Report: Incident that led to carriage horse’s death was ‘preventable’

Updated: Jul. 22, 2020 at 4:21 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A city of Charleston report states an incident involving a runaway carriage horse that ended up having to be euthanized because of its injuries was “preventable” and recommends updating a city ordinance to add additional safety measures.

The incident happened Sunday night, when Ervin, a draft horse who had been with the Old South Carriage Company since 2018, took off running with an attached empty carriage near the barn while workers were trying to unattach him from the carriage after the final tour of the day. By the time he carriage company workers were able to catch up to him, he had sustained injuries to his legs and a veterinarian determined the best course of action would be to humanely euthanize the horse.

Investigators with the city’s Department of Livability and Tourism determined the actions of two employees who were detaching Ervin’s tack from the carriage allowed the horse to break free from his handlers.

Equine Manager Shannon Tilman said that removing a bridle before a carriage is unhooked from an equine will not allow for proper control of the animal, which she said is paramount in this stage of detaching an animal from a carriage. Additionally, Tilman said that the tour guide did not remain on the carriage while handlers were detaching the carriage, which is an added precaution that is normally performed by carriage operators.

While the horse was able to break free because of preventable errors in operation, neither of the horse’s handlers violated the criminal ordinance previously outlined for horse handling, the report states.

In an effort to prevent future incidents while attaching or detaching a horse from its carriage, officials have recommended that City of Charleston’s ordinance on horses be amended to include an additional safety measure to restrain the horse during the hitching process.

More commonly referred to as the “Cross-tie” method, officials say using two ropes or ties affixed to both sides of the halter and attached securely to a wall or post on either side of the horse will be a needed safety measure for attaching or detaching a carriage.

The city’s contacted equine veterinarian, Dr. Sabrina Jacobs of Performance Equine Vets, was provided with the findings and recommendations from the Department of Livability and Tourism and the city is awaiting her review, the report states.

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