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HBO’s Luck Suspends Filming with Horses

HBO’s Luck has suspended filming with horses after a third horse was injured and euthanized Tuesday at Santa Anita Park during production of the hit drama.

“The horse was on her way back to the stall when she reared, flipped over backwards, and struck her head on the ground,” Dr. Gary Beck, a California Horse Racing Board veterinarian, said in a statement. The horse was later euthanized.

The first two horse deaths occurred in 2010 and 2011 during filming of the first season.

“We are also insisting that this stoppage remain in full effect pending a complete, thorough, and comprehensive investigation,” the American Humane Association said in a statement.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals posted the following on their blog:

Just one day after PETA sent a complaint to Los Angeles law enforcement urging the agency to investigate the deaths of two horses during the filming of the first season of HBO’s Luck, we have learned that another horse has died on the set. Insiders at Santa Anita Race Track, where the racing scenes are filmed, called us early Tuesday and tipped us off. Now HBO has confirmed it.

But don’t expect HBO or executive producers David Milch and Michael Mann to come clean about who the horse was and what condition he was in. They refused to tell us anything about the first two horses, so with the help of caring whistleblowers, we unearthed the disturbing evidence ourselves: One horse was drugged, and the other was arthritic and hadn’t raced in years. Neither one should have been anywhere near a racetrack.

Both were retired racehorses who wouldn’t understand that when they went through the starting gate on a racetrack, it was just for a TV show and not a real race. Outlaw Yodeler was a 5-year-old thoroughbred who hadn’t raced in months and was apparently so sore that he was given a potent cocktail of muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory and painkilling drugs, including Butorphanol, a painkiller so strong that it’s often used as an analgesic for horses undergoing some kinds of surgery. The other horse, whose name we believe is Marc’s Shadow, was 8 years old and arthritic and had not raced in nearly four years.

Both horses were “raced” twice in one day—something even fit thoroughbreds would never be subjected to. Healthy racehorses need at least a week to recover from the stress of competition. Indeed, they aren’t even exercised twice in one day. Both horses on the set of Luck broke down after the second run. Their leg fractures were so violent that their bones shattered under the pressure. We think—and we hope law enforcement agrees—that the way in which the horses were treated by the production company, the trainer, and the veterinarian warrants a swift and thorough investigation before yet another horse dies.

Human affection for horses unfortunately makes them popular subjects for the film industry. Horses may grab our attention, but these animals are not willing participants in the entertainment industry.

If you take away the horses, you don’t have much of a show. Either HBO needs to come up with another game plan or take greater steps to ensure the safety of the horses.

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