Their Turn - The Social Justice Movement of Our Time Their Turn - The Social Justice Movement of Our Time

Man Who Trains NYC Carriage Horses Admits to “Breaking” Them

January 14, 2016 by Leave a Comment

The News

It’s not just elephants and tigers in the circus who are broken by “trainers” in order to scare them into entertaining us. The horses who pull carriages in urban areas are broken too.

Norman Martin tells a Daily News reporter that "God has made them [horses] for the service of mankind.”

Norman Martin tells a Daily News reporter that “God has made them [horses] for the service of mankind.” See video.

In his autobiography A Tough Son of Gun: Thoughts on Training Horses and Living Well, the man who primes NYC carriage horses for work on the city streets describes in great detail how he breaks them so that they will obey their “masters.”

Ironically, the trainer/author, Norman Martin, was used as a horse expert by the NY Daily News as part of its campaign to convince the public that operating horse-drawn carriages in midtown Manhattan is humane. In fact, while Mr. Martin wrote that he uses “a disciplining device” that “stings a little more than a whip” to train his horses, the Daily News reported that he uses positive reinforcement: “He gradually helps them overcome those fears by gently caressing their heads or slowly getting them used to more populated towns.”

Norman Martin NYC Carriage Horses

From Norman Martin’s book about training horses

Following are excerpts from the book:

“They [NYC carriage horse operators] come out to the farm and ask if I can give their horse an attitude adjustment . . .What these horses need is discipline – an understanding that they have a master, and they are to do his or her will.” (page 120)

“I couldn’t break through that stubbornness or cure Charlie’s bad habit until I used a stronger method and that reprogrammed his mind from doing things his way to doing things the way his masters wanted him to do. That reminds me of some people, sometimes we have bad habits we need to repent from.” (page 127)

“I have a disciplining device that is a little stronger and stings a little more than a whip for the thick-hided horses. But I only use it if I have to break strong ingrained attitudes and habits.“ (page 121)

In his book, A Tough Son of a Gun, Norman Martin explains how he's far more than tough on the NYC carriage horses he "trains."

In his book, A Tough Son of a Gun, Norman Martin explains just how tough  he is on the NYC carriage horses he trains.

“I put what’s called a ‘power line’ on him. I could pull hard and force his head against his neck, so he would choke himself until he passed out and fell down on the road.” (page 40)

“That was the first horse that I had to cure of five bad habits, and I was the seventh guy that had him and the only one who broke him.” (page 42)

“That horse stood straight up on his hind legs and come up over backwards. He hit his head on a sharp rock right between his ears and killed himself instantly. And that was the end of the horse that no one could break. His stubbornness broke him, but this time it was his own brain that broke and he did it all himself on his own terms. Sorry.” (page 43)

Mr. Martin recounted moments when he abused his horses even when he wasn’t “training” them. He describes one incident in which he intentionally spooked a skittish horse by dangling a plastic strip in front of him: “It was a full rolling gallop. I remember laughing like a madman as he surged down the road.” (page 21)

When the Daily News reported that Mr. Martin “gently caresses” the horses as a training method, did the editors know that this self-described “renowned trainer of carriage horses” published a book about using weapons and fear as his preferred method?

carriage horse flees copy

Carriage horse escapes and flees down 12th Avenue in Manhattan (Dec, 2014)

NYC Mayor de Blasio ran for office on a promise to ban horse-drawn carriages from Manhattan as soon as he was elected, but he lost the support of the public after the carriage operators, Teamsters and media launched a coordinated campaign to protect the industry. Now, the Mayor is negotiating a highly controversial compromise, which would reduce the number of horses and house them in Central Park.

From left to right: Horse pulls a carriage in Times Square; NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio

Your Turn

To stay apprised of the effort to ban horse-drawn carriages in NYC, please visit NYCLASS and The Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages

To see why activists have been fighting for years to take horse-drawn carriages out of NYC and other congested urban areas, please watch the award-winning documentary film BLINDERS:


Comments via Facebook Comments

  1. vanessa day says:

    Jail is too good a place for that “horse breaker.”..He should receive the same treatment as he gives the horses.

  2. entretenimientoBueno tu blog, Queria dejarte uno excelente tambien donde vi muchos articulos entretenidos y videos graciosos.

