Paddy is a noble steed. A white Percheron draft, tall and graceful, he has pulled carriages through Central Park since the beginning of the new millennium. And next month, after more than a decade of providing leisure for others, he will finally get his due: Paddy is retiring.
"In the twelve years that I've owned him, he has only gotten sick once," Stephen Malone, a carriage driver, told me on a recent morning visit to Clinton Park Stables, located on 52nd Street near the Hudson River. "It's a testament to owner and horse."
Malone, spokesman for the Horse and Carriage Association of New York, is perhaps more of a veteran of the New York horse-drawn carriage trade than Paddy, who is 17 years old.
On May 17, a week after Paddy retires, Malone, 42, will celebrate his 25th year driving carriages. His father, a farrier from Ireland, got his start in the business by fitting horseshoes and bought his first carriage in 1967.
Paddy was hauling vegetables in Ohio before Malone found him through an Amish horse dealer named Paul Martin. (Malone said that most horses in the carriage industry come from the Amish. Makes sense, when you think about it.) Malone brought Paddy into New York, for the first time, on Saint Patrick's Day—hence his name.
But the horse's tie with the holiday didn't end there. Last year, Paddy was the first carriage horse to ride in the Saint Patrick's Day Parade, according to Malone. And not just as a participant — he led the parade, drawing the carriage of the acting grand marshal, mystery writer Mary Higgins Clark.
It seems that Paddy has had an illustrious career. He should be proud. Plus, the timing is just right that he can trot away with dignity. Malone said that Paddy will be retiring at Blue Star Equiculture, a nonprofit horse sanctuary in Palmer, Massachusetts, which has recently partnered with the Horse and Carriage Association of New York.
The association has drawn criticism from animal rights activists for only now having an official retirement home for horses. And the carriage industry itself has lately been saddled with controversy, as activists have pushed for legislation that would ban horse-drawn carriages in the city altogether.
"Never say never," Malone said of the proposed ban, but he does not predict it will pass.
Malone said he has owned close to 20 horses in his tenure as a carriage driver, and he currently owns five, including Paddy. "In all my years..." Malone said, trailing off as he reflected on his time with this elegant Percheron. "My father always taught me: a big man needs a big horse." (Malone seemed well over six feet.)
As I spoke with Malone in front of the stables before he and Paddy took off for the park on one of a handful of their remaining rides together, a young girl and her mother were watching from across the street.
Malone invited them over to pet Paddy, who was standing patiently in a spot of sun. Paddy had just returned from a five month vacation in Denver, Pennsylvania, where Malone rents space to keep his horses on a rest rotation. ( By law , carriage horses must receive at least five weeks vacation every year.) Paddy seemed relaxed.
After the girl had the chance to pet him, her mother asked how long Paddy had been in the trade.
When Malone told her the answer, she said: "That's a lot of walking."
Take a look around Clinton Park Stables, where Paddy lives >
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