Equine Rescue

A Tale of Two Carriage Horses, both Named Roger

Amy Worden, Inquirer Staff Writer as published at Philly.com

“…horses and people need not be top athletes to enjoy a life of mutual respect and healthy fitness.”

carriage_horse_new_yorkA New York City carriage driver tells the story in yesterday’s Daily News of how he rescued Roger, a broken down, emaciated and wound-covered Amish buggy horse, 15 years ago.

After months of rest, decent food and love, Roger was healthy and restored and began his new life as a Central Park carriage horse, gaining fame for carting around tourists and celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker and Chris Noth in a “Sex and the City” episode.

Roger is set to retire soon at the age of 20.

The point of the column by Ian McKeever no doubt was to show New Yorkers that a well-cared for horse can thrive pulling carriages and that the alternative would have been bleak.

The carriage industry, long the bain of animal welfare advocates, is poised to end. Both mayoral candidates support banning carriages and the high-profile deaths and injuries of horses in traffic have spurred efforts to replace horses with antique automobiles.

Roger was on his way to a slow, torturous death at the hands of an Amish farmer who would likely have sent him directly to the “kill pen” at New Holland auction.

Livery drivers are sometimes no better, sending their horses off to “retirement” at New Holland.

Whether it’s Manhattan or Philadelphia, the city streets are hazardous for horses. Forcing horses to stand in extreme temperatures waiting for passengers is wrong.

But as McKeever rightly says, horses need jobs and exercise, be it pulling a carriage, controlling crowds as a member of a police mounted unit or rounding up cattle.

Watch a top flight performance horse, whether doing a horse/human ballet known as dressage, galloping across an Olympic cross country course or reining cattle, and you quickly learn that horses and humans can and do form wonderful bonds.

And horses and people need not be top athletes to enjoy a life of mutual respect and healthy fitness.

I was in McKeever’s shoes five years ago. Responding to a for-sale ad, I turned up at the barn of a Lancaster County Amish man who had been busted several months earlier for running a horrible puppy mill.

Inside the stall were two large draft horses sharing a single small stall, standing in 18 inches of manure. I bought them both – they were underweight, loaded with worms and highly suspicious of humans. I couldn’t leave them behind, or leave one behind, so I bought them both. Now there are three – our Belgian, Belle, was pregnant at the time – and all are thriving as backyard pleasure horses.

When I don’t get out enough to exercise Belle’s baby, four-year-old Chloe, it shows. Just yesterday she tore around our round pen in a frenzy fueled by the cooler weather and too many days lounging around the hay hut.

Draft horses, like many of those that pull New York carriages, are bred to pull loads. They are muscular and weigh 800 or 1,000 pounds more than the average horse.

An active, working horse who is fed well, housed well and treated kindly, is generally a happy horse. I am not on board with the “lawn ornament” crowd who believe that horses should sit in pastures. These are the horses that are destined for neglect, like Bridget, the blind roan, found roaming the roads of Adams County last month but now in the safe hands of our local SPCA in Gettysburg awaiting adoption along with her seeing eye goats.

Isn’t there a compromise to be reached on the New York carriage horse issue? I can’t understand why no one has suggested stabling the horses in Central Park. Would as many people object to carriages if the horses worked and lived in the park and therefore avoided the dangerous traffic and other street hazards to and from the stables?

The election of New York City’s next mayor comes just as a federal judge in New Mexico clears the way for horse slaughter plants to again open in the United States.

That surely would have been the fate of Roger had McKeever not plunked down $1,400 to save him. Now Roger, immortalized in “Sex and the City” reruns and star of his own Facebook page, heads off to retirement on a Long Island farm.

Those who follow in the hoofprints of Roger deserve the opportunity to live, work and retire humanely.

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12 replies »

  1. I would love to see the compromise suggested. Not only horses will be losing their livelyhood, their purpose. Riding in a horsedrawn carriage in Central Park sounds alot more romantic than sitting in traffic sucking up fumes.


  2. I have suggested that they put the carriage horses in Central Park only before and no one paid any attention. I think it’s a great idea and safe. This is a wonderful story about Roger who was saved from the Amish, the more I read about the Amish the more I realize that they are not the sweet religious people they profess to be.


    • Kathryn, while there are good folks everywhere, we are sure a complicated species.

      Officials lament requiring carriage horses “stand in extreme temperatures” when under more or less constant supervision, yet the warehoused wild horses at Palomino Valley (including foals) standing in triple digit heat this summer with no shelters has apparently been acceptable despite much public outrage.

