Following the death of a horse on the set of “The Gilded Age,” HBO says it is launching a full investigation to confirm what caused the animal to collapse.
In a statement, the network noted that the horse likely died of natural causes, as determined by initial examinations by a vet. They added that the safety of animals on set are always “a top priority” and that they would follow the guidance of American Humane and others to get a full report done.
“HBO was saddened to learn that on June 28, during filming on the set of The Gilded Age, a horse collapsed and died, likely of natural causes, according to a veterinarian’s preliminary findings,” HBO said in a statement. “The safety and well-being of animals on all our productions is a top priority, and the producers of The Gilded Age work with American Humane to ensure full compliance with all safety precautions. Following AHA’s recommendation, the horse was transported to a facility for a full necropsy. AHA has interviewed all involved personnel, and full necropsy results are pending.”
The horse involved was 22 years old, and according to an individual with knowledge of the situation, had prior filming experience. When the horse collapsed, filming stopped immediately while attempts were made to help the animal, with production then wrapping for the day.
HBO’s statement Thursday followed urgings by animal rights activists, including PETA, to investigate the matter fully.
“We’re calling on HBO to confirm the death, to conduct an immediate internal investigation into the incident, and to hold the party or parties who allowed it to occur responsible,” Courtney Penley, coordinator for animals in film & television for PETA, wrote in a letter to HBO Chief Content Officer Casey Bloys. “Finally, we’re asking you to take measures so that something similar never happens again.”
The letter also called back to “Luck,” a former HBO series that was canceled after three horses died during filming.
“These animals were unfit, arthritic, drugged, and pushed beyond their capabilities,” it said. “Many weren’t accustomed to film sets and had received no training but were retired racehorses. We had hoped HBO might have learned something from that experience: namely, that horses aren’t props. They’re sensitive animals who can be startled easily, and they must be gradually accustomed to the changing conditions on a set.”
When “Luck” was cancelled, HBO said in its statement that it was “immensely proud of this series, and that it had striven to maintain high safety standards.”
“Safety is always of paramount concern,” HBO said. “We maintained the highest safety standards throughout production, higher in fact than any protocols existing in horseracing anywhere with many fewer incidents than occur in racing or than befall horses normally in barns at night or pastures.”