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Amid Carriage Debate, Silence on Race Horse Deaths Confuses Some

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TWC News: Amid Carriage Debate, Silence on Race Horse Deaths Confuses Some
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(A warning - you may find some of the images in this report disturbing.)
If Mayor Bill de Blasio follows through on a campaign promise, horses that pull carriages in Manhattan could be banned, but in another borough, horses face a much more dangerous existence, so dangerous that many of the animals end up dead. NY1's Josh Robin filed the following report.

She was a longshot at Aqueduct track one afternoon last February. At the home stretch, the four-year old's career came to an abrupt end. She fell over another horse.

Andromeda's Coming had a broken leg. The jockey was OK. The horse was euthanized.

It wasn't a one-off accident. Seventeen horses died at the Queens track during the season ending last month. Ten of them died during races.

After another recent spill, amazingly, only one horse suffered fatal injuries.

Almost 150 have died since March 2009, most of them from injuries during races.

"That's a statistic I had not heard more before, and obviously concerns me," said Mayor Bill de Blasio. "I need to find out more about it."

De Blasio is instead is pushing to ban the smaller carriage fleet.

"I believe it's inhumane," he said last month.

His silence on thoroughbred deaths confuses some.

"At Aqueduct, you could just bump a horse, and a horse can go down or a jockey can go down," said horse racing analyst John DaSilva. "But you would think with cars, it would be more dangerous, but it actually seems much safer with the carriage horses."

Assemblyman David Weprin backs tighter regulation at the race track. He said that's helped keep carriage horses well-cared for.

"I didn't understand the logic, though, of why targeting the horse carriage industry versus other uses of horses," Weprin said. "Horses have been working in New York City for over 150 years."

Six carriage horses died in the last five years, but none after accidents, riders say.

Critics of horse carriages said that number doesn't reflect the mystery of where the animals end up after they're no longer useful and are taken out of the city.

"No one knows, so we can only come to the conclusion that a number of them are ending up in slaughterhouses, are ending up on dinner plates in Europe and Asia," said Edita Birnkrant of Friends of Animals. "And that's horrifying."

Critics believe carriage horses have a miserable existence while alive. To be sure, they also want to see horse racing reformed, but they acknowledge focusing on horse carriages. They see a strategy: ban the more-visible carriage horses first, making it easier for race horses to follow their lead.

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