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On Horses and Street Musicians

I’m at the rehearsal dinner for Dave’s cousin and my mother calls:

"Did you hear? Did you hear about the horse in Central Park?"
"Um, no mom, I’ve been kinda busy."
"There was some accident and the horse either died or had to be sedated."
"Poor girl. I’m sure she’s dead by now if she didn’t die immediately."

Her name was Smoothie and apparently she was spooked by a street musician playing a drum. In response, there’s been a call to ban street musicians–as if that’s the real problem.

In Drummer Denies He Intentionally Spooked Horse That Died, we learn that "the musician, whose stage name is Ayan, plays a full set of six drums and four cymbals. He said he did not know until yesterday morning that a horse had collapsed on Friday, and he was upset by the implication that he had scared it."


“Spooking a horse right here could mean a baby carriage getting run over, or a person hurt,” he said.

Um, and it might mean a horse dying, too.

According to the newsletter of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages:

Smoothie, a gentle mare, was only 13 years old and relatively new to the harsh noisy and unwelcoming streets of New York City. Just her luck that some kids were playing on drums not too far from where she worked on Central Park South, waiting to pull that cart load of lazy and ignorant tourists. And she freaked out. Horses are prey animals – this means that regardless of their large size – 1,500 to 2,000 pounds – they can spook when frightened – and they get frightened often. When 2000 pounds of horse comes barreling down the street looking to hide- Watch Out! They will run rough shod over anything in their way in a beeline to get away from the terror chasing them. This fateful horse, terrified of the sound, bolted, but got stuck on a light post. When she tried to free herself, she got her foot stuck in the carriage wheel and broke her leg. And to make matters worse, this insanity spooked the horse in front of her who bolted straight across the street into traffic. He ended up on the hood of a Mercedes, which was damaged. A customer from a local restaurant (where were the carriage drivers?) knew to unhook the horse from the carriage and remove him from the car and to try to help Smoothie. But Smoothie was struggling to free herself from her carriage. She fell to the ground in panic, kicking and shaking. She went into shock, collapsed and died.

Keep the letters to the NYT coming (

Some want street musicians to be banned, which of course is better for the city than banning the carriages. The comment of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages was:

It is entirely possible that the loud drums spooked Smoothie and led to her death. But there were no street musicians near by when horses spooked on January 2, 2006; June 2, 2006 and July 4, 2007 — and these were just the accidents that were reported in the press. Many more are under the radar. Horses are prey animals that rely on flight to run from danger. Particularly in a congested city like New York, many things can spook a horse — from the obvious like loud horns, sirens, cars backfiring, and motorcycles – to the innocuous – like trash blowing in the wind. To ask that street musicians be banned from the horse area is absurd and we hope our City Council does not get duped by this nonsense. A better solution is to remove these gentle giants who are a danger to themselves and to others by BANNING THE CARRIAGE HORSE INDUSTRY!

My sentiments exactly.

UPDATE: Thanks to Ellie for reminding me of the discussion at the NYT’s blog regarding this topic, with 33 comments so far, including the obligatory yet tiresome accusation that "AR nuts" care more about animals than children. Chime in!

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mike Grieco #

    Smoothie was an individual who represents the unknown number of horses whom are "used" and "abused" to amuse people.
    Perhaps New York City Council will finally wake to this reality, and do what is "right". Stop exploiting horses.
    Yes "Ban the Carriage Horse Industry!" Or Boycott New York city!

    Bella 'Violet Rays',hope she is doing well.:)

    September 16, 2007
  2. mffalm #

    am sure all would like to hear how Violet is doing

    September 16, 2007
  3. mffalm #

    I remember a zillion years back when my youngest daughter was very late for a holiday family gathering. I think it was April or May. It was an exceedingly hot day. My temper was at a boiling point re her tardiness. When she finally arrived the following story was related. Nearing our home, she saw a bedraggled pony being used for riding in the treacherous heat. I don't remember all the details-the police were called-or perhaps she kicked the pony owner in the leg-or perhaps she persuaded prospective families to leave the site-suffice it to say-there were no more pony rides that day. When I heard her story of advocacy I was proud of her as I am even more proud of Mary today.

    September 16, 2007
  4. Ellie #

    I can certainly understand how that makes a mother proud.

    September 16, 2007
  5. Ellie #

    There's also blog connected to the article in the Times:

    September 16, 2007

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