Runaway horse carriage reopens debate on downtown drivers

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The debate over whether Memphis should allow horse carriages re-opened after another incident downtown this weekend.

On Friday, a horse carriage picked up a couple visiting from Paragould, Arkansas, but the horse took off without its driver, galloping through town and throwing two people out of the carriage. One had to be hospitalized.

“As soon as she put one foot on the carriage step, the horse started moving,” witness James Freeman said Friday. “That’s when the horse picked up speed more. The horse started a full gallop.”

Police said the horse belonged to Uptown Carriage Company. A woman there referred our questions to the owner, Mark Bills, who is listed in the police report.

“We are happy to announce there were no serious injuries,” Bills said in an emailed statement after the story aired on News Channel 3. “The company is currently investigating the actions that led up to the incident.”

Kevin Lewis has been driving horse carriages downtown for nearly a decade. He doesn’t work for Uptown but said he knew Bills, and called the latest incident an accident.

“We do everything we can to keep the catastrophe down to a minimum,” Lewis said. “In the horse’s mind, he was running and having fun.”

That’s why some people say it’s just another example of why Memphis should do away with horses in the street.

“Animals are not meant to be used for that,” one woman said.

Lewis challenged anyone to ride with him when he’s working.

“My horse is spoiled — he gets crackers, peaches, pears, bananas, all kinds of treats. He listens to me,” Lewis said.

He said his company and Uptown both do everything they can to keep the horses happy and healthy.

City Hall officials declined to comment on the incident and referred questions to Memphis police.

Clyde the horse, the police report noted, sustained no injuries in Friday’s incident.

The incident comes nearly one year after an Uptown horse collapsed on Main Street. In that case, Bills said the horse “had an undetectable genetic disorder and with vet direction had to be euthanized.”

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