What You Should Know About The NYC Carriage Horses



The American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Equine Practitioners and the New York State Veterinary Medical Society all have endorsed the NYC carriage industry.

The NYSVMS has has been committed to ensuring the humane treatment of all animals throughout New York State for 125 years, and writes that “Opponents of horse-drawn carriages are also misinformed about the conditions in the carriage industry, frequently claiming that the horses are forced to live and work under inhumane conditions. A careful examination of the lives of these animals reveals the opposite. These horses, many of which are rescue animals themselves, live and work under the careful scrutiny of the veterinary profession, which follows stringent standards designed to ensure the animal’s welfare is of paramount importance.”

Carriage horses are humanely retired after working in New York City. Retiring carriage horses are highly sought after as family horses. The carriage industry partners with Blue Star Equiculture, a draft horse sanctuary in Massachusetts to provide a retirement program for adoption. You can learn more about Blue Star at www.equiculture.org.


The NYC carriage industry is subject to some of the most extensive regulations concerning horses in the country. Carriage horses are overseen by 5 city agencies.

Carriage horses cannot work when it is too hot or too cold. (Above 89 degrees or below 19 degrees.)

Carriage horses cannot work more than 9 hours per day.

Carriage horses must get at least 5 weeks vacation every year.

Carriage horses must live in box stalls large enough to turn around and lie down comfortably.

Carriage horses and their stables are inspected regularly by the NYPD Mounted Unit, the Department of Health and the Department of Consumer Affairs.


Carriage rides are among the safest of all equestrian activities. The general public can enjoy interacting with horses without having to sign a waiver. Carriages are fully licensed and insured, and such insurance can be had for less than the cost of insuring a private car in NYC. The risk to horses and humans is extremely low. You are more likely to have a tree fall on you in Central Park than a passenger or horse is to be injured.

In fact, Charles Komanoff of Streetsblog.org has reviewed the data and concluded that horse-drawn carriages are the safest vehicles in midtown Manhattan.


Carriage horses live long, healthy lives. Every equine vet who has examined the NYC carriage horses has remarked on their good health.

Carriage horses are well-fed and watered. At the stable they get all the good quality hay they can eat. At work they get quality horse feed and carrots. They always have water at the stable, and while at work there are two water troughs that operate year round. Carriage horses can be watered at any time.

Carriage horses are sound. Walking on asphalt actually makes their job easier. A 2008 study by Cornell veterinarian Dr. James Lowe found virtually no lameness in NYC carriage horses.

Carriage horses are not stressed by the city. A 2014 study by Dr. Joe Bertone of Western University of cortisol levels in NYC carriage horses concluded that carriage horses have exceedingly low levels of cortisol while working in the city, and that they appear to be more stressed while on vacationing on the farm.

Dr. Stephen O’Grady from Virginia made an independent visit to the carriage stables in 2013 and concluded that the stables were very clean, with spacious stalls. He also remarked that carriage horses receive excellent farrier (hoof) care.

Every equine vet who has visited the stables or the hackline has remarked on the lack of respiratory issues in NYC carriage horses.


The controversy over the carriage horses is ideological and political. It has nothing to do with the actual well-being of the horses.

Some people are opposed to carriage horses because they support “animal rights.” They believe that humans have no right to own or work with animals, including dogs or cats, and that humans should not eat meat. Animal rights activists believe in “total animal liberation” and seek an end to domesticated animals. This is a radical ideology or opinion not based on facts.

“Animal rights” is very different from “animal welfare.” People who support animal welfare believe that human beings have a responsibility to take good care of animals and treat them well. People who support animal welfare believe that human experience is improved by living and working with animals. The carriage industry believes very strongly in animal welfare for our horses and for all animals.

Anti-carriage groups, like NYCLASS, have intervened in our political process in NYC, using millions to help elect Bill de Blasio mayor in 2013.  De Blasio had promised to ban carriages his first day in office. He and NYCLASS are now under investigation by the US Attorney for NYCLASS’s donations to him.

The four carriage stables in Hell’s Kitchen sit on very valuable real estate, much of which has been rezoned in recent years for high-rise luxury condos. The carriage horses are in the way of real estate development.


Repeated scientific polls conducted by Quinnipiac University of New York City voters have shown that New Yorkers overwhelmingly oppose banning carriage horses and want their iconic horses to stay.

The NYC carriage industry is endorsed by the New York Times, the New York Daily News, the New York Post, the Amsterdam News, the Wall Street Journal, AM New York, and many more local media outlets who have investigated the industry.

The carriage horses are supported by the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

The carriage horses are a NYC icon, having appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows.

In January and February of 2016, the New York City Council held hearings into the carriage industry. Experts from the city agencies that oversee the carriages testified that there are no outstanding concerns about the health or safety of the carriage horses. Upon reviewing their testimony and the facts presented by equine experts, the City Council rejected any effort to ban or further restrict carriage operations in New York City.

Carriage horses have been working in Central Park since 1858, which is 41 mayors… and counting! They’re not going anywhere, and will continue to delight visitors and New Yorkers alike for generations to come. Carriage on!

Download this information as a .pdf trifold brochure here: What You Should Know About The New York City Carriage Horses


About Author

Christina Hansen is a New York City carriage driver and a spokesperson for the carriage industry. She is a proud member of Teamsters Local 553.