Protestors gather as company cleared in horse death

By on August 10, 2019

Some of the protestors at Coquina Beach on Aug. 9 (Mark Jurkowitz)

The National Park Service (NPS) says its investigation into the June 26 death of a horse used for riding tours on Coquina Beach has ended with a finding of no “wrongdoing,” according to Deputy Superintendent of the NPS Outer Banks Group, Mark Dowdle. “There was no mistreatment of the animal, and it did not die of trauma,” he said.

In a previous interview with the Voice, Chase Foster, owner of Virginia Beach/Outer Banks Horseback, said that horse was being ridden at a walking pace by a company staffer and suddenly “laid down, then struggled to get up and then just passed out.” Foster said that for his part, he suspected an aneurism or heart attack.

In a statement released through his attorney Scott Krystiniak, Foster, said, that “although there was never any doubt in our minds, we are nonetheless thankful for the thorough investigation by the National Park Service and the local SPCA and the public can rest assured that the investigation found absolutely no abuse or mistreatment.”

But on social media and elsewhere, critics who are concerned about the handling of horses at Virginia Beach/Outer Banks Horseback, have kept up a drumbeat of criticism and attention focused on the company. On Aug. 9, they gathered at Coquina Beach to protest what they say is mistreatment of the horses by the company — including a lack of sufficient shade, water and rest for the animals on hot summer days.

The dozen protestors standing adjacent to the beach parking lot held up signs and placed tape over their mouths as they stood yards away from the trail where the horses and riders ended their journey. At one point, an employee of Virginia Beach/Outer Banks Horseback pulled up in a truck to turn his camera on them.

With the late afternoon temperature hovering around the 90-degree mark, protestor Ginny Ryon, explained why they protestors were there. “How do you like it out here?” she asked.  “How about an animal that’s carrying a load?”

Danielle Calore said the group had placed tape over their mouths “because we’ve been voicing our opinions about Virginia Beach Horseback since 2012. And no one’s listening.” At the scene, protestors engaged with a number of curious passersby, explaining their concerns about the horses.

In his earlier Voice interview, Foster said, “I deal with a level of animal activism,” adding that that intent of those critics is to paint him as a “villain.  During a brief interview at the beach yesterday, Foster described the gathering as a “peaceful protest,” before referring any further questions to his lawyer.

In the statement released by his attorney, Foster said, “It is unfortunate that this tragic incident is being turned into a spectacle.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but the facts are out there. On June 26, Virginia Beach & Outer Banks Horseback suffered a tremendous loss in the untimely and unpredictable death of our horse, Ghost.  My staff and I are still deeply saddened by this loss and we will remember Ghost as a member of our family in perpetuity.

“We have dedicated our careers and our lives to our horses. We provide rehabilitation services, training, and love to ensure the safety and well-being of our animals.  Our business could only achieve the success it has if our horses are healthy and treated with utmost care.”

As for the protesters, they seemed to think that their mere presence at the beach had achieved at least one of their goals. Noting that the 12 horses working at Coquina Beach were getting an ample break before beginning another run, Kamala Warren said, “At least they’re getting a break. I’m happy about that…We did our job.”

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  • gsurf123

    It’s time for these protesters to get a life. Do something for humans. In case they don’t know there are plenty of people in Dare County who make do with a lot less than most would consider reasonable.

    Sunday, Aug 11 @ 10:40 am
  • Right Hook

    So – outrage over a horse death – or a turtle or bird death. Understandable. Why so little reaction to our nation continuing to end the lives of innocent precious lives when we still abort over 600,000 babies each year (latest CDC figure). All life is God given and precious.

    Sunday, Aug 11 @ 1:11 pm
  • Bob

    And the comment gets downvotes? I guess horses are more valuable than humans. I wonder how many downvotes this will get…

    Tuesday, Aug 13 @ 11:17 am