Carriage horse was ‘in distress’ hours before collapsing on NYC street: witness

Carriage horse was ‘in distress’ hours before collapsing on NYC street: witness

Posted For: Willie Wonka


The carriage horse that collapsed on a Manhattan street last Wednesday was “in distress” and “having trouble walking” in Central Park four hours before the troubling incident, a witness said.

The struggling steed, named Ryder, was also being berated and screamed at by his driver, who was seen slapping and whipping the horse with his reins before he laid down on the hot asphalt for more than an hour on 9th Avenue and West 45th Street, according to parkgoer Caroline Smidt.

“This horse immediately caught my attention because he looked very different from the other horses,” Smidt, 42, wrote in a statement obtained by The Post. “I could see his ribs protruding, he was walking with his tongue out and was having trouble walking. He was walking very slowly.”

Smidt, a New Jersey resident, was at Central Park last week with her husband and daughter, when they saw Ryder. She’s expected to discuss the horse’s troubles at a Tuesday press conference outside the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office alongside lawmakers and advocates that are calling for prosecutors to file animal cruelty charges and launch a criminal investigation into carriage horse abuse.

Ryder collapsed and lied down on a busy Manhattan for about an hour on Aug. 10.

Smidt, in her statement, said she witnessed Ryder’s driver “yelling and cursing at the horse because he wasn’t moving fast enough, causing a ‘traffic jam’ of horse carriages as a result.

“The driver kept yelling and screaming at the horse to move even though he had customers in his carriage,” Smidt said, adding she was later brought to tears over the encounter.

Timestamped pictures taken by Smidt show that Ryder’s rib cage was visible as he marched through Central Park a day after a brutal heat wave.

Ryder looked emaciated and struggled to walk hours before he collapsed in Manhattan, a witness claimed.

Opponents of the horse carriage industry say Smidt’s observations cast doubt on the hansom cab union’s claim that Ryder suddenly tripped and collapsed due to a neurological disease called EPM which can cause loss of balance.

“This was not a spontaneous tragedy without any warnings, as the carriage horse industry has repeatedly – and falsely – claimed,” said Edita Birnkrant, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets.

“The fact that Ryder showed neurological signs, muscle atrophy, and poor body condition, which are chronic, not acute conditions, are evidence of long term neglect and possibly abuse,” said Jim Keen, DVM, PhD, Director of Veterinary Science, Animal Wellness Action.

Christina Hansen, shop steward at Transport Workers Union Local 100 told The Post that Ryder had been seen in good condition in Central Park Wednesday by other union members.

“It doesn’t match what other people have reported, especially when the horse was just getting ready to leave the park,” Hansen said.

Hansen also claimed that NYCLASS has a history of drumming up abuse claims against the industry “without proof,” and said Smidt’s claims — backed up by photos, not video — seemed “unlikely.”

The decades-long fight to ban carriage horses has gained steam in recent months, pushed along by viral footage of horses collapsing and running into cars.

Councilman Robert Holden has proposed a ban on horse carriages.

A bill being considered in the City Council would replace horse-drawn carriages with electric ones before the summer of 2024 and give horse drivers first dibs at operating them.

Union officials and insiders claim that the iconic horses are well-cared for and are rarely involved in accidents.

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