NYC’s horses will be getting a taste of Olde York. TWU 100, the union which represents the city’s carriage drivers, announced they are bringing on Tristan Aldrich, a trainer, horse expert and coachman with experience working the stables at Buckingham Palace. He will be in the park once a week where, among other duties, he will be observing the horses, keeping an eye out for any health concerns, and promoting best practices to drivers.
Aldrich is working with Dr. Gabriel Cook, an equine veteran and surgeon with 32 years experience, who has been conducting twice weekly visits to the stables since last August. Cook claims the horses are well cared for via established protocols.
Animal rights activists disagree. Edita Birnkrant, the Executive Director of New Yorkers for Clean, Livable, and Safe Streets (NYCLASS), dismissed the union’s announcement as a “smoke screen” and many in New York have been trying to abolish the vehicles for years. It was among one of Mayor Deblasio’s first campaign promises, although he was opposed by the New York State Veterinary Medical Society. Ultimately, Deblasio was unable to fulfill his promise, though he was able to limit horse and carriage pick up spots to five locations in Central Park, which helped keep them away from traffic.
Support for the horse and carriage ban has been fueled by a series of well publicized incidents of horses being hurt or killed on the job. In March 2020, a horse named Aysha collapsed and died on video, leading to protests. In September 2021, a video of a horse named Chief colliding with a black sedan in the middle of rush hour went semiviral. Most recently, in August 2022, a horse named Ryder was seen collapsed on the street in the heat, being hosed off by police before shakily rising to his feet. That led to the proposal of Ryder’s Law which, if enacted, would phase out and ban horse-drawn carriages in the city and replace them with horseless, electric carriages. The City Council has yet to take up the cause.
One thing is for sure: the horses and carriages have ignited a passionate debate among New Yorkers. Some say they are, in reality, some of the best treated horses you’ll find anywhere in the world. Besides, they’re a symbol of the city, they bring in tourists, they create jobs, and they add a little pomp and circumstance. Others argue that they are a cruel relic of a bygone era with no place in the modern world. Having spent decades working for the royal family, it’s a debate that should make Mr. Aldrich feel right at home.