What the Vets Say About NYC Carriage Horses

Dr. Harry Werner, DVM


Indeed, when Dr. Harry Warner and several other veterinarians who specialize in the treatment of horses accepted an invitation a few years ago from owners of New York City's horse-drawn carriages to inspect their operations, they found no evidence that the animals were being mistreated.  He also rejected the notion offered by de Blasio and animal rights groups that horses were unable to adapt to modern city life.


"I didn't see a single horse that didn't show all the signs that we associate with contentment," said Warner, former chairman of American Association of Equine Practitioners'  (AAEP) Equine Welfare Committee, in an interview, adding that, like people, there are horses that don't have the right temperament to live in the city.  "No it's not too much stress. ... There are horses who don't want to be a race horse. There are horses that don't want to chase cattle."


Werner, who has 40 years experience and a practice in North Granby, Conn., said none of the veterinarians who took part in the inspections received any compensation from the carriage operators and paid their own expenses. 


Source - CBSNews

Dr. Susan McLellan, DVM


As a veterinarian, I was appointed to the five member Rental Horse Licensing and Protection Board for New York City in 2007, and served as its chairperson until April 2013. The Board is charged with overseeing the welfare of the carriage horses and rental horses in riding stables throughout the five boroughs. We inspected all five of the stables housing the carriage horses, as well as considering all other factors contributing to their wellbeing.


We found the conditions under which the carriage horses live and work to be quite good. These horses and their owners and handlers have been scrutinized for years by the Department of Health by whom they are licensed. In addition, the ASPCA regularly observes the horses while they are working and in their stables. Extensive regulations exist concerning the hours they can work, the temperatures and other weather condition restrictions when they must not work, and many other regulations concerning their housing, veterinary examinations, vacation schedules, licensing, and other factors affecting their well-being. These regulations are strictly enforced. Because of the pressures they have been under for years from humane groups, the carriage industry has strived to maintain these high standards.


Despite all this, these humane groups have continued to demand that the carriage horse rides be ended. Under Mayor Bloomberg this was unlikely to happen as he supported them, but with the new mayor’s open opposition, they are facing the very real possibility that they will be forced out of business. It is very easy to convince the general public who know nothing about horses or carriage driving that these horses are being mistreated.


I have had the opportunity to observe these horses both at work and in their stables and I am convinced that they are well-treated, that they enjoy their work, and that they certainly would *not* be better off if they were forced into “retirement”. Not to mention the many people who have been in this industry for years, some for generations, who would lose their livelihood.


Please try to support them in any way you can.


Susan McLellan, DVM

Dr. John E. Lowe, DVM



In 2008, Dr. John E. Lowe of Cornell University examined 130 NYC carriage horses for soundness and general health. He found that all of the horses he examined were in good, healthy weight and 96.8% were serviceably sound at the trot (98.4% at a walk).  Read the entirety of Dr. Lowe's inspection report here.


"Hair coats were good to shiny in all cases."

"Attitude was bright, alert, quiet and responsive in all cases."

"I spent 10 hours with these horses and didn't hear one cough at the jog (slow trot) or in the stables. This is an unusual observation for stabled horses. The development of respiratory allergies is almost a given in a percentage of stabled horses."

"These horses are in good physical shape. I was impressed with their tractability and calmness whether doing a strange thing for them, like being jogged (slow trot), or waiting in traffic for the light at the intersection to change."