A rural property owner wants to raise awareness about shared road usage after an incident last Saturday morning that led to his horse’s death.
Brad Cameron, said he and his 13-year-old twins, Anna and Thomas, were out for a leisurely wagon ride, pulled by their draft horses, Max and Duke, at 11 a.m.
They were just north of the McLure Ferry along Westsyde Road, when a pickup truck turned up behind them on the narrow two-lane gravel road and went to pass.
The speed limit is 80 km/h, but the wagon was going between five or six km/h.
Anna apparently motioned for the driver to wait, as he eyed a driveway 60 feet ahead to pull over.
But the truck pulled out anyway. On the way by, a dog in the truck cab snapped at the horses, agitating them, Cameron said.
The truck driver apparently realized this and hit the gas pedal, attempting to mitigate the situation, but instead only making it worse.
Gravel and rocks spat up into the horses faces and the roar of the truck’s exhaust further added to the chaos.
“At that point, the horses blew up,” Cameron said. “They just went, ‘You know what, we’ve put up with a lot of stress right now. I am done. I can’t take this stress anymore.’ And they started charging off down the road. They’re in a dead run, ‘We’re out of here.’ We cant take this any more.’”
Max and Duke charged down Westyde Road faster than Cameron has ever been on a horse.
Panic-stricken, the father did everything he could to keep the wagon on track, as the horses barrelled down the road for about one kilometre, the truck driver apparently flying down the road ahead.
When the wagon came to a stop, Cameron said he was grateful his kids, who were understandably “freaked out”, were OK.
However, one of the horses was not. Max — an 1,800-pound working horse that Cameron said epitomized the saying “healthy as a horse” — collapsed. Cameron was with the horse for his last breath, before he died. He believes the cause to be a heart attack.
“I don’t know if it was from the running, the stress, I mean the whole scenario led to this horse passing away,” Cameron said, noting draft horses are large animals not meant to run. “And this horse was in the prime of his life.”
A neighbour who witnessed the incident tracked down the truck, with the driver then going to the police detachment.
Cameron said police did not charge the driver, though KTW is awaiting confirmation from Barriere RCMP.
Now, Brad is out untold money, while grieving the loss of half his team.
Cameron hopes the tragedy will act as a reminder to drivers to slow down and be respectful of other road users — be they pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, other drivers or those on horseback. He’d also like the driver to “do the right thing” and apologize.
“I’m devastated by the loss of my horse,” he said. “And I’m absolutely outraged that this individual didn’t have the decency to come back and apologize, look my crying kids in the eye, look at me crying and say,‘You know what I made a mistake. I’m really sorry.’”
The Ministry of Transportation advises motorists that sharing the road with horses is different from other modes of transportation, wherein horses are sensitive to the unfamiliar and can be unpredictable.
• Slow down long before you get close to horses and riders.
• Pass at a slower speed and give them a wider berth than you would a pedestrian or cyclist — at least one car width.
• Brake and accelerate gently, so you don’t make extra noise or spray gravel.
• Turn off your stereo and don’t honk or yell, so you don’t spook the horse.
• If you’re travelling with others by bicycle, scooter or motorcycle, approach single file.