horsedrawncarriage.jpgJames Williams, the drummer who was accompanying the break-dancing group Two Steps Away at the southeast corner of Central Park yesterday, denies that he deliberately spooked Smoothie, the carriage horse who apparently bolted at the loud noise of a snare drum and eventually died from shock after ramming into a tree. The drummer denied doing anything malicious and said that intentionally spooking a horse could have results more dire than even Friday's tragedy. The New York Times quoted him saying "Spooking a horse right here could mean a baby carriage getting run over, or a person hurt.” Williams told The Daily News that he doesn't even like to kill flies or roaches, and would never intentionally hurt a horse.

The Horse and Carriage Association of New York will be meeting today to come up with several proposals to prevent a similar incident, including barring loud music from being played near where horses are kept waiting to accept rides, and asking the city to install hitching posts rather than tethering horses to things like garbage cans and signposts. Just last week, City Comptroller William Thompson said that New York needs to increase its oversight of the carriage horse business and suggested that a central concession should be operated in Central Park, rather than have independent operators with varying levels of care for the horses.

The Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages thinks that the practice is an anachronism in modern New York City and poses a danger not just to horses, but to pedestrians, motorists, and bicyclists. Noting that barring loud music from places where horses are gathered will not quiet the city, Elizabeth Forel of the Coalition told us that horses will often spook at sudden stimuli and flee, as that is their natural instinct. In response to the Horse and Carriage Association's proposed loud music ban: "The Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages hopes that no council person is duped by this disingenuous and absurd demand." One can sign the group's online petition to ban the carriage horse trade here. On Thursday September 20th, a vigil will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in memory of Smoothie and other carriage horses that have been killed or injured in New York City. It will take place in Central Park at Columbus Circle, near the Maine Monument.

(NYC - Central Park: Horse drawn carriage, by wallyg at flickr)