What Vets Say

IB Image

Intro | Giving Back | Horse Care | What Vets Say | Union Support

APR 08, 2015 — NY Daily News

EXCLUSIVE: New York City carriage horses are stress-free even after long day of trotting, academic says


You're probably more stressed than a New York City carriage horse, according to a new study.”

A California academic who specializes in equine medicine conducted an intensive study of stress levels on Big Apple carriage horses and found them completely angst-free — even after a long day trotting in Central Park.

Joe Bertone, who teaches at Western University of Health Sciences, said he became intrigued with the carriage-horse debate after visiting New York several years ago. “Vets I know and respected were telling me (the hors-es) were having a pretty darn good life, but I wanted to put some science behind it,” he said.

In a study sponsored by the horse-carriage industry, which provided a $5,000 grant, he and his team analyzed the levels of cortisol — a hormone produced during stress in humans and animals — in 13 carriage horses at the Clinton Park Stables on W. 52nd St. over a three-day period in August. The animals were examined four times a day — mostly by taking saliva samples and checking their body temps — including right before they left for work and right after they got home. “I couldn’t find more content animals,” said Bertone, who is board-certified in internal medicine for large animals, with a specialty in horses. “They were very relaxed.”

Ironically, Bertone did find some signs of stress in carriage horses — but only when they got out of town.He sent one of his students to Pennsylvania to check on carriage horses on their five-week furlough, which the city requires as a rest for the animals. Some of those horses had elevated cortisol levels, possibly because they were in an unfamiliar environment, according to Bertone.

Bertone said he came up with the idea for the study himself. “My No. 1 concern is animal welfare,” he said.The research was presented at the Interdisciplinary Forum for Applied Animal Behavior in Texas in February, and will be featured at several other science gatherings this year.

It remains to be seen if it can influence the horse-carriage debate here in New York. Mayor de Blasio is press-ing the City Council to ban the industry. A spokesman said the administration was looking for a “humane and equitable solution that moves the horses off our streets” while protecting jobs. Bertone said he noticed another sign that the horses were happy with city living — their sleep habits. In prior studies, he found horses won’t sleep when they’re stressed, no matter how tired they are. But during his visits to the Clinton Park Stables, “in the mornings, we heard them snoring,” he said.

APR 20, 2014 — NY Daily News

Vet: Carriage horses are healthy, happy and well cared for


Last month, I accepted an open invitation to visit some of the city’s carriage horses at the Clinton Park stable.

As the head of an equine veterinary practice in Carmel, Putnam County, I have been examining and treating horses for more than 32 years.

I felt it was my responsibility to investigate the horses’ treatment from my own perspective as a veterinarian, horseman and advocate of animal rights. The purpose of this visit was to evaluate the horses’ living conditions as well as their current health.

Before our trip to the city stable, my colleague, Dr. Michelle Singer, and I were both skeptical of the care that these horses were receiving.

But we were pleasantly surprised by what we found. Contrary to what many may believe about these horses and the environment that they live in, the horses are in good health and are living in an appropriate stable with excellent care.

These horses are being treated with pride and compassion, often by their individual owners/drivers. These horsemen provide care for these horses on a daily basis.

On the days the horses do not provide carriage rides in Central Park, they are hand-walked to make sure they are out of the stall and exercised every day.

Contrary to my preconceived thoughts, these horses do not live in straight stalls in which they are unable to move or lie down. Instead, the horses were housed in comfortable, clean, spacious box stalls, which allowed them to lie down in comfortable dry bedding.

The box stalls are also large enough to allow the horses to move freely. The horses are also being provided with quality food and water throughout the day.

After my first visit, I returned unannounced to talk with management and personal horse owners to better understand their perspective. Upon arriving, I still found the stables to be in the same good conditions that I had observed in the initial visit.

During this second visit, after the stable inspection, I observed some of the horses arriving back from the park and other horses being hitched up to go out to the park.

The horses did not appear at all overworked upon their return, and the outgoing horses were ready to take their shift.

Next, we proceeded to the south end of the park to see the horses firsthand on the job. The horses at Central Park all were in good weight, well shod, and prepared for their carriage work that day.

After much investigation, it was clear to me these horses are living happy lives with owners who truly care for their well-being. These owners/drivers are proud of their animals and provide them with excellent care on a daily basis.

I strongly support the continuation of these carriage horses in New York City as an equine veterinarian, long-time horse owner and horseman. These horses are being loved and cared for earnestly and deserve the right to continue on as a historic tradition of the city.

January 17, 2014 — NYTimes

Carriage Horses I Inspected Were Healthy and Content

By Harry W. Werner, a past president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, owns Werner Equine in North Granby, Conn.

In February 2010, I visited four carriage horse stables in New York City at the invitation of a member of the Carriage Operators of North America. I was accompanied by an experienced equine surgeon, as well as a veterinarian who is an horsewoman with a special interest in animal behavior.

Given free access to all areas of the stables and to the horses’ veterinary records, we reviewed the husbandry, veterinary care and farrier care the horses received. Our daylong inspection ended with a carriage ride through Central Park, which enabled us to inspect the horses at work. The American Association of Equine Practitioners paid all expenses associated with our visit, and we were not compensated by the carriage industry.

On a visit paid for by the American Association of Equine Practitioners, I was impressed by the conditions of the stables and animals.

I was impressed by the cleanliness of the horses’ housing and the ample bedding in their stalls. While stall size varied, even the smaller stalls provided adequate room for the horses to stand, lie down and move about comfortably. Fire prevention was clearly a priority at the stables. Sprinkler systems, extinguishers and other fire emergency response equipment were present and clearly marked. All access and exit corridors were clear, clean, padded and of ample dimensions to facilitate safe passage by horses and handlers. Hay and grain quality was excellent and foodstuffs were stored in a manner that was secure from pests. Water was fresh and available freely to the horses.

The quality of the farrier care provided for the horses was excellent. In the few cases where hoof condition had required therapeutic farriery, the care had been competently performed. All horses had up to date and complete veterinary care records which detailed wellness care and treatments for sickness or injury. The physical condition of all of the horses I observed was very good. I saw no evidence of inadequate nutrition or signs of injury or disease.

We paid particular attention to the demeanor and behavior of the horses. We three visiting veterinarians brought nearly a century of experience working with horses on a daily basis – often tending to animals in pain. The carriage horses were calm and displayed behavior that reflected

For more information on our campaign to support this industry contact Frank McCann: fmccann@twulocal100.org  or call him at 917-488-8314.