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Ryder, the Central Park carriage horse who dramatically collapsed on 9th Avenue in August, has been euthanized, a campaign group against the animals’ use in the city and a rescue charity announced Monday.

New York carriage horse Ryder is attended to by NYPD on 9th Avenue. Photo: Photo: Naty Caez

Campaigners NYCLASS and welfare group Unbridled Heroes said the 26-year-old gelding had been diagnosed with “a variety of serious medical conditions that ultimately required him to be humanely euthanized.” Video footage of Ryder’s collapse on August 10 at W45th Street went viral as cops poured water on him to try to revive him,

The group did not suggest the death was caused by the collapse, and said on an Instagram post that he had been diagnosed with lymphoma. His age of 26 would be the human equivalent of the mid-80s.

After his collapse, Ryder was taken by a new owner to a farm outside the city, and then to Cornell University’s Equine Hospital in Ithaca, NY, for treatment and care. He spent his last days at the farm and his body will be taken to Cornell for a necropsy to determine exactly why he died.

Ryder’s plight had reignited the debate over the continued use of horse-drawn carriages in Central Park and stabling in Hell’s Kitchen, both of which former mayor Bill de Blasio had pledged to outlaw. NYCLASS said it would hold a protest against the use of carriage horses tomorrow at noon at the site of Ryder’s collapse.

New York carriage horse Ryder is attended to by NYPD on 9th Avenue. Photo: Photo: Naty Caez

In the wake of viral images of carriage driver Ian McKeever whipping the animal while he was on the hot pavement, an investigation was launched by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office.

Separately, the Department of Health charged his brother and fellow carriage owner Colm McKeever with falsifying the horse’s veterinary records, alleging he forged documents that changed Ryder’s age from 26 to 13-years-old.

New York Carriage Horse Ryder is attended to by NYPD on 9th Avenue. Photo: Paul Devlin

NYCLASS said it would intensify its campaign to pass legislation, known as City Law 573, in the wake of the death. In a statement, Edita Birnkrant, Executive Director, said: “We are devastated to learn that Ryder has died. His horrific collapse, after years of abuse, inspired tens of thousands of people from across the globe to stand up to carriage horse industry cruelty.

“This is not over. Let’s honor Ryder’s memory and protect all the other Ryders still suffering in New York City by passing #573 to end carriage horse abuse once and for all.”

New York Carriage Horse driver Ian McKeever pulls his carriage without Ryder on 9th Avenue. Photo: James Anthony

Unbridled Heroes, the animal welfare charity which had been part of Ryder’s care after his collapse, said his new owner, who the charity declined to identify, was “devastated.” In a statement on the group’s Instagram, they said: “Ryder’s new owner provided him with the best possible care, utmost attention and long-needed love that he so deserved.”

Christina Hansen of Carriage On, which opposes calls to outlaw the horses, told W42ST: “We are very saddened to learn of Ryder’s passing. We know that he received the best of care with his new owner and veterinary team at Cornell.

“We’re sorry that at the end of Ryder’s long life, he did not get to enjoy more of his retirement. Even though we only knew him a short time, Ryder touched our lives in so many ways. Ryder has positively impacted carriage horse welfare and brought our carriage community together. Our condolences to all of his connections and everyone who knew him, even for a moment.”

Unbridled Heroes also released a picture of Ryder after his retirement to a farm outside the city, with one of their volunteers. It said another welfare group, The Sanctuary at Maple Hill Farms in Auburn, Maine, had also helped his new owner care for the elderly animal.

One of the campaign groups who helped look after Ryder in his brief retirement release a final picture of him. Photo: Unbridled Heroes

Ryder’s collapse as he pulled a carriage back to his stables from Central Park was one of the most controversial incidents involving the horses, which have long been at the center of calls to be banned from being used to take tourists through the park.

W42ST’s Naty Caez captured the scene, as did Hell’s Kitchen Local Paul Devlin, who said at the time: “I was walking home and saw police racing by — and could tell something was up.

“There was a horse lying on the ground — the carriage was a few feet back and it didn’t look like it had been hit. By the time I got there, an officer from the NYPD Mounted Unit was already there. The officers then shut down the block.”

Witnesses said the Mounted Unit officer cared for the horse as onlookers shouted advice from the sidewalk. The horse carriage driver checked on his animal but ceded control of its care to the officers on hand. Devlin added that officers found a pillow to keep the horse comfortable before a vet arrived and the horse eventually got up.

The horses are a fixture of Central Park but facing calls for their abolition. Picture: Graham Trott 2015

Devlin added that the horse carriage driver appeared to “bless himself” near the horse before taking the carriage away himself, with the nearby crowd chanting “How does it feel?!”

Another eyewitness, Caroline Smidt, told ABC7 that she had seen McKeever “screaming” at the horse hours four earlier in Central Park, and had taken photos of the incident. “He was screaming at him, telling him to go faster,” Smidt said as she took part in an anti-carriage horse demonstration outside Bragg’s office after the collapse.. “I couldn’t let this happen without saying anything.” 

The path to banning the horses runs through the proposed City Law 573., which Queens council member Robert Holden has introduced and which would replace horse-drawn carriages with electric vehicles by June of 2024.  

District 3 City Council Member Erik Bottcher, in conjunction with Joann Ariola (Queens), Tiffany Caban (Queens), Shahana Hanif (Brooklyn), Kristen Richardson Jordan (Manhattan), Rita Joseph (Brooklyn), Christopher Marte (Manhattan), Chi Osse (Brooklyn) and Keith Powers (Manhattan) have signed onto the bill.

Bottcher told W42ST after learning of Ryder’s death: “What happened to Ryder is tragically not an isolated incident. Horses simply do not belong on the busy streets of midtown Manhattan. I’m proud to be an original co-sponsor of Int. 0573 to end this outdated practice.”

In August Council Member Holden told 1010 WINS: “The time has come. This is the 21st Century. We shouldn’t have horses serving man for our pleasure.” But there is fierce opposition from the drivers and from their union, which says the calls for abolition are an attack on blue-collar workers.

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4 Comments

  1. Glad to see Ryder died humanely and hopefully after enjoying some retirement . Praying that McKeever and other monsters in the carriage industry and TWU get every bad thing they deserve

  2. Why aren’t you all outside Braggs office
    Protesting No Bail! And all the crime in our city? Human lives count too! The men and women driving those horse and wagons have been in Manhattan forever! Just allow them to ride through the park! Your killing a livihood and most of you are transplants. Worry about your neighbors getting killed and getting rid of Caban and Bragg!!!

  3. Let’s be very honest here… those carriage drivers view those horses as their paycheck, not as an animal that needs care. Reduce the number of carriages, enforce strict check-up’s, and that’s it.

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