In 1971 J. Standard Baker Quoted " Drivers Towing Trailers Are Four (4) Times As Unsafe As Those In Cars Alone!
Cheap And Poorly Maintained Horse Trailer Owned By A Horse Company Touring Business In Florida Kills Their Own Horses But They Got A New Trailer....We wounder Why?
'Tragic accident' results in new trailer for Tours on Horseback..
The Old Trailer Was Total Garbage And You Bet Your Life We Let The Leaders Know How Defective The Horse Trailer Was
Tours on Horseback gets new driver, trailer after fatal horse-dragging on South A1ACheryl Smith, Treasure Coast Newspapers Published 7:14 p.m. ET June 29, 2018
Tours on Horseback gets new driver, trailer after fatal horse-dragging on South A1A
Cheryl Smith, Treasure Coast Newspapers Published 7:14 p.m. ET June 29, 2018
(Photo: PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY ST. LUCIE COUNTY FIRE DISTRICT)
Three months after the dragging death of one of its thoroughbreds, a beachfront horseback riding contractor in St. Lucie County has adjusted some of its business practices but will not be subject to enhanced county regulation.
That’s despite lingering questions from horse-safety advocates who say the company could have done more to prevent the animal’s death.
Tours on Horseback has replaced its transport trailer and driver since Smokey fell through the floor and was dragged 1.5 miles to his death April 5 on South State Road A1A, the company’s owner said.
Alan Hayes said he now uses an enclosed aluminum trailer instead of his open livestock trailer, whose bowing floorboards were set into a rusted metal frame, investigators’ photos and videos show. Hayes also said driver John Baumker quit his job.
No one was cited because no laws were broken and no agencies regulate such trailers, according to city, county and state officials. The city ruled Smokey’s death an accident.
Some witnesses, horse-transport experts, online “horse community” commenters and South Beach residents took issue with that assessment, instead blaming a combination of careless driving and the trailer’s condition.
“Had we known that,” Hayes said when TCPalm asked about the bowing floorboards and rusted metal, “it might have been prevented, but I don’t think so."
Hayes said he thinks a horse kicked and broke the floorboards, which he claimed “weren’t all that old.”
"We wash the trailers when they come home every day. Walking on those boards, if we feel any softness and give, we check them," he said. "But there’s always something you don’t see, something that you miss — things happen.”
After the incident, St. Lucie County considered requiring routine inspections of the trailer used by Hayes, who has an exclusive contract to provide horseback riding tours on a half-dozen public beaches and preserves, county spokesman Erick Gill said.
“We held internal discussions … but came to the decision that we don’t have the qualified staff to conduct trailer inspections,” Gill said in an email. “We could have required the contractor to get an independent inspection, but then we would have to make that requirement of all vendors.”
Smokey was the last-loaded of 11 horses being trailered to Frederick Douglass Memorial Park for a morning beach ride when the gate-end floorboards gave way.
Paul Cutler, an Army Corps of Engineers contractor on the South Beach sand project, said he saw the incident, and had remarked on previous mornings how the trailer driver “blows out of there” after getting coffee at the South Beach Market on S.R. A1A.
The South Carolina resident told TCPalm he was across the street from the store, standing in the crosswalk about 10 to 15 yards away from the driveway when it happened.
“The driver was apparently in a hurry because he drove over the curb. The end of the trailer actually fell off the end of the curb with a loud bang, and it was at that point that the horse obviously fell through the floorboards. Its legs were exposed,” Cutler said. “He (the driver) didn’t stop to check his load. He just took off, just drove off.”
Cutler said he called the Fort Pierce Police Department and was told by an "on-desk officer" that someone would return his call, but no one ever did. Police can find no record of him calling, a spokeswoman said.
South Beach resident Jack Gudin told TCPalm he was riding his bicycle near the Jetty Park roundabout when he heard the loud bang, then saw the foot-wide trail of blood along S.R. A1A, then saw the trailer stopped at Jacaranda Drive.
“It sounded like something hit a curb,” said Gudin, one of three people who emailed the county about the incident. “Surely there must be a better investigation of this travesty,” he wrote.
“Anybody can miscalculate and run over a curb,” Hayes told TCPalm. “But I don’t think he could’ve been going that fast out of the parking lot. There wasn't that much room.”
The video below contains an audio recording of the only call made to 911.
Transporting horses in so-called “cattle,” “stock” or “livestock” trailers is common, and has the benefit of ventilation. But it's not always the safest for horses, according to Rebecca Gimenez and Sharon Cregier, doctoral authors and speakers whom the nonprofit Animal Transportation Association has recognized as authorities on horses.
