Vet says carriage horse that collapsed in Manhattan shouldn’t have worked

The vet who examined the carriage horse that collapsed in Manhattan earlier this month said the animal was too old and not strong enough to work on a hot summer day, Gothamist has learned.

The horse, named Ryder, collapsed on a street in Hell’s Kitchen as he neared the end of his shift on August 10 after what a carriage drivers union official called an episode resulting from a neurological disorder. But Dr. Camilo Sierra, the vet who examined the horse that day, told Gothamist on Monday that the horse was also malnourished, lacked muscle and was 26 – 12 years older than previously reported. by the union.

“A horse that age shouldn’t work in that condition,” Sierra told Gothamist. “I mean, horses can be really big and healthy at 30… But a horse in bad shape shouldn’t be [pulling] a car.

A New York carriage horse must be at least 5 years old before it can start working and can only work until age 26, according to the health department.

Christina Hansen, a driver for Transport Workers’ Union Local 100, which represents horse-drawn carriage drivers, said the horse’s owner was surprised to learn Ryder’s real age, who she said had been deformed by a previous owner at 14 and miscalculated by a vet. who examined him in April in order to register him as a carriage horse.

“He says, ‘God, if I had known the horse in my 20s, I never would have bought him,'” Hansen said of the horse’s owner, whom she did not name during the interview. an interview on Monday.

The union said Ryder has since retired and is undergoing treatment at a vacation farm, after which he will be placed in a permanent home.

Immediately after Ryder’s collapse, Pete Donohue, a spokesman for the union, said the horse had equine protozoan myeloencephalitis, a neurological disease that horses can contract from eating infected opossum feces, not from heat exhaustion. Neither he nor Hansen mentioned any potential discrepancy in the horse’s age at the time.

Councilman Robert Holden of Queens has long pushed for legislation to end the practice of horse-drawn carriages in New York. Last week, the councilman, along with members of the nonprofit animal rights and political action group NYCLASS — New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets — called Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, surveying the industry as a whole.

The councilor introduced new legislation last month that would block new licenses and replace the horse-drawn carriage industry with a horseless electric carriage. If enacted, it would be the most sweeping law affecting the industry since the city council passed a law in 2019 banning horse-drawn carriages from operating at high temperatures.

A spokesman for Mayor Eric Adams said his office was open to discussions about future legislation affecting the industry.

Edita Birnkrant, executive director of NYCLASS, has rallied with Councilman since Ryder’s collapse to end the practice. In a statement, Birnkrant said horse-drawn carriage drivers should be held accountable for not listening to Ryder’s age and medical condition.

“The endless lies of this industry prove that they cannot be trusted to police themselves,” Birnkrant said. “In addition to demanding a criminal investigation into this horrific tragedy, we are calling on the Department of Health to temporarily shut down the horse-drawn carriage industry until an independent investigation can determine the extent of its abuse, neglect and his breaches of the law.”

Sierra said Ryder’s incident should not have come as a surprise, given his condition. But he also noted that it was an experience that could have been avoided with the proper precautions.

“I mean, I’m not against the transportation industry. They have to make a living,” he said. “A lot of these horses are well cared for, most of them I would say. But there are some that are not well maintained. And that’s what happened. He is weak, underweight, without muscle, without traction, without energy. Well, of course, he’s going to collapse on the street.

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