Can You Justify This Photo of a NYC Carriage Horse?

carriage horse nyc dead central park
Charlie, a carriage horse who dropped dead on a NYC street in 2011. Photo by Matthew Miller

The Central Park carriage horse fight has pitted two groups with valid concerns against each other: the drivers, worried about keeping their jobs; and activists, worried about the welfare of the animals. Rationally, we have to judge for ourselves, personally and as a society, whose argument is weightier: is retraining a small segment of New York’s labor force worth not subjecting future horses to, uh… let’s say “unideal” conditions? Or should we protect an industry the size of a medium-company at the expense of the creatures they employ?

I wouldn’t argue the horses are treated inhumanely by their caretakers. But there have been many photos and videos of horses collapsing in the street and colliding with cars, because, though horses have been a part of New York City history, this is no longer a horse town: our goods are hauled by trucks, our people by taxis, personal vehicles, and bicycles. They have no place on city streets, inhaling tailpipe exhaust and getting spooked. We don’t need horses; we don’t even use them, except as a luxury in this one particular instance, a romantic way to be moved around the park.

The mayor’s plan to replace them with old-timey autos seems reasonable enough, then, maintaining a modicum of romance without any mistreatment of animals: no living thing should suffer so tourists can enjoy a luxury. Reasonable minds could disagree, could argue that the horses live fine lives as horse-lives go (though, again: while that photo above doesn’t capture an everyday experience, it also doesn’t capture an outlying accident), and that a healthy industry shouldn’t be regulated out of existence—that working people matter more than working animals.

But the editorial board of the Daily News lacks such rationality. In the tabloid’s frontpage crusade to “save the horses,” it calls horse advocates “animal rights extremists,” moneyed, conniving real-estate interests whom de Blasio is appeasing for their campaign contributions. (These people may very well exist, but it’s a red herring: there’s a real moral issue to grapple with here outside of the motivations of the major players.) The paper sort of hilariously declares, “No one gets to throw people out of lawful jobs in pursuit of a social goal, no matter how brightly the aim burns with missionary zeal.” What about people who designed television commercials for tobacco companies? What about the thriving firearms industry the Daily News is always insisting we regulate? Should we protect the jobs of people who club baby seals? Must we defend all employment against our sense of right and wrong? Can we ever justify that photograph above because of jobs?

It’s mad hyperbole that even carriage-industry advocates should be wary of joining. (Better to pass around Liam Neeson’s more reasonable Times op-ed, in which he argues the horses are a protection against the city’s being overcome by “sleek futuristic buildings and careening self-driving cars,” that they’re icons too beloved by tourists-with-money to eliminate. I mean, who cares about sentient beings when “local color” is at stake?!) If we’re not already there, the more mechanized our city becomes, and the greater our cultural sympathy for animals in general becomes, the closer we’ll come to ridding Central Park of carriage-carrying horses. This is the nature of progress in America—inexorability. Advocates might win this fight in a war that’s already lost, but it’ll only postpone the inevitable: it’ll only get another year of wages for another year of suffering. Enough is enough.

UPDATE: The photo previously used on this post was not taken in NYC. While it dramatically illustrated an end to which all carriage horses can succumb, regardless of place (you can see it here), we have replaced it with a city-specific image.

 Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart


      • Ban them too! Ban every living thing in NYC! Ban mortality! Ban every activity in which anyone has ever been hurt or killed, or even just died while they were participating, even if it wasn’t the activity that killed them!!!n Ban humans! Ban animals! Ban bug! They all die and it makes me sad and MAD!! WAAAAAAAHHHHHHH! BAN THE EARTH!

      • people can fend for themselves. pets are usually taken care of quite well. horses that pull carriages have to withstand traffic, pollution, noise pollution and the weather all day, then they get to go home to a pathetic little hole in the wall stable for their reward. (at least in NYC) Anyone who is okay with that because it’s a “tradition” is selfish and cruel.

  1. That’s Charlie. Charlie died of causes totally unrelated to his profession. Everyone was very sad that he died, but it’s sad when anyone dies. Perhaps someone could stop circulating the SAME picture of Charlie, but my guess is that there aren’t any other “good” pictures to make your point so you are literally, beating a dead horse. Just don’t forget that his name was Charlie, and his owners and driver and the thousands of visitors and children whose lives he enriched miss him, too. But that doesn’t mean anything to you, does it, because to you, he’s just a photo of a dead horse that you can use to make your point. Those of us who appreciate horses for who and what they are, we remember him as Charlie.

    • it’s nice that you felt so enriched. what did you do for charlie? do you think if charlie was given a choice he would stand in traffic all day? horses do not have professions. how can you possibly say you appreciated him?

    • and no…that is not charlie who dies of unrelated causes. nice try. that shot was taken after a massive accident. that i witnessed. caused by carelessness. get your facts straight.

  2. I think that before you use a photo to attempt to emotionally sway readers it would be who of you to choose one that you’ve vetted.

    First photos wasn’t even a horse in NYC who did in fact pass from a natural cause (colic).

    Second photo is of a horse who’d been a carriage horse for less then 30 days. Who the ASPCA performed and availed publicly a necropsy that confirmed the horse did not die from factors brought on by his profession. Relieving his death was attributed to a cardiac event. Last I understood thousands of humans die each and every day from catastrophic cardiac events.

    What a shame to put so much time and effort into being manipulative and attempting to use emotional terrorist tactics . Attempting to herd your readers like cattle into believing miss-truths certainly gives the impression that you don’t think much of their own intelligence.

  3. Mr. Stewart, funny that you choose the picture of Charlie to post. Charlie died of natural causes which could have happened while he was in a field, stall, trailer, etc. In no way did being a carriage horse contribute to his death.
    If you are trying to make a statement at least use some recent photos of this kind……. Oh wait, there are none. Good day sir, you lose.

    • They HAVE to constantly recycle the same photos and make up stories about them because such things happen so infrequently that they hardly ever have any new material. That’s why they post pics from other cities and other countries, and why they roam the internet looking for gruesome horse suffering photos that have nothing to DO with carriages, so they can use those. If people would pay attention, they’d notice that the protesters use the same 6 or 8 unfortunate accidents/incidents on their signs year in and year out, because for the last 30+ YEARS, those are the only ones that have occurred.

  4. That horse died of an aneurysm. He wasn’t involved in a traffic accident, he just dropped dead. A necropsy done on him showed no signs of other serious issues. If he had been in a field or stall, his time would equally have been up. Note: We are all going to die. You or I could be walking down the street and keel over, just like this horse.

  5. There have been three carriage horses that have died as a result of collisions with traffic in the past 30 (that’s THIRTY) years: Chester (1985), Tony (1990) and Spotty (2006). There have been roughly a half dozen other carriage horses who have died while at work in the past 30 (that’s THIRTY) years – most notably Charlie who died of unknown causes in October 2011 (, Smoothie in 2007 (from head trauma and shock after spooking into a tree due to a snare drum), Juliet in 2007 (colic), Jackie in 1999 (electrocution thanks to ConEd and stray voltage).

    I am in no way minimizing the death of any horse, but this is a remarkable record. There is no other riding discipline that can come close – NONE.

    How many pedestrians were injured or killed by cars during that time period? Cyclists? Dogs?

  6. It is the Will of the People that the City Carriage Horses remain in NY City. ‘Charlie Horse’, in my Professional Opinion, is not the only HACK in NY. Had your Hack actually pretended to be a REAL Journalist instead of the uninformed MUCK-RAKING reporter they seemingly wish to aspire to and ASKED THE OWNER ‘How did Charlie die?’, the hack PROBABLY would have had a BORING Story with no PROPAGANDA such as your resident Muck-Raker tries to sloppily feed the victims. Typo. I mean ‘Readers’. A public APOLOGY to avoid a SLANDER SUIT against the writer AND/OR the rag is in order. Oops! Dont look now but you have egg on your face. Do your RESEARCH. Always go direct to the source, otherwise the mag looks foolish & no one respects the writer – OR the periodical they represent. Shame on the ED in Chief for not catching this OBVIOUS faux pas. Also, its wrong to decieve the Reader by playing us for stupid: the pic is archaic – the horse was saved from the Slaughter Line at AMISH AUCTION – Skeleton thin – DECADES ago.