They cited myriad issues after viewing Fort Pierce Animal Control photos and videos TCPalm obtained through a public records request, but deemed too graphic to show:
Rusted metal on both sides of the substructure;
Floorboards bowing under the weight of a Tri-County Towing worker removing Smokey’s carcass;
Side openings too low to prevent kicking horses from getting a hoof caught in them;
Exposed interior roof bows “that can scalp a horse;”
No masks to keep insects and debris from blowing into their eyes;
No rubber mats, which are preferable to wire grids as a floor covering for horses, but “it is a lot of work,” said Gimenez, founder of Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue in Georgia. “They are heavy and have to be removed regularly to clean the trailer out.”
“In the world we live in,” Hayes said, “we don’t use those kinds of fancy trailers like they do for the million-dollar horses around Wellington.”
Tours on Horseback tied its horses to its trailer by their bridle reins. (Photo: CONTRIBUTED FROM FORT PIERCE ANIMAL CONTROL)
Gimenez’s greatest concern was the horses being tied to the trailer with their bridles.
“That’s absolutely crazy! No horse person ties their horses like that. The metal bit in their mouth can break their jaw, tear part of their cheek off, cut the tongue severely," Gimenez wrote in an email to TCPalm. “I am shocked that any horseman would think that is a smart thing to do. In my opinion, it is still the lazy person's way of not having to transport the saddles to the location and tack up.”
Transporting fully tacked horses — meaning wearing their saddles, hanging stirrups, bits and bridles — is common in the West and among police who must deploy quickly, said Gimenez, a decorated Army and law enforcement veteran and current firefighter. But it’s best to avoid it because horses can injure themselves on the equipment, including suffering back injuries from turning in a narrow space, she said.
Hayes said “everybody has their own opinion” on the dangers of taking such shortcuts.
“I’ve hauled horses for 40 years saddled up. It depends on the distance, and I’m just going 15 miles across town,” Hayes said. “I haven’t had the first accident with any of them due to being saddled.”
No public records exist to verify his claim, but Tours on Horseback has been “very good partners” with the county, Gill said — informally since 1994 and formally since Hayes was the sole bidder on the premier contract in 2015.
St. Lucie County makes about $7,000 a year off Tours on Horseback’s business.
The contract, which expires July 2019, requires the company to pay the county 20 percent of its gross receipts, which totaled $21,520 for 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Hayes charges $45 for a one-hour round-trip ride on the 3.2-mile stretch from Frederick Douglass to Middle Cove. His contract also allows for tours at other county preserves, including, but not limited to, Teague, Pineland, Bluefield Ranch and Paleo Hammock.
The company “usually” provides six, but no more than eight, horses with at least 10 years of trail-riding experience, according to a business management plan included in the contract.
“They do bring ‘new’ horses with them to the beach for their staff to work with them to get them used to water,” Gill told TCPalm when asked why 11 horses were in the trailer the day Smokey died. “But they aren’t used by guests/customers — only their staff.”
The company is among the many private businesses and tourist attractions listed on the St. Lucie County tourism website and featured in its marketing materials.
The county in 2017 spent $300 on 2,500 rack cards to promote beach horseback riding, which were given to Tours on Horseback to distribute in county facilities, Gill said.
Fort Pierce Animal Control, the only agency that investigated, found no violations of the city ordinance, which makes it illegal for anyone to “abandon, beat, treat with cruelty, overwork or otherwise abuse any animal,” said Code Compliance Manager Peggy Arraiz.
“We did not cite the owner because the event that happened was considered an unfortunate but tragic accident,” she said. “The horse was in good condition and fine health until the accident happened.”
The county did not investigate because the incident occurred in the city limits, Gill said.
Police did not ticket Baumker, 35, of Fort Pierce, who had a valid driver license and was not found to have broken any laws, police spokeswoman Audria Wells said. He also wasn’t required to have a commercial driver license.
Smokey, a white male thoroughbred valued at $5,000, was dead when officers arrived at the scene, according to a Fort Pierce police report.
No state agencies regulate horse trailers or require their inspection, according to the Florida Highway Patrol and state departments of Transportation; Agriculture and Consumer Services; Business and Professional Regulation; and Division of Highways and Motor Vehicles.
Without regulations, horse owners should be more — not less — vigilant about their responsibility to animals that are “domesticated and trained to do our bidding,” Gimenez said.
“It is incumbent upon you — the driver, the owner, the person responsible for the maintenance of the trailer and its safety — to take it seriously and prevent these tragic situations,” she said. “You had one job (from the perspective of Smokey the horse) and it was to keep me safe. You failed. That job was easily done if you had just taken the time and effort and money to check.”