Ryder: We Found Him at Clover Hill Farm, and It’s No Sanctuary

Center for a Humane Economy says Ryder and all 160 NYC Carriage Horses at Risk

Thanks to a tip from a tenacious, sleuthing horse rescuer in upstate New York, the Center for a Humane Economy is releasing news that a battered New York City carriage horse named Ryder has been secretly kept at Clover Hill Farm in Wallkill, New York, under the care of Marcy Brennen, just days after the horse went down in a heap on a city street.

It’s good news that we know where Ryder is. But it’s bad news that he’s landed at this operation. In short, we don’t believe he’s safe at Clover Hill Farm.

Clover Hill Farm is no sanctuary, and its central mission appears to be commercial, not centered around the idea of expertly caring for sick, abandoned, or unwanted horses or providing lifetime care and security for them.

This farm is alleged to be connected to the carriage-horse industry and it’s apparent that his movement there has been designed to keep eyes off of this horse, while the industry provides false assurances that he’s recovering and at a place with excellent caretaking capacity.

Why Are We Releasing the Name?

The city’s public health department is charged with oversight of the carriage horse industry, including veterinary care for horses at work pulling paying customers, and granting them relief and protection when they are ill. This office is supposed to make certain that health records, including age, are certified and licensed drivers follow the law.

What has not been reported is that the critical job of Equine Veterinarian under New York City’s Veterinary bureau has been unfilled for a long while. In fact, there was a call for applicants the day before Ryder collapsed, presaging perhaps why this position is so fundamental. Horses are at the center of the carriage-horse enterprise, yet care for horses has been so low a priority that the city did not even take the time to actively recruit for this position. This smacks of negligence and presents one more reason for the public to doubt that working horses are being protected by industry or government.

According to the job description, here are some key responsibilities:

  • inspect stables
  • investigate rental horse related complaints and conduct surveys of horses in Central Park and other locations in the City.
  • review all required documents including the Certificates of Health for horses used for commercial purposes to ensure completeness and compliance with laws.
  • monitor general environmental health and safety of licensed horses and enforce laws related to humane work conditions.
  • educate horse and stable owners about related laws and regulations.
  • review animal health documents and conditions for animal exhibit requests and inspect exhibits.

Ryder wasn’t the first carriage horse to collapse or die on the job, but his plight and his agony were captured on video, exposing the callous priorities of this industry. Everyone watched in horror as the driver, instead of giving aid and comfort to the downed animal, grabbed the gelding’s face and struck him, and yelled at him to “get up.”

When the horse bravely struggled and stood up after an hour — once police cooled his body with water — crowds cheered; you could hear the cry, “he’s up!”

Just as the crowd expressed joy on the horse’s standing, those who watched the video were shocked and saddened by the weakened horse down on the ground and unable to rise for so long.

This one bay horse with mass appeal is not an outlier, but a case example that is finally bringing to light the bad players that make up the core of an inhumane industry. For example:

  • Ryder’s driver, Ian McKeever, flat-out lied about the horse’s age. By law, New York City carriage horses are not allowed to work after age 26. But McKeever told his longtime friend, Ken Frydman, that he knew Ryder was 30 years old and had bought him “cheap.” The Center talked directly to Frydman, who, at one time, was arguably the most influential spokesman for New York City’s carriage horse industry. “There’s no way around it,” Frydman told the Center. “Ian was trying to squeeze every last bit of work out of this horse.”
  • Another fact that has come to light is that the owner of the horse was not Ian McKeever, but both Ian and his brother, Colm McKeever, own Ryder. Colm is a former driver and New York Real Estate agent.
  • And that Ryder’s new caretaker/owner, Marcy Brennan, is entrenched within the industry, and does not operate as a genuine horse rescue farm. The industry has promoted Ryder’s new location as safe but there are numerous other facilities that are independent of the industry and with more expertise on animal care, especially for an animal in need of such active rehabilitation and daily medical attention.

In sum, the public has been delivered a feed bag of secrecy and lies, mainly from the industry but with the complicity of the city. When it comes to animal welfare, these folks put the cart before the horse.

