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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A horse that collapsed to the ground while pulling a carriage in downtown Salt Lake City was apparently suffering an abdominal condition, its owner said, although animal rights are asking whether the horse should have been working in an urban setting in the first place.
The incident happened Saturday afternoon while a 13-year-old horse named Jerry was pulling customers near South Temple and State Street.
"It was a pretty disturbing scene to be honest," Jeremy Beckham, a PETA employee who saw the fallen horse, told KTVX-TV. "Clearly the horse was not well. He couldn't stand on his own even though people were trying to drag him onto his feet."
Annette Overson, co-owner of Carriage for Hire, said Jerry showed no symptoms of distress before the outing Saturday, when he suddenly kicked his stomach. The move prompted the driver to stop the carriage and check on Jerry, Overson said, at which point Jerry lay down and refused to get back up.
Heavy equipment was used to lift him away from the street. He was being treated by a veterinarian for colic — abdominal pain that can signal serious and sometimes deadly problems in internal organs.
"We're just heartsick right now," Overson told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We know we're going to be judged by some people. We really are doing our absolute best."
Beckham acknowledged that he didn't know specifics about Jerry's medical problems, but guesses the heat aggravated the condition. Temperatures reached up to 97 degrees on Saturday.
"I don't think horses should be pulling carriages when it's 100 degrees out," Beckham said. "That's just inviting problems. Horses get overheated very easily."
Salt Lake City ordinances allow horses to pull carriages unless the heat index reaches 150 degrees, according to the Tribune. That would have required a temperature of 107 degrees with 57 percent humidity.
Carriage customers said they didn't see any evidence that the horses were mistreated.
"The horse didn't seem to be treated or pushed in any way — it seemed very reasonable," Craig Dixon told KTVX-TV. (Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) 8/19/2013 12:04:37 PM (GMT -6:00)