Car Forces Horse into Storm Drain, Rider Escapes Injury

A horse is dead after being forced off a road and into a storm drain by a passing car. The accident occurred on Dec. 4 when a speeding car reportedly forced 100-year-old rider Bert Bonnett and his Missouri Fox Trotter mare, Cassie, from the road they were travelling on in an equestrian community in Sunland, Calif. The mare slipped on the leaf-covered metal entry to a storm drain and subsequently became lodged in the drain, according to reports.

Bonnett was riding his mare home after a Christmas caroling group ride when a car carelessly forced the horse and rider off the road. The car did not stop, and two other riders following Bonnett were unable to get the car's license number.


Bert Bonnett, 100, watches as emergency workers attempt to free his mare Cassie from a storm drain in California.

Calls to 911 brought rescue personnel who blocked the road and tried to keep the mare calm to minimize further injury.

Three veterinarians treated the mare on the scene. After she was sedated and extracted from the drain, she was recumbent, but she did not appear to have sustained any fractures in her legs.

"She had significant wounds on both back legs," recalled attending veterinarian Renee Wanner, DVM. "The left hind had a big hunk of hoof wall missing on the lateral aspect near the coronary band. Significant cannon bone was exposed."

The three veterinarians cleaned, sutured, and bandaged the mare's wounds as efficiently as possible. After returning to her feet, however, the mare had little control of her hind end, according to Wanner. She was later transferred to a nearby equine hospital for further observation.

Evaluation at the hospital showed laxity (weakness) in the hind quarters and one ruptured peroneus tertius tendon (that attaches to the distal end of the femur on the front and the proximal end of the cannon bone, and the fourth tarsal or hock bone) and another partially ruptured tendon. Concerns centered on Cassie's quality of life and the probability of continual pain, and the decision was made to euthanize the mare.

Mike Fullerton, who works with Equestrian Trail Inc.—the trail riding group Bonnett had been riding with on the day of the accident—feels action should be taken to remove and redesign the community's storm drains.

"My feet slipped into (the storm drain) when I was there," he said. "Joggers and bicyclists are in danger. Some child could be next."

There is speculation of a lawsuit against Los Angeles County and the Flood Control District responsible for the drains, however, no legal action has been taken, reports say.

About the Author

Marsha Hayes

Marsha Hayes has been covering endurance, trail, and other equine topics since 2005. She believes every horse has a story.

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