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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:


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Mayor de Blasio: Do Your Job!

August 21, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

In Spite of His Promises, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio Has Not Even Tried To Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages

In a live radio interview on August 19th, Mayor de Blasio delivered a major blow to NYC’s animal advocacy community by shifting the responsibility for the bill to ban horse-drawn carriages from himself to the advocacy groups and City Council: “What I’d say to every advocate: You already have my vote. Go get the votes in the City Council and solidify the support in the City Council so we can make this change.”

Who does not belong in this picture?

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to ban horse-drawn carriages on his first day in office

On the surface, his statement sounds fair enough, but it is extraordinarily duplicitous, as it ignores the reality of how legislation gets passed in the City Council. If the Mayor wants lawmakers to support a bill, especially one that doesn’t affect their own constituents, he has to ask them – or compel them – to do so.  Lobbying by advocacy groups, which is important and has been done, cannot take the place of the Mayor exerting his leadership and doing the work behind the scenes to get the bill passed.


According to Council Members, Mayor de Blasio never even asked them to support his bill to ban horse-drawn carriages

During his radio interview, the Mayor attempted to exonerate himself on the grounds that the bill lacks support in the City Council and among members of the public. What he didn’t say is that the reason for this lack of support is his own failure to lead.  As Mayor, it is his job to generate that support, especially in light of the fact that taking carriages off of NYC streets was a signature component of his campaign platform.

Advocates can lobby, educate and protest, but they cannot get the Mayor's bill passed without his leadership

Advocates can lobby, educate and protest, but they cannot get the Mayor’s bill to ban horse-drawn carriages passed in the City Council without his leadership

After the Mayor made his statement, several Council Members (CMs) criticized him for shifting the responsibility for the bill to the City Council, noting that he has made no effort to generate support in the Council. Bronx CM Ritchie Torres told Politico, “The Mayor is the one who sets the agenda, and he is the one who made it a priority for the city. The notion of diverting attention to the City Council strikes me as strange. To the extent that the City Council is advancing the bill, it’s doing so on behalf of the mayor — he said it was going to be a priority from day one, so the horse carriage fight is inseparable from the mayor himself.”

Brooklyn CM Antonio Reynoso echoed Torres’ remarks in an interview with Capital New York: “The horse carriage issue is definitely the mayor’s priority, and if the mayor wants to push it in the City Council, he can do that . . . I don’t think that the responsibility of trying to push this — one of his greatest priorities — is on the Council.”

In 2011, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio (now Mayor), joined fellow Council Member Melissa Mark Viverito (now Speaker) and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer (now Comptroller) to express his support for a ban on horse-drawn carriages

In 2011, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio (now Mayor) expressed his support for a ban on horse-drawn carriages on the steps of City Hall

The Mayor has failed not only to lobby Council Members, but also to build public support; to speak out after carriage accidents were reported; and to address the misinformation reported by the pro-carriage press, the unions and the industry itself. In fact, the Mayor has done virtually nothing to generate support for the bill. His deafening silence and inaction in the face of growing opposition over the past 18 months resulted in a massive erosion of support in both the City Council and the general public – support that advocates spent years building.

Furthermore, the Mayor’s consistent refusal to address the issue in the media, apart from merely reiterating his support for a ban, enabled the opposition to control the story and to portray the local animal advocacy community as a group of misguided, uninformed extremists.

Horses belong in the wild or on pastures, not in Times Square.

Horses belong on pastures or in the wild, not in Times Square

Perhaps even more duplicitous than the Mayor’s decision to renounce his responsibility for this bill is his insistence that NYCLASS, the local animal advocacy group leading the effort, spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a TV commercial (see below) to generate public support for his bill. Why would the Mayor encourage the community to waste such a staggering sum of money, which could have been used to help other animals, in support of a bill that he already knew he had no intention of backing? Was he hoping that NYCLASS would have no money left to hold him accountable after he betrayed the community (and the horses)?

Bill de Blasio won the Mayoral election in 2013 in large part because the animal protection community brought down his chief (anti-animal) rival, Christine Quinn, and donated time and money to his campaign. The community embraced de Blasio because he said that in his administration, animal rights would move from the margins to the mainstream and, of course, because he vowed to take the horses out of harm’s way.

At some point during the past year, however, he made a calculation that walking away from his promise was more politically expedient than working to fulfill it, in spite of the fact that this decision will reflect poorly on him when, during re-election season, voters on both sides of the issue will remember him saying, “Watch me do it!”

The Mayor’s actions – and inaction –  have consequences beyond the potential failure of the bill; the waste of resources; the diminished support among members of the public; and the marginization of the local animal rights community. The horses lives are as bad as ever because the city is not enforcing the laws that govern the industry.

Breaking the law by working during snowstorm

In 2014, the ASPCA, which opposes NYC’s carriage trade but refuses to exert its power and influence to ban it, stopped doing humane law enforcement. That responsibility was assigned to the NYPD, which is unfamiliar with the law and entirely uninterested in enforcing it, thereby leaving the horses at greater risk than ever of being double-shifted, worked in temperature extremes and forced to pull overloaded carriages. When the drivers have free reign, as they do now, the horses suffer.

