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HBO Cancels ‘Luck’

Written by PETA | March 14, 2012


Horses and people who care about them can rest a little easier tonight. HBO has announced that it is canceling Luck and ceasing all production on the series!

Even before filming on Luck started, PETA contacted David Milch, Michael Mann, and others associated with the production to suggest ways to protect horses, including the use of stock racing footage instead of using live animals. After the first two horses died—and the producers began stonewalling—PETA revealed the deaths publicly and obtained information from whistleblowers as well as necropsy reports from the racing board, which led to the disclosure that older, arthritic horses had been used in dangerous (and deadly) racing sequences and that the horses appeared not to have been provided with adequate protection. Beyond keeping the horses’ plight in the public eye, PETA has also pressed law enforcement to investigate the deaths of the horses used on the set and to bring charges as appropriate.

A huge debt of gratitude is owed to the whistleblowers who refused to let these horses’ deaths go unnoticed. If Milch, Mann, and HBO ever decide to start the series up again, PETA will again be calling on them to use stock footage, rather than putting horses’ lives at risk.

Just one day after PETA sent a complaint to Los Angeles law enforcement urging the agency to investigate the deaths of two horses during the filming of the first season of HBO’s Luck, we have learned that another horse has died on the set. Insiders at Santa Anita Race Track, where the racing scenes are filmed, called us early Tuesday and tipped us off. Now HBO has confirmed it.

But don’t expect HBO or executive producers David Milch and Michael Mann to come clean about who the horse was and what condition he was in. They refused to tell us anything about the first two horses, so with the help of caring whistleblowers, we unearthed the disturbing evidence ourselves: One horse was drugged, and the other was arthritic and hadn’t raced in years. Neither one should have been anywhere near a racetrack.

Photo: tasweertaker | cc by 2.0

Drugs and Unfit Horses

Both were retired racehorses who wouldn’t understand that when they went through the starting gate on a racetrack, it was just for a TV show and not a real race. Outlaw Yodeler was a 5-year-old thoroughbred who hadn’t raced in months and was apparently so sore that he was given a potent cocktail of muscle relaxant and anti-inflammatory and painkilling drugs, including Butorphanol, a painkiller so strong that it’s often used as an analgesic for horses undergoing some kinds of surgery. The other horse, whose name we believe is Marc’s Shadow, was 8 years old and arthritic and had not raced in nearly four years.

Both horses were “raced” twice in one day—something even fit thoroughbreds would never be subjected to. Healthy racehorses need at least a week to recover from the stress of competition. Indeed, they aren’t even exercised twice in one day. Both horses on the set of Luck broke down after the second run. Their leg fractures were so violent that their bones shattered under the pressure. We think—and we hope law enforcement agrees—that the way in which the horses were treated by the production company, the trainer, and the veterinarian warrants a swift and thorough investigation before yet another horse dies.

Human affection for horses unfortunately makes them popular subjects for the film industry. Horses may grab our attention, but these animals are not willing participants in the entertainment industry.

Commenting is closed.
  • patricia says:

    i wanted to watch luck because of actor jason gedrick but the one show i saw when the horse running cracked his leg fell on track and told he had to be put down after that i refused to watch because you could hear the leg crack noise sick to my stomach i am glad peta and anyone else got involved i hate to see any animal be pushed or to suffer in any way

  • Julie says:

    I worked as a groom & exercise rider at many tracks over a 6 yr period and yes there are accidents! I have been raising & training all types of horses for the past 15 years and injuries do occur. You take a chance everytime you ride that the horse maybe be injured by just stepping on a rock or being spooked! You would really be disgusted if you knew what really goes on behind the scenes at a racetrack!!!!! I love my animals and they are treated like GODS but sometimes accidents do happen. Money makes the world go round and no one will ever change that because most people DO NOT treat animals as EQUALS!! All of the animals in my care are my equals & my family so i treat them better than myself. I even own a retired racehorse that had 57 starts in her career and she is 100% sound as a retired broodmare. Horses shouldn’t be made to run a race, compete at a rodeo, or go to a show if they are not in condition, but people do it every day, and the commom person could not tell the difference because of drugs given to mask the symptoms. But again, its all about who you are and how much money you possess. Horse Racing is the “SPORT OF KINGS” think about it, its been around for longer than most other sports and supported by the richest people in the world!!! And it is a very exciting sport I love all the horses I rode @ the tracks & I love their love of running, they are wonderful athletes and they LOVE to race! The biggest winners on the track Love what they do- if you don’t believe me get a job as a racetrack groom and actually get to know the animals- its the toughest job you will ever have…you work harder than the horses and you wait on them! If you have a problem seeing the horses that “make it” at the track, see what happens to the ones that can’t hack a race career- they get sold for slaughter as young animals that could go on to do anything- that’s the REAL tragedy!!

