NEW YORK -- A horse pulling two tourists on a carriage ride in Manhattan bolted in fear Thursday and ran several blocks after apparently colliding with a vehicle, tearing away from the carriage and leaving it and the passengers sprawled in the street.
The brown-and-white horse was eventually caught, tied to a pole and tranquilized, sinking heavily to the pavement as police officers and passers-by watched. Neither the tourists nor the driver were reported to have been seriously hurt. The horse was also reported to be fine.
The chaos began about 4:20 p.m., but witnesses gave varying accounts of how it happened. Some said the horse became frightened and ran out of control after being hit by a limousine driver. Some said a truck's loud horn startled the horse, which then collided with a car. And some said the horse and a vehicle collided as the carriage driver tried to merge into traffic.
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One thing was clear: The carriage driver was on the street, possibly trying to calm the animal down, when the horse began running through the crowded streets with a frightened Australian couple in the cheerful red-and-white carriage. At some point, the carriage tipped over but the horse kept going, tearing away from the cart. It was captured on 9th Avenue by a passer-by and a police officer.
“It was a little scary seeing a horse running down 9th Ave.,” one witness, Gaelle Paul, told the Daily News.
Horse-drawn carriages are a fixture around Central Park, and the industry has thrived despite animal groups' efforts to outlaw carriage rides. In 2009, one couple took their protest to new levels by using their Central Park wedding as a platform to protest the carriage industry.
In 2007, a carriage horse named Smoothie crashed into a tree and died after being startled by a loud noise. Two years ago, a horse named Charlie collapsed and died. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said Charlie, who was about 15, was too old to be working as a carriage horse and should never have been on the streets.
The Horse and Carriage Assn. of New York says strict laws ensure the horses are well-fed, watered and protected from working in adverse conditions such as extreme heat or cold. Riders pay more than $35 for a half-hour of clopping through the city, and the industry enjoys support from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who says it provides employment and is an important part of tourists' New York experience.
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