Operations manager explains Tuesday's runaway horse

Photo: Charleston Cab

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- A day after what police described as a spooked horse ran free down Market Street and crashed into a building, a carriage company's operations manager explained what led to the incident.According to Benjamin Doyle, the operations manager at Palmetto Carriage Company, the horse was drinking water from a large trash can before going out on tour. The trash can is used by Charleston Carriage Works to hold water and is kept at the loading area where passengers get on and off the carriages."The horse bent his head down and hooked his bridle in the trash can, pulled the bridle up over his head just enough to release the bit and drop the blinders," Doyle said.Doyle says the horse equates losing the blinders and bit with freedom because that's how they end their day.It was made worse, he said, because the carriage comes into view and the horse is not used to seeing what is behind him."They're agitated because the equipment is shifted and it's a very quick panic," he said.Doyle said the driver of the carriage did a great job Tuesday trying to keep the passengers safe, but added she was pretty helpless without the bit in the horse's mouth to control it.There was a little bit of damage to the market building, but the city market's assistant director Lee Gilliard said they are working with the businesses in the market and insurance to make sure everything is fixed.{}"We estimate right now it's probably no more than $!,000 or so. We'll go through the proper steps getting the estimates," Gilliard said.Gilliard said the accident happened as vendors were closing up for the day, adding that everyone with the city is glad that no one was walking outside the building at the time of the incident.There were three people on the carriage at the time of the accident, police said. They and one other person standing in the market had a few cuts and bruises, but there were no serious injuries.Shortly after the accident, a Facebook page named "Stop Charleston Carriage Rides" was formed. It's headed by Sarah Swingle."Our main concern is the safety of the public and the horses because carriage accidents like the one that happened [Tuesday] do happen, no matter how careful the drivers are because those horses are easily spooked, and that's not something that can be trained out of them," she said. Swingle says she would like to see the carriage rides end immediately. She hopes the Facebook page will start the talks on banning horse-drawn carriages, much like the ban being discussed in New York City.Others, like taxi driver Reynolds Pommering, says he errs on the side of caution and always yields to the horses.{}"Don't do anything sudden. If that horse seems like he wants to turn right or left to go in front of you, just hit the brakes, stop, and let them go," he said.{}Officials at Charleston Carriage Works released a statement saying they would examine their practices to see waht they could do differently to ensure safety. The owner said the horse involved in the accident was not injured.Since the incident, PETA has joined the debate on horse carriages. In a statement, PETA's Senior Vice President of Campaigns Dan Mathews said the organization is cheering efforts to ban horse-drawn carriages around the country.{}"In just the past two weeks, PETA has tracked carriage-horse accidents that have injured passengers, including nine children, in California, Georgia, Oklahoma, and South Carolina, adding to the dozens of spooked-horse accidents in New York over the past few years. Cars don't get spooked, but horses do, which is why PETA is cheering on mayors nationwide to modernize their cities," he said.{}Charleston's tourism commission met Wednesday evening and a report was made about the carriage accident and the investigation, but there was not a discussion made on the future of carriages in the city, said city officials Thursday.