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Injured Central Park Carriage Horse Headed to Massachusetts Sanctuary

By Joe Parziale | August 29, 2012 2:06pm | Updated on August 29, 2012 2:15pm

MIDTOWN — The carriage horse injured earlier this month after a collision with a car in Central Park is hanging up its harness, officials said Wednesday.

The white-and-black-spotted horse, named Oreo, has been issued a clean bill of health in the wake of its collision, according to the Horse and Carriage Association of New York, an industry organization that represents carriage drivers — however, officials decided that the horse is no longer fit to cart tourists around Central Park.

"Just like New York is not for every New Yorker, it's not for every horse," said Stephen Malone, an association spokesman. "We don't want to put the horse back in that environment."

Instead, Oreo will be taken into the care of the Massachusetts-based Blue Star Equiculture, a horse sanctuary that agreed earlier this year to take in NYC carriage horses that can no longer work the streets. The sanctuary has taken in four other carriage horses so far since announcing a partnership with the association in March.

Blue Star's director, Pamela Rickenbach, said it was important that Oreo stay active to remain in good health, and added that the horse will likely be put to work in farming or gardening.

"We're not going to place [the horses] in a home where they'll just be sitting in a pasture," said Rickenbach. "Every horse is different, and it's our job to tend to his needs."

Oreo sustained minor injuries on Aug. 16 after freeing itself from its harness and bolting down Seventh Avenue near Central Park and hitting a car. The driver of the carriage and its two passengers were also treated for minor injuries.

The carriage industry is a controversial one, consistently pitting drivers and their representatives against advocates who say the industry should be banned because it's cruel to animals.

Malone said the horse was startled after debris fell from a nearby construction site on West 59th Street. He pointed out that the incident was an aberration.

"Since the incident, over 2,000 horses have passed by that same site without incident," he said. "It was just one of those unfortunate things."