Central Park Carriage Horses
I'm crazy about horses and have felt that way since childhood. So
when Time Out New York Associate Features Editor Kate Lowenstein asked
if I would talk with some Central Park carriage horses, I jumped at the
chance. It turned out to be a bizarre session, exhilarating and somewhat
uncomfortable at the same time.
Kate was able to get three handlers to allow me to talk
with their horses. Several turned us down. The ones who
agreed were not welcoming. Since animal rights groups
periodically mount campaigns to discontinue the rides,
it is not surprising that the handlers were not overly
pleased to see us.
I was puzzled by was the comments of the horses themselves,
Elvis, Patrick, and Big Mac. Not one spoke directly of
being unhappy. It later dawned on me that the horses
were being politically correct. The handlers were standing
five to ten feet away and could hear Kate‚s questions
to me and my responses to her. While the horses didn‚t
say they were unhappy or ill treated, they all expressed
a longing for real contact with humans. Relationships
where they could be respected, loved, and treated with
Elvis, Patrick and Big Mac represented three points of
view on a continuum. Elvis was the most fragile and the
most damaged. Big Mac was the strongest, the best adjusted
to the unhealthy life style that was imposed upon him.
Patrick was somewhere in-between.
I felt moved to give Reiki to Patrick. He sopped it up.
He clearly appreciated the healing energy and thanked
me. Later I wondered why I hadn‚t thought to give
Reiki to Elvis. I concluded that he might have been too
skittish to accept the healing.
Ironically, the following day, one of the carriage horses
was startled by a sudden loud noise, bolted and was killed.
I believe all the horses know about this death and the
other accidental deaths that have occurred within their
ranks. They can communicate with each other telepathically,
just as I do, and their shared condition is conducive
to communication, just as their natural life style of
living in herds is conducive to seeing themselves as
members of a community. Yet they have no choice but to
continue their work.
All three of the horses told me that they did not like
the fumes from the cars. I don‚t like the fumes
either, but I don‚t have to stand outside and breath
in the exhaust all day long. Patrick told me he liked
young children aged three to five years old because they
were spontaneous and showed joy in seeing him and in
riding in the carriage. Without condemning the adults
who saw him as a quaint commodity or a means to a livelihood,
Patrick made it clear that he was not being viewed as
the sentient being he is.
Mayor Bloomberg supports the carriage business, calling
it a symbol of New York. The carriage trade is certainly
linked to the city‚s image. And I do love seeing
horses when I pass the area. But what about the other
side of the image? The charges of horses being forced
to stand in their own excrement and being subjected to
work in extreme heat and cold? Are these charges, among
other allegations of abuse, helping the image of the
Big Apple? Traditionally, horses symbolize travel, power
and freedom. How do New York City carriage horses stack
up to the universal symbol? They travel from stall to
Central Park and back again. They have no power to roam
free. Basically, the horses are slaves. They work all
day in virtually all weather conditions and they return
to a stall at night only to repeat the process the following
Given his incredible track record as a business executive,
Mayor Bloomberg should be able to turn the lives of the
carriage horses around to closer replicas of their traditional
symbol of power and freedom. It behooves the city to
treat all its citizens with dignity, even the four-footed
Photos from top: Catherine and Big Mac, Elvis and Catherine, Catherine
and Patrick: Beth Levendis, Time Out New York