  7. So 286 people were killed in 2013, in New York City, by cars, yellow cabs, trucks and Buses. It is 2014, we should have those on the streets of New York City as well. Well, it is the price to do business, keep killing people, it is good for business

  8. This horse died in 2011. Autopsy results: heat attack.

    How many PEOPLE have dropped dead of a hear attack on a NYC streets ?

    Notice the “Update” after the article. I question the integrity of a publication that prints a photo of an animal that “dropped dead on a NYC street” but was actually an animal from some place else. Makes me suspect the truth of the content in the article.

  9. I can “justify” it. You see, Henry, living things die. I’m sorry your mommy never explained this to you, but it’s true. Sometimes they die suddenly, in public, for no discernible reason, as did the horse in the above photo. His name is Charlie, by the way. And the animal rights sickos have ridden poor dead Charlie for more than 2 years now. They climbed on before the carcass was even cold. And they say he was “exploited” during his couple of weeks as a New York City carriage horse! Wow.

  10. Thanks for your insightful post. Consider replacing the word “horse” with the word “human” as illustrated below:

    But there have been many photos and videos of “people” collapsing in the street and colliding with cars, because, though “people” have been a part of New York City history, this is no longer a “people” town: our goods are hauled by trucks, our people by taxis, personal vehicles, and bicycles. They have no place on city streets, inhaling tailpipe exhaust and getting spooked. We don’t need “people”; we don’t even use them, except as a luxury in this one particular instance, a romantic way to be moved around the park.

    In 2013 over 16,000 pedestrians and bicyclists were hit by motor vehicles. 178 of these people died. Thankfully no one has seen fit to curate a collection of photos of these people in the last moments of their lives. The very dramatic photos of horses referred to in this article were collected over many years. (The white hose at at the top is about 20 years old.)

    The more important question is is why would we as New Yorkers accept inhaling tailpipe exhaust, danger and noise from speeding traffic? Eliminating horse drawn carriages will remove one more traffic calming element from our streets.

    Creating pedestrian-bike-hosre safe streets will make NYC a better place to live. It’s the sweet spot where horse advocates on both sides of this question can find common ground. Call on the Mayor to make New York City streets humane for New Yorkers on 2 legs or 4.

  11. Typical animal rights lies and distortion of the truth. Much like the Veterinarian photos showing a spay neuter clinic and stating it was lab testing. Then the C-section photo of a horse and stating it was a slaughter house.

  12. It doesn’t really matter how the horse died. My point was we shouldn’t have horses dropping dead on the streets of New York in the 21st century.

  13. Mr. Stewart, you point seems to be “we shouldn’t have horses dropping dead on the streets of NYC in 21st century?” Is it somehow offensive to you, is that why you decided to write an article because death of a horse on the city streets just seems out of place? Even thought it had nothing to do with the horse’s work in the city? I have news for you – there are many things that shouldn’t be happening to horses in 21st century – abuse by overworking and starvation, withholding of medical treatment, sending the unwanted horses to slaughter – none of this happens in NYC though.

  14. Meanwhile, police horses are moving to new luxury digs in Mercedes Building!

    No one is planning to get rid of them so far – while they work in the same traffic as carriage horses, and move much faster then them carrying riders! It is a war against working horses that this article supports, let it be very clear!

    P.S. there a way to justify horses on the major highways pulling Amish buggies for miles on? Maybe Amish should lose their horses too, or just be allowed to go on trails?

  15. Once again, the same old (and I mean it’s getting really old) picture of Charlie who happened to have dropped dead due to a natural cause. A horse in my field did the same thing. What’s your point exactly? What no new fresh pictures of horses dropping all over the city?

  16. I don’t think its ok to have dogs in the city who only get to go on short leashed walks and maybe once in a while to a dog park who are otherwise cooped up in apartments and condos many without yards to run in. They are also subjected to the pollution daily and while they may not be in streets they are on congested sidewalks where I see them getting stepped on who walk away limping while getting ran into by human pedestrians. When they get away from their owners and are hit by cars, the hits are almost always fatal and many dogs don’t get to run off leashes in backyards on a daily basis.

  17. “While it dramatically illustrated an end to which all carriage horses can succumb…”

    To which all HORSES, carriage or not, can succumb. And all ponies, donkeys, mules, dogs, and people, among hundreds of other species. In dogs it’s most commonly called bloat, and in people it’s called gastric torsion.

