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Horse Euthanized On The Set Of ‘Luck’

Published: May 5, 2010 9:15 pm ET

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During the April 30, 2010, filming of the new HBO series pilot, Luck, a racehorse stumbled following a short race sequence and fell on its shoulder, causing a severe fracture. The two veterinarians on the scene deemed the condition inoperable and determined that the most humane course of action was euthanasia. An American Humane Certified Animal Safety Representative™ was monitoring the animal action on the set when the incident occurred.

"This was an unfortunate accident that was in no way a result of any mistreatment or negligence on the part of HBO," said Karen Rosa, vice president of American Humane's Film & Television Unit. "We are all sincerely saddened by this accident that happened after the final shot on the final day of filming for this show. Throughout filming, HBO has been extremely collaborative and responsive to the many safety guidelines and precautions we put in place."

Luck revolves around the culture of horseracing. "The pilot is about a bunch of intersecting lives in the world of the horseracing track," David Milch recently told Daily Variety. Milch is the creator and executive producer of the show, along with executive producer Michael Mann. Milch is able to professionally view horseracing from every angle, as he owns close to 100 horses and has won several Breeders' Cup races.

To film the racing sequences, three groups of nine horses were used, and they were run no more than three times in a day, with full-rest breaks in between. The horses were conditioned racehorses, and the runs for filming were short distances, never entire races. During the last race of the day, the nine horses were on their second run and all went well through the shout of “cut.” The jockeys were slowing the horses down; however, one horse, a 5-year-old gelding named Outlaw Yodeler, still wanted to run. The horse did what the jockey called “rooting,” which means to pull his head forward and down against the bit. This caused the horse to stumble forward and somersault, landing on his right shoulder and breaking it.

A veterinarian had been following the horses in a backup car, as is usual practice, and was at the horse’s side in seconds. The second veterinarian was there in minutes, and together they determined the location and severity of the break and made the decision to euthanize the horse. During examination, it was discovered that the horse threw a shoe, but it is not yet known whether that played any part in the fall. It is common for racehorses to throw shoes without causing injuries. A full necropsy is being performed, and reports will follow in several weeks.

“This instance happened in spite of excellent treatment, careful preparations and having all safety precautions in place,” Rosa said. “Certified Animal Safety Representatives were on set every day of production, enforcing our comprehensive Guidelines for the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media. American Humane oversees tens of thousands of animals every year, and over a thousand productions, but even one instance such as this, although an unpreventable accident, is still devastating.”

In the 70 years of oversight by American Humane for the film and television industry, countless animal injuries and deaths have been prevented by American Humane's presence on the set. Sadly, despite all precautions, accidents do occasionally happen, but as long as animals continue to be used in film and television entertainment, American Humane will continue to monitor their treatment and work to ensure their safety.

(American Humane Association)

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