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Volume XXIX, Number 6079
Thursday, Apr 17, 2014

Four-Legged Parkies Make Their Exit

Former Parkie, Pete, enjoying his retirement;
Former Parkie, Pete, enjoying his retirement;
Photo by Robin Wickert

Our March 12 edition of The Daily Plant carried the tale of Ben, one of the more well-known equine members of our NYC Parks Enforcement Mounted Unit, who passed away on March 9. While members of the unit and Ben's many fans were still dealing with his loss, we learned of the unexpected passing of Ben's retired half-brother, Jerry, on March 28.

Jerry was a Clydesdale who joined Parks as a 6-year-old gelding in 2000, along with Ben. Like Ben, Jerry had a kind, loving personality that drew people young and old to him over the years. Charmed by his gentle nature, soulful eyes and velvety nose, they learned how to groom, give treats and ride. Jerry was 14 years old when he was diagnosed with Equine Metabolic Syndrome - a disease similar to type-2 diabetes in humans -- which necessitated his retirement in 2009 to a beautiful, 127-acre farm in Colts Neck, NJ. There, he became good buddies with a miniature horse named "Georgie."

Nor was Jerry's sphere of influence limited to New Yorkers and tiny horses, as illustrated by a conversation relayed by his adoptive farm family. They reported that one of their neighbors came by asking about Jerry a few days after he passed because he hadn't seen the horse out grazing. "He lowered his head after hearing the sad news and said, 'I talked to Jerry every morning from my window. He helped me get through my day.' "

Like Ben's, Jerry's spirit lingers in the paddocks and along the bridle paths of many City parks and in the memories of countless Mounted officers, children, and park visitors.

On a happier -- or perhaps bittersweet -- note, two more Parks Mounted Unit horses retired last week. Monte, currently on Staten Island, is a gelded, 16-year- old Percheron cross retiring this year because of a chronic breathing condition. He was purchased by the Mounted Auxiliary in 2003. Monte will retire to the same beautiful farm in Flemington, NJ where Ben spent his final years. His presence will help ease the sadness of losing Ben.

Pete, currently working in Manhattan out of Central Park's stable, is a 13-year-old Percheron who joined Parks in 2008 as a 7-year old. Pete suffers from a serious type of chronic lameness which has necessitated his retirement. He will relocate to a New Jersey farm where he will make new friends, nibble clover, gambol in the sun, and enjoy life.

While there won't be any retirement parties, or gift baskets for these exiting members of the Agency, their absence will be deeply felt for a long time to come.

Submitted by Deborah Zingale, Urban Park Service


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