Together, We Can Help Ryder and Other Horses, Too

The Center for a Humane Economy continues to receive calls and emails daily from people asking if we know exactly where this horse is, and if he is safe. Today we have an answer.

Horse sanctuaries with proper qualifications are ready and want to allow him to recover and then to find a suitable permanent home for him, perhaps by an adopter with the ability to provide top-flight care.

Citizens are demanding criminal charges against the driver for animal cruelty, which we desperately hope the Manhattan District Attorney is teeing up.

The Center is dedicated to the health and immediate retirement of all carriage horses who are wrongly being forced to work long hours, in extreme heat and cold, until they collapse or die.

The truth is, the core players in the carriage-horse industry don’t give a damn about the horses under its charge. They put profits over animal care time and again, and never more brazenly than with Ryder, who is still being held by a surrogate for the industry. Mindful of the industry’s craven quest for profits over animal welfare, we fear he’ll disappear in the night on a trailer bound for a slaughter plant in Canada or Mexico.

Exposing Ryder’s new secret “home” among industry insiders is a start. The Center has also called for an independent veterinary assessment for all 160 licensed horses working in the city. And, of course, for Ryder himself. We have gleaned intelligence that there are other horses with gaunt body conditions similar to Ryder’s and who should not be on New York’s choked streets, dodging cars, cabs, and trucks.

Our source followed Ryder after he went down and was sent back to city stables. The Center is told that perhaps six other working horses at a single stable appear to be the same poor, under-nourished condition as Ryder. There are two other major stables that house carriage horses.

Ryder’s age is significant, explains the Center’s Director of Veterinary Services Jim Keen, who has issued a veterinary review and analysis of Ryder:

“Ryder’s age and condition is similar to that of a 90-year-old man pulling a cart full of people,” Keen says.  

All the while, the Center also recognizes that the drivers are stakeholders in this ongoing debate, and that’s precisely why the transformation from horsepower to green energy-driven electric carts is the best solution. That’s the transition, and the economic opportunity, built into City Council member Bob Holden’s bill to end the live-animal carriage horse trade.

What You Can Do Today:

The Center would like to thank every individual who has reached out to ask for help for Ryder and all carriage horses. Here are some action steps you can join us in taking today:

  • Remain alert and keenly aware of other working carriage horses on the streets. Because of proven lack of staff, care and oversight, these animals remain at risk. Report if you see working horses that look unhealthy, thin, stressed, overworked or too old to be working. Share photos and videos on social media, including ours.
  • Call New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams TODAY. Tell her to promote Introduction 573 to replace horse carriages with electric carts in New York. The streets of New York or any other city are no place for horses. Phone for Adams: (212) 788-7210 or (718) 206-2068
  • Call the Office of Veterinary Public Health Services, which is charged with oversight of carriage horses in New York City and ask for the immediate release of all health examination records for all working horses licensed to work in New York City, along with certificates of age signed by a veterinarian. Horses are supposed to have biannual examinations. According to its own website, this public office is “committed to the well-being of all NYC working horses.” Remind them of this commitment, and that carriage horse drivers with certified licenses have to follow humane rules and regulations for the well-being of rental horses. Phone: (646) 364-1783

Share official responses on social media.

  • Call the Central Park Conservancy, which prominently promotes carriage horse riding with a photograph of a horse-drawn carriage on their website. When the Center called to ask for a statement on Ryder, their agent told us that they don’t care about this issue because “it has nothing to do with them.” Tell them that it does. Phone: (212) 310 6600
  • If you have friends or relatives visiting New York City, encourage them to never pay for a carriage ride. There are endless forms of activities in America’s biggest and most vibrant city. More ideas here: New York City tourism

Julie Marshall has worked in journalism for 30 years as a reporter for The Orange County Register, and as a features writer and opinion editor for the Boulder Daily Camera. She is the author of “Making Burros Fly: Cleveland Amory, Animal Rescue Pioneer” and works as National Communications Coordinator for the Center for a Humane Economy based in Washington, D.C.

Photo: A close-up of Ryder shows additional evidence that the horse was too old and too sick for carriage duty and deserves a safe, comfortable and loving remainder of his life. Credit: Robert Miller