Feb 28, 2009

By Heather Rowe & Christopher Francis - KOLD News 13

Click Here to Watch the Newscast Video

Emails, pictures and a video have been coming into our newsroom showing a horse down during this year's Tucson Rodeo Parade, and what we saw raised several questions. One witness who wanted to remain anonymous agreed to tell us what she saw.

"The horse stayed lying on the floor," the witness says.

The cell phone video, which was posted to YouTube.com, shows the horse motionless in the middle of the road.


"You could honestly see the horse was in pain. Just like looking at the horse you could tell something was wrong."

His owner seen standing over him, trying to get him up.

"It didn't want to get up. So another guy tried to pick it up but still it wouldn't get up so he went around the horse and kicked it twice."

The video shows the man pulling the horse's tail, with parents and children watching.

"The crowd was shouting no, no, no."

The horse tries to get up but slips and falls a second time. At that point witnesses say the side of his face was covered in blood and he was limping. That's where the video stops and what happens next is not as clear.

"The crowd tells him no but the man got back on the horse and back into the parade."

KOLD News 13 showed the video to Herb Wagner with the Tucson Rodeo Parade committee. Wagner says they take these situations seriously. But even with video, Wagner says determining if this was abuse isn't as easy as it may look.

"From a person who may not know horses or know that it may seem like an extreme thing, but without knowing the situation I can't make a comment," he says.

The video doesn't show how the horse collapsed. And Wagner says that makes it hard to judge if the man kicking the horse was abusing it.

We asked if there would be an okay reason to kick a horse.

Wagner says, "In certain situations, like a colicy horse. If you don't get that horse up, it could die."

We spoke with a local veterinarian. She hasn't seen the video but to an extent she agrees. She says in some circumstances, including colic where the horse has intestinal problems, it is not inhumane to make a horse get up even if you have to kick it to make sure a horse doesn't further injure himself.

"If we find that it was unnecessary action we will probably ask that person not to be in the parade next year," Wagner says. "The Rodeo Parade does not condone animal abuse in any way."

The Rodeo Parade says marshals did not allow the man to get back on his horse or back in the parade, but it's unclear what happened to the horse afterward.

The Rodeo says it continues to investigate. They are talking to the parade group involved and witnesses.

The Parade Committee released this statement Friday:

"This is what we can confirm: A horse went down along the Tucson Rodeo Parade Route during Thursday's parade and its owners aggressively tried to get the animal back to its feet.

We have had the chance to witness the video and are currently investigating the situation. Our first and foremost priority is for the safety of all involved in the Tucson Rodeo Parade, especially the magnificent animals featured every year. Abuse is not tolerated and has no place in the Tucson Rodeo Parade.

There are some instances where getting a horse back on its feet is a matter of life and death for the animal - such as when a horse colic's. Until we know more about Thursday's incident, it would be unfair for us to speculate about the treatment of the downed horse.

We will provide further detail as it becomes available."

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