Your Turn

Please contact the following two people in the Mayor’s office, and demand that the Mayor fulfills his campaign promise: Jon Paul Lupo (Director, Legislative Affairs; 212-788-2971, and Marco Carrion (Commissioner, Community Affairs Unit; 212-788-3137,

If you live in or near NYC, please join the candlelight vigil on Friday night (August 28th)

Please share this article to educate others about the status of the campaign to ban horse-drawn carriages in NYC, and stay tuned for next steps to compel the Mayor to do the work required to fulfill his unmistakable campaign promise.

For more information about the issue, please visit the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages and NYCLASS

If you know anyone who is unsure of why horse-drawn carriages must be banned from NYC, please encourage them to watch BLINDERS The Movie.


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Mayor de Blasio: Keep Your Promise to Ban NYC’s Horse-Drawn Carriages

July 2, 2015 by Leave a Comment


During his campaign for Mayor of NYC and for several months after his victory in 2013, Bill de Blasio so frequently and adamantly declared his intention to ban horse-drawn carriages that some people are under the impression that they are already gone. Eighteen months after he took office, however, the horses remain on NYC’s streets, hauling tourists in the summer heat by day and languishing in cramped midtown buildings by night. What happened?

See “Watch me do it!” compilation video:

In December, 2014, a year after taking office, Mayor de Blasio introduced legislation to phase out the carriages by 2016. Since then, he has spoken about the issue rarely and only in response to questions. Neither carriage accidents nor lies in the press about his motives have triggered him to talk about the issue or his plan.

The Mayor made no comment when a carriage horse escaped from his stable and ran down a Manhattan street.

The Mayor made no comment when a horse escaped and ran down a Manhattan street in 10/2014

The Mayor, a seasoned politician, knows that city lawmakers will vote against his legislation unless he lobbies them to support it. He also knows that no amount of lobbying or advocacy by animal protection groups can get the bill passed if he doesn’t exert his leadership on the issue.

The Mayor’s silence in the face of mounting opposition to his legislation is a mystery not only to advocates but also to New Yorkers who remember that banning carriages was a signature component of his campaign platform. “Watch me do it,” he would say to the cameras.

Can the Mayor preserve his credibility when he runs for re-election if he walks away from this explicit promise? Can he turn his back on NYC’s animal advocacy community, which campaigned for him; toppled the candidacy of his chief (anti-animal) rival; and helped catapult him into Gracie Mansion?

In 2011, Council Member Mayor de Blasio (now Mayor),  joined fellow Council Member Melissa Mark Viverito (now Speaker) and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer (now Comptroller) to express his support for a ban on horse-drawn carriages

In 2011, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio (now Mayor), joined fellow Council Member Melissa Mark Viverito (now Speaker) and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer (now Comptroller) to express his support for a ban on horse-drawn carriages

Since the Mayor took office, advocates with local and national animal protection organizations have spent countless hours lobbying City Council members and hundreds of thousands of dollars educating the public. They have also identified sanctuaries for the horses. But they need the Mayor to do his part. If the Mayor doesn’t demonstrate a commitment to his own legislation, then why would Council Members, who would open themselves up to attacks by the media and labor unions, support it?

Advocates can lobby, educate and protest, but they cannot get the Mayor's bill passed without his leadership

Advocates can lobby, educate and protest, but they cannot get the Mayor’s bill unless he gets behind it

So why has Mayor de Blasio been silent? Only he and members of his administration know what his intentions are. What we do know is that the hundreds of advocates who have dedicated their lives to taking the horses out of harm’s way will hold him accountable until he follows in the footsteps of his counterparts in Mumbai and San Juan, cities that banned horse-drawn carriages in 2015.

Your Turn

Share video to urge Mayor de Blasio to keep his promise to ban horse carriages.

Tweet: Urge NYC Mayor @BilldeBlasio to keep his promise to #BanHorseCarriages! #FreeTheHorses

Contact Mayor de Blasio’s Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Emma Wolfe, to ask her to fulfill the Mayor’s unmistakable promise to ban horse-drawn carriages:

See article Eight Reasons Why Horse-Drawn Carriages Cannot Be Operated Humanely or Safely in NYC.

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NYC Lawmaker Who Opposes Carriage Ban Seeks “Regulations to Prevent Horses from Spooking”

February 5, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

As a vote on the historic bill to ban NYC’s horse-drawn carriages approaches, some lawmakers will say just about anything to justify their politically-motivated support of the carriage trade. Here’s what one City Council Member said on January 28th in an email exchange with an advocate following an in-person meeting.

Advocate (in jest): “Do you believe that regulations can be introduced that would prevent a horse from spooking?
Council Member: “We hope that we can find a sufficient regulatory manner that leads to an environment where horses don’t spook, or if for some reason they do, they won’t be a danger to themselves or others.

Smoothie crashed into a tree and died after spooking in midtown Manhattan.

