An assistant director of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says the horse was startled by a street performer playing a drum. The assistant director, Joseph Pentangelo, says the horse ran nearly a block along the sidewalk on the southern edge of the park before colliding with the tree.
"We are devastated by the tragic and sudden loss of our mare Smoothie," said Carolyn Daly, a spokeswoman for the Horse & Carriage Association of New York. "This afternoon's freak accident was overwhelming to all of us in the industry who so dearly love our horses."
Daly said Smoothie was 13 and had been a carriage horse for only a year.
No people were injured, but witnesses tell the ASPCA that the incident spooked a second horse. That horse ran into the street and the buggy it was pulling crashed into a Mercedez Benz sedan.
A quick thinking patron at a nearby restaurant was able to prevent the second horse from incurring any further damage. Roger Watkins explained his role in the incident to WCBS reporter John Metaxas, "I jumped up from the table, grabbed the horse and to try and calm the horse down, brought him over here and tied him to the pole."
The incident comes amid increased scrutiny of the carriage horse industry in New York. An audit released by the city last week concluded the animals work without enough water, shade or oversight from authorities.