An incident involving horses owned by Victoria Carriage Tours left one vehicle damaged at Ogden Point Friday — the second such incident involving the same company in the past three months.
Cathy Heronemus had disembarked from a cruise ship at approximately 7:45 p.m. and was waiting for a shuttle in a crowd of roughly 200 people when a horse-drawn trolley carrying about 10 passengers pulled into view.
She didn’t see what happened, but something spooked the pair of horses leading the carriage. Directed by the trolley operator, they veered into a minivan parked across from the line of people.
“Had the horses not veered and gone into the crowd there would have been some serious injuries. At least 50 people would have been impacted from that,” Heronemus said, describing how she saw the horses’ front hooves on top of the car.
“If horses get spooked by noises and you’ve got buses that backfire and people around that doesn’t seem like a good area.”
|Onlookers survey the damage to a vehicle at Ogden Point after horses from Victoria Carriage Tours veered into the parked minivan Friday evening at Ogden Point. Cathy Heronemus photo|
Heronemus, visiting from Delaware on a photography trip, had her camera handy and started snapping photos of the incident. Damage to the vehicle’s roof and passenger side doors is evident in her shots as well as what may be a small amount of blood on the door. The horses’ harness was also fully inside the vehicle while still attached.
“Had someone been in that car, they would have been injured seriously,” she said.
Heronemus said the the operator remained calm, as did the horses after the altercation when they were individually walked to an area in Ogden Point, where she saw them being attended to as she left the parking lot in the shuttle.
“I have no irons in this fire. I’m not an animal activist, but I was really worried about these horses.”
She googled the incident when she got home to see if anyone had reported it and found the Victoria Horse Alliance.
Jordan Reichert, Alliance founder, had already heard about the incident from another witness, Corie Kielbiski, who had sent photos.
“There were reports that [the horses] were somewhat injured — at least they were bleeding and their bridles were tangled,” Reichert said. “Certainly the carriage companies don’t want this type of thing getting out to the public.”
In a series of emailed statements to Black Press, Katarina Sjoblom of Victoria Carriage Tours confirmed there was damage to a vehicle as a result of an incident involving the company’s horses and that the company is in contact with the owner.
“A unforseen equipment issue caused a horse to startle. The driver had the instinct to direct the horse to find the closest barrier in order to stop and prevent the incident from escalating thus allowing for the health and safety of horses and passengers,” Sjoblom wrote.
Sjoblom said reports that the horses were on top of the car with their hooves, and that the horses were injured are not true.
“Never at anytime did the hooves leave the ground. My staff have 40 years of horse experience they are professionals, they were right there.”
Horses are intelligent animals you cannot make a 2,000 pound horse work with you unless they choose to as well, she added.
|Horses from Victoria Carriage Tours were involved in an incident Friday Aug. 17 at Ogden Point damaging a parked vehicle. Cathy Heronemus|
In May, a video showing two horses from Victoria Carriage Tours laying on their side and struggling to get back on their feet, went viral – Reichert said it’s hit half a million views between Facebook and YouTube.
As a result, the BC SPCA went public with recommendations to ban horse-drawn carriages from Victoria’s streets in a letter to City council. Reichert, who is running in the municipal election this fall, called the incident “a significant turning point.”
“It’s amazing. You can document everything with pictures and tell people everything that is happening but until they see a video of horses on the ground struggling to get up, it just doesn’t resonate the same way,” he said.
People often miss the point to some degree that horse carriages are from a bygone era, he pointed out.
“Our values have evolved, our cities have evolved and it’s time that our public policy evolves to reflect that we don’t support the exploitation of animals for profit on our city streets.”