      I lived around the Amish for a dozen years or so and learned early what you have also discovered; while some cherish their horses it is not the norm. My local vets were unhappy at the way most horses were driven like machines. The vets described how they would get a “something wrong with my horse” message and arrive to find a horse down in the traces on the highway from exhaustion.

      Once I bought a mare to save her from kill, she was 8 years old and in fine condition, but the Amish man who brought her to the sale said she was “too old to work anymore.”

      All stripes of Americans who profess to be religious also somehow overlook the mandates of good stewardship such religion mandates. However, I am one whose life is filled with good horses who enjoyed their work and their lives, though there are some who much preferred to be left alone. They are complex creatures, too!


  3. Ok so this is Why Slaughter Pisses me off! Because while we strive to acceot imperfect people, you can be any size, ugly as mud, pretty as picture and we r equal .. .. But horse industry peoole have a short span for their need to be filled. They want the perfect looking, most popular bloodlines in the moment, they want to win or be the life of the party with their horse only when they want it, but if its Not perfect, not the bloodline of today, not the attention getter, or they have something better to do they just sell instantly, which is to slaughter. Thats how wealthy horse people have stayed wealtht horse people, sorry but that handful of complacen, greed driven, ignorant baffoons who think that mustangs are dog food cause they didnt breed it, even though their well bred inbred mutant registered high society castoffs go back to Mustang, they think dont have any clue that their line bred animals, dont get me wrong I have pure breds but i am not small minded, were actually mistakes and they kept getting corrected. Who was Man O war? Historical! But he wasnt picture perfect, in the hands of modern man he would eaten by cannibals! I am sorry but these animals being judged and then banished to death is sick! I have seen ugly horses run barrels faster,stay more sound and last longer than the industry screwups but they banish them to death because of lack of beauty! I am opposed to the thoughless, uncaring callousness of this industry. I am a professional rider/ trainer…..dont think I have not seen what other trainers do when No one is watching, this is the disposal service that saves their careers, thats why they do not speak out, they only know how to abuse, when a horse is badly injured or mentally blown they cant let it get out their that BAD. I am so angry about slaughter today I could spit pure Nails! A so called trainer friend of mine years ago was the reason that fantastic cutting horse i had was blind and came to mine. She saddled her up one day and the mare was green and her dads finest propect, the horse got scared, she claims the horse was tankedup on feed, but her brothers dually sqealed into my driveway he was screaming get in, explained his hot headed sister has gone crazy and was gonna kill her and i needed to save the horse. We arrived after 90 mph drive to find her beating on the horse, blood pouring from open rock grinder spur would as large a knife wounds on her heaving sides, the saddle was covered in foam from her spit, the mares head was tied to the saddle with nose touching thehorn, buckets of sweat, cuts from hooves down her front legs. Folks, I will clarify I do not condone violence but it was the moment. I jumped the rail, flagged the horse to stop. Her eyes were glazed over and she was shaking violently w fear….I ripped my so called friend from her saddle, dragging her to the ground tangled in draw reins, side rein, and the stirrup, but I didnt care, the horse tumbled to the ground and put her on the sand thankful to stay still. Her brother took her from there. I untangled the horse with his pocket knife and she stood up….i heard she needs slaughtered, shes going to die. Fast forward, suffice I recieved the horse, nursed to health, the beating she took left her visually impaired, but she knew she had a safe home and she healed, florished and as a blind green broke mare designed herself into a champion. I hate slaughter, it Cost me a Friendship, it brutalized this horse because she knew she could get by with it. Waz she prosecuted, no, connections in right places, all tied to slaughter. I hate slaughter, but I loved Color, and I love her son we have today. I am sorry but this is one tiny story compared to hundreds of things ive expirienced. I dont want this happening.


  4. Blinder’s is a chop piece Geri. The majority of the photos shown are either not from NYC or are from years ago before the industry was as regulated as they are now. The actual truth is that there have been only 3 deaths of horses in the NYC carriage industry in the last 30 years. One of those was due to natural causes. That is a safety record unparalleled in any horse discipline. More horses fatally injure themselves free in pastures in a MONTH than that. In that same length of time how many taxi’s have been in accidents? How many personal cars? How many people have been killed walking across the streets or dog run into traffic? Do your research and you will see that quite honestly, a horse drawn carriage ride is the safest way to travel.

    It all boils down to opinions-

    1- those of the carriage industry, people who know and love horses, those of equine vets and those of horse people all over the country who understand the animals, their needs and their behaviors.