  3. JEAN says:


  4. Gary Nudelman says:

    As an animal behaviorist sometimes a stronger correction. Is needed to protect the animal. These sentences were taken out of context of an entire book. NYC has a history or the horse drawn carriages and is actually very beautiful. Horses were breed to work. If you don’t like HDC don’t use them but for a century people have come to NYC and enjoy the beauty of my city. There has been only a few accidents over that almost 100 years. The practice employees people and the horses I believe love it. Would you rather be staring at a barn door? The stables have been checked by every known agency and they to my knowledge have received a violation. Kudos to them. Now back off!

    1. WOW,so ye think it’s okay for these creatures to be behind trucks/cars spewing exhaust in their faces,are ye even from planet earth,SMH!

    2. jbdean says:

      Taken out of context? So any sentence that’s not read with the complete book is useless to explain something? (Tell that to anyone that quotes a Bible verse or a statute from our laws on its own.) That is as absurd as your comment that horse drawn carriages are “beautiful” and people have been coming to NY for years to see and ride them.

      Your attempt at a logical discussion is lost when you use “tradition” as a reason to continue doing something that has been brought to light as abusive, inhumane, senseless, selfish, greedy, and morally wrong. With your line of “reasoning” blacks should still be slaves, people with birth defects should still be in Freak Shows, interracial marriage should be illegal, women shouldn’t vote and women and children should still be viewed as property. All these things, and not too long ago mind you, were considered normal,
      were considered what they were intended for and had been so for decades (in some cases, centuries) so traditionally it was accepted. But, as humans evolved to understand the actual plight of these individuals, laws began to change to make corrections for the inhumane treatment they had endured.

      It’s now the 21st Century and time for humans to evolve again and correct laws that impose inhumane treatment on ALL INNOCENT LIVES – and to hell with tradition when it is cruel and continued for greed and personal glory and advancement. THAT is the plight of the horses used for carriage rides in any city.

      Animals are not ours to exploit for any reason.

    3. Granfran says:

      Get a grip Gary. You say you are an animal behaviorist and I am the Queen of the Nile. I know horses and you obviously do not. Martin’s methods are typical of his religion and mentality. He uses harsh methods that make the horse fear him and that is not how to train a horse. I suggest that you Gary Nudelman go back to whatever it was before you made yourself an animal behaviorist.

  5. Om dieren zover te krijgen,moet hun wil gebroken worden en dat gaat niet zonder slag of stoot.

    1. Bruce Livingston says:

      Nicht wahr. Ausbildung von Pferden können grausam sein, aber es muss nicht sein.

  6. T C says:

    Put this son of a bitch in jail,, NYC get with the program,, animals for hire is not good,, your enabling cruelity

  7. Bruce Livingston says:

    Except for those aficionados of the Wild-West types, serious trainers for working horses (driving) and sporting horses (dressage) do not “break” horses. The early training is referred to as “STARTING” their horses. And, it is done calmly and without fear (unlike the racing industry that scares the crap out of yearlings to make them break out of the gate). To condemn a traditional and “gentlemanly” activity by picking and choosing anecdotal accounts, which obviously included the training of some very difficult equines, from a person’s “Autobiography” is not a fair evaluation of the training of carriage horses.

    1. js says:

      Learn how to spell

    2. jbdean says:

      Breaking any animal is cruel and should not be legal. Animals are not objects. We do not have the moral right to force them into our servitude. They are nothing more than slaves for greedy and ignorant humans. They were not born to serve us, we forced them over centuries to do our work. They continue to do our work and to entertain us not because it’s what they were put here for but because we allow it.

      Well, no more! Decent and well informed humans are going to fight for those that have no voice. We are going to emancipate animals out of their shackles the same way decent and well informed humans fought to end human slavery. The same way humans fought to change the laws that said women and children were merely a man’s property.

      It’s now the 21st Century. The enlightened among us are no longer going to be silent. We WILL end oppression of every innocent being. Animals are not our to exploit – not anymore.

  8. He is a discussing person that should not be aloud to own or train any animal. What gives him the right to abuse horses for the profit of others Shame on NY city, I have never or would never agree to ride these carriages.


  10. Inez Giusti says:

    Enough with all this cruelty to animals. These assholes need to get the same treatments and then get their asses put in jail for a little extra

  11. Deborah K. Ross-Cole says:

    Yes why isn’t he in jail???? You have this POS admission of how he “breaks” these magnificent creatures!!!! I never have & never will take a carriage ride in NYC or New Orleans or anywhere else the beautiful creatures are mistreated!!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *