Veterans join battle over NYC carriage horses as pressure mounts on City Hall to outlaw the industry

Unbridled Heroes Project join the fight over horse carriage industry abuse.
Photo by Dean Moses

United States Army veterans joined the fight over collapsed Midtown horse Ryder Wednesday, taking aim at the carriage horse industry for alleged animal neglect.

As the exact whereabouts of the most famous New York City horse remains a mystery, more supporters of Ryder are coming forward and they are bringing more claims of abuse along with them.

Engulfed by animal rights supporters from NYCLASS, PETA, and Voters for Animal Rights who swarmed the steps of City Hall on Aug. 24, the Unbridled Heroes Project — an organization which pairs war veterans with horses — claimed that they had been in talks to adopt Ryder. According to former marine Amy McCambridge-Steppe, she had a discussion with the horse carriage industry’s union, Transit Workers Union Local 100, to have Ryder join their sanctuary.

Amy McCambridge-Steppe. Photo by Dean Moses

The horse exchange ultimately never took place as scheduled. However, McCambridge-Steppe is claiming that union reps confided in her that they are aware the industry rife with abuse.

“That you told us you knew about the abuse,” she said. “You also told us that vacation homes are not five-week vacations. You told us that it’s not good for the horses. That there’s bad people running these vacation places. And that’s why the horses are so happy to come back to New York City. The union knew.”

NYCLASS executive director Edita Birnkrant. Photo by Dean Moses

This comes days after a damning police report found Ryder was vastly older than initially claimed. Instead of being merely 13 or 14, the horse was actually found to be 28-30 years of age and was also malnourished. NYCLASS is calling on the industry to be temporarily shut down until abuse claims can be investigated. 

“This is about the long-standing neglect and criminal animal abuse that NYCLASS and others have been exposing and documenting for well over a decade. Each horse that is trapped within this industry needs to be released. There needs to be criminal investigations,” NYCLASS executive director Edita Birnkrant said. 

Activists are also seeking the horse carriage industry to be replaced with electric carriages through a new City Council bill and is imploring Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg conduct a formal investigation into the industry. Both City Council Members Erik Bottcher and Robert Holden, the latter of whom is sponsoring the bill, attended Wednesday’s rally.

NYCLASS executive director Edita Birnkrant. Photo by Dean Moses

In response to these claims carriage driver and shop steward for TWU Local 100 Christina Hansen told amNewYork Metro that while she concedes it is true that the union did visit Unbridled Heroes Project among other organizations, she also stated that they are waiting for the animal to fully recover before deciding on a retirement plan.

“It would be impossible to determine which of the many legitimate retirement home offers that have been made would be best for Ryder until it has been determined what his needs are. It would be irresponsible to place a retiring horse for adoption into a home without first fully vetting whether that home has the appropriate facilities, experience and financial means to take care of the horse for the rest of his natural life. The owner is also interested in keeping Ryder nearby so he can check on him,” Hansen said.

Hansen also reiterated that she believes carriage horses are being taken care of despite video footage of Ryder being whipped after the collapse and has a message for those concerned.

“We urge all the horse rescues, sanctuaries, activist organizations, politicians and others clamoring to ‘rescue’ Ryder to instead think of the thousands of horses right now across the country who have no one who cares about them,” Hansen said.

Crowds flooded City Hall steps.Photo by Dean Moses