    2- The opinions of a group of radical animal right’s activist who know little to nothing about horses, their needs or their behaviors. These people have deep pockets- money given by NYC developers waiting to swoop in and snap up the choice real estate the stables sit on for development (Does NYC REALLY need another luxury condo tower that caters only to millionaires?) and PETA (you know, the group that throws red paint on little old ladies wearing fur coats.) NOW notice here my wording- I said radical animal RIGHTS activist. I didn’t say, and they won’t either “radical animal WELFARE activist.” Their goal is removing animals from any situation that they consider “subservient.” Emboldened by the support of the mayoral candidates, they are already making plans to go after the NYC riding stables and then the racehorses. If they get the goals that they have set on, the only way NYC children will ever see a horse is on TV or maybe, someone will erect a statue to the long lost NYC Carriage horse.

    No I personally have had horses since I was 4 years old. They have been a part of my life and I’m the better man for it. I currently own two beautiful Tennessee Walking Horses and perfect little Standardbred mare. I KNOW horses. Do any of the activist have a horse? No, I don’t think so. Most likely they have never done more than pet one in passing.

    I invite everyone to check out two Facebook pages, “The Famous Horse Drawn Carriages of Central Park “, run by the carriage industry and “No Walk in the Park,” home page of the activist. You will see a vast difference. The Famous page shows the horses as they are, the No Walk page is seething with ravings,, unfounded and untrue accusations and, in the words of my friend Dr. Hart, a psychiatrist, a “cult mentality. What you will not see on their page is any sign of dissent. The reason for that is because anytime a poster even questions a statement there, they are immediately banned and their posting deleted. Go ahead, try it. Make a posting that doesn’t glorify their position then sit back and watch it disappear!! just like magic!


  5. Color the mare above was a tremendously kind hearted mare, but through the years after the day my so called friend injured her so badly, I learned tremendously about who this horse really was, from her kindness. She never hit a fence or ever bumped into things, oddly always missed the barn doors/stall doors. I think her memory for the property was impeccable. She used to lay head flat up against my chest and actual tears and sighs would come out, like the relief she felt the day I saved her. When this horse had foals they were always understanding of her vision impairment and the gelding I have from her now is HV’s Colour Me Special aka Kid and he used to actually lick her eyes when she would close them to rest. He cleaned her face every day, until the day she died. She was such a wonderful horse that the day my mother passed away she put her head over my shoulder and pulled me close and hugged me tightly. What makes that so special you ask? A blind mare leaned over and unlatched her stall door walked through the barn to the tack room where I was crying and then put her head over my shoulder and held me. It was her choice to seek me out, and when it was her time to die, she waited for me and for the man who bred her many years ago to get there to say goodbye. Several people witnessed her almost quit breathing and then she would put her nose up and look down the driveway, she was watching for us…she reached out to us and then… So these horses they condemn, these horses they banish to death, they are living breathing livestock, horses, and sentient beings, but most of all Gods gift to man, friends….


    • Cynthia, Color was so lucky to have you, and you her, in this life. Please consider writing her story and publishing it, maybe as a children’s book? It shows a very good example of how people make choices to be “humans being” vs. “humans doing” and there are some great lessons as well about bullying and the inappropriate projection onto horses by people using torturous tools.


  6. Scott~~~yes it all boils down to opinions-that is why I said judge for yourself-those of us who have been here for a while know all about land grabs that go on and that the carrige horse barns sit on prime real estate-and also that every industry has its good and bad people and that animals are going to get hurt, some videos and picks may be old but an animal still suffered and though I have never been to NY, I’m sure that not all the horses live in wonerland remember the media only shows their side of the story, no matter what side they are on-if it makes people feel better here is Blinders(unmasked)-this video says why would anyone abuse an animal they use to feed their families with and I say look at racing, etc.and answer that yourself, they say Blinders is lies and propaganda, they also say that about our wild horse people that go out and document our wild horse abuse – I still say judge for yourself~~ http://vimeo.com/76016578


  7. “Draft horses, like many of those that pull New York carriages, are bred to pull loads. They are muscular and weigh 800 or 1,000 pounds more than the average horse.”
    Um – – – if a drafter weighs only 800 or 1000 pounds – he’s already a skeleton! My little OTTB weighs 1000 pounds. Another puff piece by a clueless writer. Sorry Scott – I have been to NYC and looked at a lot of the carriage horses and could barely stand what I saw. Proper stabling, work hours, and work conditions in Central Park might be an acceptable option, but the status quo is not.


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