OPINION | Lessons must be learnt for the sake of the horses

IT WAS only four years ago the Victor Harbor community was well known for the wrong reason.

A Clydesdale, which was part of the horse drawn tram team, called BJ Coop, died in council care.

There were investigations and a community uproar over the incident. The vet report was damning on the people in charge of the horse.

The vet stated at the time BJ Coop “had little gut fill, was in poor body condition, was running a high temperature and heart rate, and was reluctant to place any pressure on both his hind legs due to the laminitis”.

This was a sad indictment on a community that values its iconic horse tram and uses it for publicity to advertise the city.

Four years on and we must hope council is not becoming complacent with the care of the horses, as in July one horse slipped and fell, which was traumatic for passengers on the tram at the time and for the horse.

In 2012 the City of Victor Harbor was very proactive in making sure the horses in its care were well looked after with the appointment of team leader in husbandry Richard van Dijk.

On his appointment The Times interviewed Mr van Dijk at the stables of the Clydesdales on Canton Road and straight away he was personally digging drains to offset the run off from the roof of the stable and changing a washer on a dripping tap in the stable area.

He did not send off a council work order, he just got the job done so the horses would not be standing in a muddy environment, which was the norm at the time.

Now after three years of no concerns in relation to the Clydesdales under Mr van Dijk’s care, he is no longer working due to stress and one other who is qualified to handle horses has also walked out.

To make matters worse the section 41 Horse Tram Advisory Committee was disbanded earlier this year.

Their role was purely to oversee the horses and the horse tram.

It was made up of people qualified to know about the horses such as Howard Moss, who breeds Clydesdales, and he praised the work and passion of Mr van Dijk in an interview with The Times.

“The horses are in the best condition they have ever been since Richard took over,” Mr Moss said.

“It is because of the care they receive, some of the horses are still with us.

“They are being well looked after as far as I am concerned.”

We do not need another tragedy and the horses need people with the right qualifications to look after them and the community expects that to happen.

The Times has received many phone calls regarding the horse drawn tram and all are concerned a repeat of what occurred four years ago may happen again.

Elected members may need to re-think the Section 41 decision to disband the Horse Drawn Tram Advisory committee and assist Mr van Dijk with his recovery.

Just do it for the sake of the horses.