On Thursday afternoon, a carriage horse named Oreo got spooked near Columbus Circle, broke from its reins (overturning its carriage, driver and passengers) and ran away. As the incident raised more concerns about the horse carriage industry, Oreo's driver says no one should blame the stead. Turkish immigrant Mehmet Dundar said that commotion from a construction site on West 59th was the problem: "It’s not the horse’s fault. They were unloading metal frames. One fell down, there was a crash, and then cars coming were honking. The noise ... scared the horse."
The tourists and Dundar were injured. Dundar said, "It happened really quickly. I tried to stop him. He dragged me with the reins about 20 to 30 yards." Oreo, a 6-year-old draft gelding, was finally apprehended a few blocks south and tranquilized.
Witness Tricia Scott saw Oreo being pulled by cops "as they were pulling him to the pole where they tied him." She noticed, "As each police car came up, with the sirens on, it spooked him more. I was speaking with a woman next to me and she said the horse had walked four blocks and stopped when the light turned red. I left just before they tranquilized him, because the horse was panicked and bobbing it's head up and down and I couldn't watch anymore." Scott added, "I wondered why there weren't mounted police helping since they surely would know how to deal with a horse."
Horse and Carriage Association of New York spokesman Stephen Malone said, "When a horse suffers a traumatic experience like that, we don’t want anything to happen in the future," and another spokeswoman, Christina Hansen, said, "He's been suspended from work by the ASPCA. They’ll decide whether to send him to the farm for some R&R, but, regardless, he'll be just fine." The NY Times says Oreo "may pull carriages in less urban settings, freelance in parades and weddings, or even try the trail-riding business" or could be bought by private owners ("Mr. Malone said the stables had already fielded several calls from people wanting to give Oreo a new home, possibly buying him for leisure").
Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, who represents the Upper West Side and parts of Clinton/ Hell’s Kitchen, reiterated that horse-drawn carriages should be banned, "The congested streets of Midtown Manhattan are no place for horse-drawn carriages. Today, we are lucky that the injuries and property damage were not far worse. The horse could have been killed and any number of unsuspecting pedestrians could have been killed or seriously injured during the frenzy."
However, Mayor Bloomberg said, "In our society, we have, from cave-man times, used animals as part of our economy. We eat them... I think it’s something that a lot of tourists really love. It makes New York, New York." Clearly, he hasn't seen this PETA plea from Lea Michele: