked like a war zone," one witness said of the injuries in Iowa. "Backboards everywhere, kids strapped to them."

Cities and towns that put horse-drawn carriages into parades or traffic are putting the public safety at risk, since surveys have shown consistently that humans are almost always injured in carriage horse-spooking accidents. In 2010, the list of grisly carriage accidents in the United States was a long one. New York City has the highest horse-drawn carriage accident rate in the nation. Although human fatalities haven't happened yet, the 2006 accident that claimed the life of carriage horse Spotty critically injured the carriage driver (and occupants of a station wagon also were injured). Smoothie, the horse who died in 2007, had bolted in terror after being spooked by the sound of a drum in Central Park.

Tens of thousands of people have signed paper and online petitions calling for a ban in New York City of this industry. It is inhumane as well as dangerous. Horses spook easily, and it should come as no surprise when it happens in such a noisy place as a huge parade. No one in Iowa expected such a tragic turn. It just happened.

We hope that this year's parade is safe and joyous. If it is uneventful in terms of a spooking accident, be assured that it is only a matter of time until the next serious accident. Perhaps it is just as well that this year's parade route is shortened. The threat of injury, death, and legal liability make the city look reckless, mean-spirited, and foolish.

Learn more about why a ban is needed. Visit the websites of The Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages and Horses Without Carriages International.

Photo credits:
2010 NYC St. Patrick's parade photo by Richard Perry/The New York Times
2010 Bellevue, Iowa parade photo by The Associated Press/via The Telegraph Herald, Karina Schroeder