    Basically, it’s called the circle of life. So gee, guess we’ll have to ban THAT, right?

  18. There is only ONE reason anyone would want to continue this cruel and outdate STUPID practice and that’s MONEY. Those taking the side of business and commerce over the safety and dignity of these beautiful animals, I say to you …SHAME!!

  19. This is a very hot topic. I’ve seen horses injured and or frightened on 5th Avenue in traffic, and wanted them to be retired but I did my research and nobody wants the ny carriage horses. They will be put down. There are already too many old retired horses that are free to be adopted but the vet bills are care are expensive and a lot of work. Have you seen the stables where they are kept? They are quite nice. They are cared for. Some are very loved. They are work horses, and like to work. I feel the solution now is to keep the horses, but maybe we can restrict them to Central Park. I don’t want them to be put to sleep. I also hate seeing them surrounded by yellow cabs. We need to compromise.

  20. Hey weird jaded loser grownups ask a bunch of 5 year olds if its nicer for a civilized society to have horses in city streets pulling carriages then going back to a tiny stall and then doing it again and again,or if its nicer for grownup humans to make sure they are in pastures with other horses. The pure logical 5 year old with tell you all you need to know.Then hang your head down and think real hard why you become really dumb when it comes to animals and their rights to a better life that may not include you.

  21. During the summer months, New York City’s carriage horses are forced to stand and work for hours in the blazing sun and suffocating heat and humidity: without any shade whatsoever. They are also forced to work in dangerous and deadly traffic, inhaling vehicle exhaust. When the horses are not attached to carriages, they languish in tiny stalls. Many of these horses are not cared for properly: some have suffered and died of disease. Others have been forced to work while injured and/or sick. How this can be happening in the best city in the world is beyond me!

  22. If u know anything about hirses Candace u should know they dont belong in the middle of new york city and living in deplirable conditions. Wouldnt want to be one if your hirses

  23. It is easy for people say that it is ok for these poor horses to lug humans around! You put your nose up close to an exhaust pipe all day every day and I will assure you that the best that you will feel is noxious! Come on people get some compassion!!

  24. The sad part is NY NO CLASS doesn’t care about horses or people it’s all about the real estate and money. Our Mayor owes favors that’s so pathetic !! Let’s do away with all animals in NYC is that the next step !

  25. I think everyone is making too much about how they died and not how they live. Large draft horses were not meant to be on paved streets in the hot summer sun. Let alone dealing with the traffic, people, and noises of the city for any horse. It is about the humane treatment of these animals that are in our care. Just because a greyhound can run doesn’t make dog racing humane. Just because a pitbull will fight doesn’t make dogfighting humane. Until we start treating animals with the respect they deserve and not just something that can make money we have a long way to go as a society.

  26. Bad News – Journalism and Bad Ethics
    Same on you The Brooklyn RAG The New York Carriage horses have a wonderful life. they are so loved and cared for. Why don’t these so called activist go save horses that do need rescued?Like all the ones going to slaughter right at this moment. Don’t they under stand that all the Horse rescue’s stables are at full capacity or there so called horse sanctuary’s are shutting down because of the price of hay.Just because people live on a farm doesn’t mean they will take a horse.99.9% would say no they can’t afford to feed them. That is one reason there are so many horses going to slaughter. Hay prices contributed to a virtual stampede of horses being abandoned — some starving — and turned loose into the deserts and plains of the West to die cruel and lonesome deaths. I said if they really wanted to help abuse horses go help the ones going to slaughter or start a hay bank. Imagine if you were faced with the prospect of losing your beloved equine companion because you could no longer afford to feed or care for him.Families across USA are facing challenging financial circumstances. Whether it’s the loss of a job, reduced wages, a health crisis, or a natural disaster—that raised the price of hay, the impact has been enormous, especially on horse owners.. Just remember they are the ones that really need rescued,yes it is these so called activist that has the slaughter horse blood on there hands with all the time and energy they are putting in wasting time trying to save the horses that have good homes and jobs like the The New York Carriage horse.

  27. Hear hear. Although a compromise could conceivably be made to propose keeping the carriage horses ONLY in Central Park and having the old timey cars for the periphery with regular modern traffic.


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