Investigation wrapped up

The City of Red Deer isn’t doing any further investigation after a man and child were injured at Heritage Ranch last week.

The City of Red Deer isn’t doing any further investigation after a man and child were injured at Heritage Ranch last week.

Jack Radke, a who helps with the horses at the ranch, was driving the wagon when the incident occurred.

It was around 7 p.m. on June 24 and about a dozen people, made up of adults and children, were on the wagon as it slowly made its way along the trail.

“All of a sudden the neck yoke on the right horse let go,” Radke said.

The yoke goes across the front of the horse and acts as a brake.

“When it swung out the wagon rolled ahead and smashed into that right horse. He jumped and the left-hand horse jumped a couple times.”

Radke had the reins of the horse, but then he said the front part of the wagon broke away and he was thrown up on top of the horses and either jumped, or was thrown, from the wagon and landed on his head on the ground.

Owner and operator Dan Cook was on the wagon. When Radke landed on the ground Cook moved to the front of the wagon to stop the horses.

A 15-month-old — a grandson of one of the staff members there — had been on Cook’s knee and bumped his head as Cook made his way to the front of the wagon. The little boy was taken to hospital as a precaution to be looked over. He had a bump on his head, but otherwise was fine.

A week after the incident Radke still has large white bandages around his head covering the 40 or so stitches that he received. He said his head doesn’t hurt, but the worst of it was the gravel rash on his arm.

“It wasn’t a big deal,” said Radke, 55, who has been around horses for 50 years. “I’m not going to drive a horse today, but it won’t be long until I’m back.”

Cook said there are a dozen things they’ve done to ensure it doesn’t happen again, but didn’t go into detail about what they were. The ranch already had a safety check list, but they’ve added extra things to it.

Kaye Kenny, recreation superintendent for the City of Red Deer, said it is fairly rare that any incidents like this occur on city property.

“We’re always concerned when there is an incident or accident or injury of any one of the participants at any program that might be associated — even at arm’s-length — with the city,” Kenny said. The city has a licence agreement with Cook to offer programs at Heritage Ranch.

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Kenny said the operator at Heritage Ranch has filed an incident report on what happened, which is standard procedure, and the city at this time doesn’t plan to do any further investigation. A further investigation is only done in a case when it appears something should have been done but wasn’t, said Kenny.

Cook took over the ranch from Cal and Patricia Fox in 2006. There are 17 to 18 horses on site, including Belgian crosses, Percherons and a variety of different saddle horses. The ranch offers hour-long trail and wagon rides in the summer, as well as activities in the winter. So far, there haven’t been any cancellations as a result of the incident.

The last time any injuries at Heritage Ranch were in the news was in 2002, when the ranch was operated by the previous owners Cal and Patricia Fox.

Ten children were injured — some with broken bones, others with minor scraps and bruises — when their horses bolted during a trail ride at Heritage Ranch in August 2002. In July of 2002, six young people were taken to hospital and a staff member suffered a lacerated liver after one horse stepped on a hornet’s nest and all of the horses bucked and bolted after getting stung.

Heritage Ranch has been open since the early 1980s. The City of Red Deer looked at removing horses from Heritage Ranch in 2005, but public opposition to the horses being removed and a petition to retain the horse services made city councillors rethink the plan.

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