Video of carriage horse fall in Victoria not what it looks like, operators say
A video of two carriage horses trying to get up after a fall at Victoria's Ogden Point has reignited debate over the industry.
The video, posted to Facebook Monday by the animal activist group Victoria Horse Alliance, shows two horses lying on their sides as handlers try get them to stand up again.
During the roughly five-minute video, one of the horses tries to get on its feet but fails, coming to a rest on its side once again.
After several minutes, both of the horses are helped back up on their feet to cheers from a gathering crowd.
Critics of the city's horse-drawn carriage industry are pointing to the video as an example of why the industry should be banned in Victoria.
"It was pretty heartbreaking to see," said animal activist Dave Shishkoff, who runs the online blog The Victoria Vegan. "Just the horses lying down, collapsed, struggling to get up. The video was five minutes before they stood up, so they were in distress for a long time."
Victoria Carriage Tours, the company involved in the incident, said the short video doesn't show the whole story.
The company said the horses simply slipped while trying to back up but couldn't because a bus was too close behind them.
"Our horses are trained to stay down once they realize they can't get back up on their own," said head horse trainer Emily May. "They also would have seen a number of equestrians, once the horses were back on their feet, commenting on how expertly our staff handled it, and in my opinion more importantly, commenting on how amazingly calm the horses were once they were back on their feet."
She said it's only the second time in more than a decade that the company's horses have fallen on-duty, and in both cases, the animals were uninjured.
"The horses were not injured at all, either in that moment visibly to our experts, or when checked by the vet the next day," said May.
Still, the footage has rekindled a debate that has reared its head in the capital city for decades.
During the summer of 2012, a horse for a different carriage company got spooked and sent a tourist on a wild ride through downtown Victoria.
Like that incident, the video recently posted to Facebook has activists once again calling on city council to ban the tours.
"It just doesn't seem fair to the horse to have to walk around on the streets," said Shishka. "They're constantly in danger dealing with traffic, breathing in fumes. It's just not a very good environment for horses."
Council recently voted to allow horse carriages to park near the B.C. Legislature for another five years, but at least one councillor has admitted to having second thoughts.
"I'm always open to consider any of my decisions, and for this, I'll have to find out more information," said Coun. Charlayne Thornton-Joe.
Victoria Carriage Tours defended the practice, arguing it's good for the health of the horses.
"These horses live on average 10 years longer than their breed tends to because of the hours they work," said May. "These horses are so big and strong, pulling is the best type of labour for their body."
The company said though it has never had a horse or person injured in an accident, it will be changing one policy in case a horse falls in the future – staff will remove the animal's harness first before trying to help it up.