by Katie Vasquez
Horse-drawn carriage rides have been offered around the Big Apple since the 1800s, but in the past few years, the practice has been plagued with some controversy.
A horse named Ryder collapsed and struggled to stand up before stunned onlookers on a Hell’s Kitchen street in August 2022. The horse was later diagnosed with cancer and died two months after.
The animal rights group, New Yorkers for Clean Livable and Safe Streets, or NYCLASS, believes incidents like that are the reason carriage rides should be eliminated.
There are numerous regulations in place for carriage horse owners and drivers. The horses can only work nine hours a day. They get at least five weeks of vacation a year. They also cannot work when temperatures are above 90 degrees or below 18 degrees.
Tristan Aldrich was hired as an independent carriage horse industry expert in late July by Transportation Workers Union Local 100 (TWU Local 100). He has no ties to the carriage drivers.
The union representing the carriage drivers is mandated to check on all 140 horses once a week.
“The Department of Health and the vets wouldn’t sign off on horses if there was mistreatment and malnourishment of these animals,” Aldrich said.
“I’ve had a very good reception,” Aldrich said of the drivers. “I think the first couple of weeks, you know everyone’s a little guarded, new person, you know, ‘someone trying to put us out of work.’”
If Aldrich sees a horse limping or breathing heavily, he will take the driver and carriage off the road. He will also address any abusive behavior by drivers. Fortunately, he said, that hasn’t happened yet.
Aldrich said he monitors the health of all the horses and makes sure the drivers are following all the rules.
But NYCLASS called his hire a “smokescreen” and still insists there should be no horse-drawn carriages on city streets.
In addition to Tristan’s oversight, an equine veterinarian has now been hired to check on the animals twice a month.
The carriage drivers say these initiatives should ensure the tradition of carriage horse rides goes forward.