A teamster whose horse recently died after a situation involving a driver’s impatience wants to send a message to the motoring public to slow down and show courtesy to others on the road.
Brad Cameron was taking his son and daughter for a morning ride on his team of two horses, Max and Duke, on July 27 when a pickup truck decided to pass on the narrow gravel road, spooking the horses and resulting in Max dying of a heart attack.
“We were headed down the road and I could hear a vehicle coming up behind us and he’s slowed to our speed, which is probably about six km an hour,” said Cameron, adding at this point he was looking for a safe place to pull over and let the truck pass.
“My daughter said this pickup truck was right close to us, a few feet away, and he was going over to the right to find a way to get around us, then back to the left, and so on.”
The family was driving on Westsyde Road in McLure, which Cameron noted doesn’t get much traffic even on a busy day, and when the truck slowly began to pass within inches of their wagon, a dog riding in the box of the truck began barking at the horses, adding to the stress of the situation.
Both Cameron and his daughter gestured to the driver of the truck to back off while they looked for a good place to pull over, as a neighbour’s driveway was no more than 60 feet ahead, but the truck continued overtaking the wagon.
Both Max and Duke were used to being around traffic and also had blinders on, keeping them calm up to this point, but once the barking dog in the truck became visible to the horses, they got spooked and began to run.
“It’s not the vehicle that spooked them, it was the dog barking and biting—all of a sudden there’s a dog in Max’s face, yipping, biting and barking, so the horses blow up, both of them, they’re a team; one reacts, the other is reacting,” Cameron said.
“According to what he told the police, (the driver) realized it was his dog causing these horses to panic, so instead of stopping, or slowing up and letting the horses pass him again, he stomps on the gas.”
The acceleration of the truck caused gravel to spray the horses and passengers in the wagon—Cameron noting his daughter was struck in the face by a rock—and with the resulting roar of the engine, the horses exploded into a flat-out run.
It should be noted that Max and Duke are large, heavy horses weighing about 1,800 and 1,600 pounds respectively, which are used to slow and steady work, unlike smaller more athletic horses.
With both horses now bolting at full speed, Cameron said all he could do was try to keep them steered straight until their panic eased in hopes of preventing a tragic accident.
“I’ve never been so fast on a horse in my life; I managed to get them down so they were just loping down the road, instead of a full-out run,” said Cameron.
“I got them stopped on the side of the road and then Max collapsed and died. It’s very sad, I’m trying not to be able to show it, but it’s still very sad to me.”
Cameron’s neighbour saw the entire event unfold and after making sure the Cameron family was safe, chased after the pickup truck, which didn’t bother to stop and see if everyone was okay.
The neighbour caught up with the driver about 18 km down the road, took his license plate number, and suggested he go back and do the right thing.
The driver of the truck refused, but said he’d go talk to the RCMP.
“When I spoke to the RCMP they were going to charge him with passing in an unsafe manner, and when my wife talked to the police they told her he was going to get some kind of reckless endangerment charge,” said Cameron.
“The other day I phoned to get the police report in case I wanted to pursue legal action, and they said they didn’t charge him with anything. I asked why, and they said it was a rural gravel road, there are no lines to say he should or shouldn’t have passed.”
Though Cameron and his family are heartbroken over the loss of Max, who they said had another 15 years of good life left in him, it’s the impatience and lack of road etiquette they want to draw the public’s attention to.
He admits he doesn’t believe the driver of the truck was acting out of malice, but motorists should realize roads need to be shared and extra care should be taken when animals are involved because their behavior is much less predictable.
“Whether it’s pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, saddle horses, or a team of horses—these are shared roads and showing a little respect to your fellow human being and a little courtesy (is a must),” Cameron said.
“When you’re passing an animal—a cow, horse or a dog—you don’t know what that animal is going to do, they don’t have the same mentality. Horses are pray animals, so it’s fight or flight, that’s just who they are. So I’d like to draw attention to motorists to slow down. What is everyone in such a damn hurry for?”