Cause of New York Carriage Horse's Death Remains Unknown

Despite the completion of a gross necropsy, the cause of death of a New York City carriage horse remains unknown, according to a press release from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The 15-year-old Draft horse collapsed and died in October en route to Central Park while pulling a tourist carriage.

The media release indicated that the necropsy carried out at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine included histopathology of all body tissues; special stains of the liver, heart, and brain; and a parasitology analysis.

The release indicates the final pathology report noted:

  • "There was a significant amount of tissue breakdown after death. Though the visual examination of the stomach showed gastritis (inflammation of the stomach), much of what was seen visually may have been the result of tissue breakdown after death. There is no evidence of gastritis in the microscopic sections of the stomach, though tissue breakdown may have obscured subtle abnormalities. The firm area of the stomach noted visually is a result of muscular enlargement rather than scarring";
  • "The presence of inflammation in the small intestine and a nodule in the large intestine both indicate parasites. However, these findings were not severe and given the good nutritional condition of the horse not causing significant problems"; and
  • "The liver had evidence of scarring but the cause of this is unknown; however, it has been reported in cases involving heart conditions. No abnormalities were seen in the heart. In this case the liver scarring was chronic and of unknown clinical significance."

"The cause of death in this horse remains unknown," the report continued. "There was no evidence of a sudden onset of any abnormalities to account for the collapse. It is possible that the horse had some degree of a heart condition; however, this cannot be conclusively demonstrated.

"We cannot rule out recent toxin exposure, abnormal heartbeat, or allergic reaction as the development of changes in tissue requires that the animal remain alive for at least 12 hours after the event or exposure."

The ASPCA indicated that with the inconclusive findings of the necropsy, the case is now closed.

About the Author

Erica Larson, News Editor

Erica Larson, news editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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