The handler of a frail carriage horse that collapsed on a busy Manhattan street and later died — causing advocates to call for a ban on the industry — has been hit with animal abuse charges more than a year after the horrifying ordeal, prosecutors said Wednesday.
Ian McKeever, 54, was charged with one count of overdriving, torturing and injuring animals and failure to provide proper sustenance in the Aug. 10, 2022 tragedy that left Ryder — a malnourished, underweight Standardbred — sprawled in the middle of a Hell’s Kitchen street.
“It’s politicized — that’s what it is,” McKeever said following his first court appearance in the case Wednesday — as he denied ever hurting a horse.
Dramatic cellphone footage shared widely online had captured McKeever repeatedly trying to force the collapsed horse to stand back up by pulling on the reins.
“Get up!” the carriage horse driver ordered while whipping the animal — only for Ryder to keel over on his side.
Prosecutors said in court that McKeever had been working with Ryder in Central Park since 9:30 a.m. when the thin and frail horse collapsed in the middle of West 45th Street and Ninth Avenue.
Cops intervened and repeatedly poured cold water and ice over the poor horse that was grounded in 84-degree heat for 45 minutes, according to police.
At the time, McKeever told cops that Ryder was 13 years old and had just finished a 7 1/2-hour shift, but a veterinary exam determined that the horse was “28-30 years old,” according to the NYPD.
Ryder was euthanized months after the viral incident due to his poor health, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said.
“As alleged, Ryder should not have been working on this hot summer day. Despite his condition, he was out for hours and worked to the point of collapse,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement.
“All animals deserve to be treated with the utmost care and the type of abuse that Ryder allegedly suffered is unacceptable.”
McKeever’s attorney Raymond Loving said that the timing of the charges felt like a political hit-job.
“All this happened in the last year and it’s taken them a whole year to decide to prosecute this case. Are you out of your mind?,” Loving said outside court. “People have known about this. This case is politicized.”
The DA’s Office said it was “reviewing” Ryder’s case last year, but it remained unclear why it took so long to prosecute McKeever.
McKeever was released after his brief hearing in Manhattan Criminal Court.
An animal activist outside of court accused him of working Ryder to death, calling for a ban on horse carriages in the Big Apple.
“How many other horses did you work to death? You have so much blood on your hands!” the activist said.
Later, McKeever lit a cigarette and was asked about being labeled a horse killer.
“She’s full of s–t,” McKeever said with a smile. “What my lawyer is saying is true,” he added about Loving’s claim the case was political.
“No, I’ve never harmed a horse in my life — ever.”
City Council Member Robert Holden, who pushed for a hearing on his bill to ban the carriage horse industry following Ryder’s collapse, hailed the DA’s decision to bring charges against the driver.
“Animal cruelty should never be tolerated in our city, and I applaud Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg for pursuing justice on behalf of Ryder,” he said in a statement Wednesday.
McKeever’s next court appearance is on Dec. 20.