A NYC carriage horse crashed into a tree and died after spooking in midtown Manhattan.

The vast majority of lawmakers have not yet declared how they intend to vote on the horse-drawn carriage legislation. That is not because they don’t have a point of view about the issue; they are simply waiting to determine which vote would be more politically beneficial (or less politically harmful) to them. One of the questions many are asking themselves is who they are more afraid to alienate: industry supporters (organized labor & media) or industry opponents (the Mayor and advocates). It is a short-sighted approach because, if self-interest is guiding their decision, then they should ask themselves how history will judge them. Future generations will assuredly look at the images of horse-drawn carriages in midtown traffic and ask, “What were they thinking?” Do these lawmakers really want to be on the wrong side of history?

Horse-drawn carriages in midtown traffic?

Horse-drawn carriages in midtown traffic?

The ASPCA is well aware of the fact that politics, and not the merits of the issue, will drive the decision making process, but that has not stopped them from explaining why they unequivocally oppose the use horse-drawn carriages in Manhattan. Following is an excerpt from a CNN opinion piece written by Matt Bershadker, the CEO of the ASPCA:

“There is no better example of an obsolete and unacceptable tradition than NYC’s horse-drawn carriage rides. In the 21st century, using horses to pull heavy loads of tourists through congested city streets is unnatural, unnecessary and an undeniable strain on the horses. And that strain is not restricted to the streets. The stables to which these horses return — former tenement buildings — do not afford horses a paddock for turnout, the ability to graze or the freedom to roll and run. That’s why, as an organization that’s fought for humane treatment of horses since our founding in 1866, we think it’s time to end horse-drawn carriage rides. No counterargument stands up to the sheer absurdity of this antiquated practice, though many who profit from it keep trying.”

How can a Council Member refute that? Not well, if this email exchange with aforementioned Council Member is any indication:

Advocate: “Do you believe that the ASPCA is incorrect in its conclusion that horse-drawn carriages can no longer be operated humanely in NYC?”
Council Member: “We are definitely taking the ASPCA’s statements into consideration as we go forward.”

Beast of burden, NYC

Beast of burden, NYC

Your Turn

1. If you live in NYC, please join NY-CLASS in its efforts to rally support among lawmakers for the Mayor’s bill to ban horse-drawn carriages. Otherwise, please sign their petition.

2. To learn more about the issue and keep apprised of news, subscribe to the weekly newsletter of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages.

3. Watch the award-winning documentary film BLINDERS to see why people have been fighting for years to take the horses out of NYC:

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Carriage Company in New Orleans Disposed of Dead Mule Before SPCA Could Conduct Autopsy

January 23, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

Will the death of mule on the street during rush hour finally bring attention to the plight of the beasts of burden who pull 9-person carriages in the hot and chaotic streets of New Orleans? Evlin Lake, a local activist and one of the lone voices for the downtrodden mules, is desperately hoping it will.

Dead carriage mule of flatbed truck (photo: Nola Defender)

Dead carriage mule in New Orleans (photo: Nola Defender)

On January 19th, the Nola Defender, a local newspaper, reported that “the death of a mule caused traffic delays” in the French Quarter. If it wasn’t for that article and the photo that accompanied it, neither Ms. Lake nor the Louisiana SPCA, which is responsible for humane law enforcement (HLE), would have learned about the mule’s death.

Amanda Pumilia, the SPCA’s Animal Control Supervisor, told TheirTurn, “We would have liked to investigate the death, but they dragged the mule away on a flatbed truck.” The SPCA does not know which mule died or the carriage company that hauled him or her away.

The SPCA’s HLE department responds to cruelty complaints, but it does not patrol the streets on a day-to-day basis to ensure that the mule-drawn carriage drivers obey the law. According to local activists, the lack of enforcement gives the drivers free rein to overload their carriages and work in the extreme heat.

Carriage mule in New Orleans (photo:

From left to right: French Quarter revelers, beast of burden (photo:

photo: Melanie Stetson Freeman/Christian Science Monitor

photo: Melanie Stetson Freeman/Christian Science Monitor

On January 19th, when the unidentified mule died in the street, Ms. Lake quickly organized a rally to raise awareness of the tragic incident. Two local carriage drivers posing as “reporters from Philadelphia” kept her fully occupied to prevent her from speaking to tourists, but a fellow activist did manage to capture video of a distressed mule, which, activists say, is a common site in French Quarter.

“In New Orleans, the mules really suffer,” said Ms. Lake. “They work in the sweltering heat and humidity amongst rowdy, drunk tourists. I often see them foaming at the mouth. How could anyone think this is okay? The mules here have it just as bad as, if not worse, than the horses in New York and mules in Charleston, but, sadly, our victims don’t seem to attract much media attention.”

Evlin Lake (photo: Craig Morse)

Evlin Lake (photo: Craig Morse)

The mule-drawn carriage drivers argue that they treat their animals – the source of their livelihood – well.

Your Turn

Please sign the petition directed to city and state elected officials to ban mule-drawn carriages in New Orleans.

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