  • mimsey says:

    peta you made a false statement,those horses were not drugged.and they were conditioned and very well taken care of your so called whistleblowers bettet get there facts straight.

  • Jackie Smith says:

    –oh, btw I See that there are many people very mad at PETA for this and I find that disgusting. Saying these horses were extremely well cared for is an inaccurate statement. Whoever said that, your so wrong! Making a horse with arthitis who was probably inactive, race, is an unrealistic goal, and a dangerous one. The other one was drugged due to it’s pain level, poor baby, and then forced to run, again asking for trouble. Dangerous situation all the way around. The situation stinks and seems corrupt.

  • Jackie Smith says:

    Feel so sad for the death of these horses. The first thing that ever came to my mind when i first saw this show airing on tv was that they could have used footage, like they said “stock footage”. This was so unnecessary, mean, and any person with an average IQ and an ounce of decency would have KNOWN not to do this to any of these horses in the first place. Perhaps PETA was not adequately represented there, but was anyone from the human race represented? 🙁

  • Marcia says:

    I had no idea that the producers of the show were using retired horses for the race scenes, thought it was captured from actual races at Santa Anita. I was starting to enjoy the show, but certainly not at the cost of these beautiful animals. Thanks PETA for bringing this issue into light and encouraging the producers to do the right thing. But as I’ve been reading about the cancellation, one article said there were 37 deaths at De Mar last year. I went there last year many times and never heard about the deaths, not even on our local SD news! I am so sad about this. Keep pushing forward to make a difference..

  • Susan Strauss says:

    I’m glad this awful show got cancelled! I was Gulstream park last week. I never been to a horse race before. It was a awful. First they parade the horses around like it’s the start of some kind of horrible gladiator sport. There was a race and as the winning horse was crossing the finish line, the jockey was smacking the horse so hard with the whip. You could hear it in the stands and nobody cared. They just sat their smoking their cigars and drinking their cocktails. And what really gets me is he won! He did everything people asked of him and ran so hard and he got whacked with the whip while the jockey gets congratulated and a handshake. Horse racing people are just the lowest with their barbaric traditions and they won’t even try to change.

  • Peekaboo54 says:

    As a vegetarian , animal lover & owner of a rescue poodle , I believe canceling this excellent HBO series is a mistake. These types of accidents have and will continue to happen regardless whether the brilliant series is forced to shutdown production. Let’s hear the facts from the crew of “LUCK” and maybe with enough support from the public that love this series there can be a compromise to bring it back.

  • Holly says:

    I can’t believe some of the comments on here! Are you reading the article? These horses should not have been forced to race more than one time in a day when normally they need a week to recover from one race. Imagine bringing a retired football player back into action after a couple years of not training! There would be injuries all over the place. Sure horses die but the handlers and producers should have been a bit more vigilant in finding active racehorses and making sure they were not forced to do more than normally! THANK YOU PETA!!!

  • Tracy says:

    Overreaction?!?!?! So I guess if you died of anything other then natural causes it would be an “overreaction” to investigate? From your reasoning, if you died at work, as long as your work somewhat “cared for you” there is no reason to investigate or cause for alarm? People need to start thinking, “What if it was me” in everything that they do. As the saying goes, “Do unto others as you would have done to you”.

  • casey says:

    Thank you PETA for speaking up for these poor creatures. Those of you who blame PETA for the cancellation of Luck might take a moment to imagine what it’s like to have your legs splinter for someone’s entertainment. The producers of Luck brought this cancellation on themselves and deserve to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law…and then some.

  • A typical PETA overreaction says:

    There is no victory in cancelling a show, especially on the heels of a freak accident that could have happened on any farm. These horses were extremely well cared for. This won’t be the last filming of horses or racehorses. If PETA wants to push for 100% use of stock footage, that’s a noble goal, but that’s silly. It would have been better to meet with HBO and determine proper filming procedures. Normally, race horses should be able to handle the stress of two filming scenes in one day. Most things at the track are done by precedent – I’m betting that PETA has crucified HBO for using the same techniques as Seabiscuit and Secretariat movies. They cared for the horses, but they were just unlucky this time.

  • Zukie says:

    You guys have a notorious reputation for getting involved in productions that are doing and having them stopped immeadiately. I liked the show and it was unfortunate for those horses who suffered. HBO had to do what was best for the horses and shouldn’t be getting any bad press for it.

  • Mike H ESQ says:

    The horses were well cared for and the people who are involved in horse racing love their animals. PETA you are taking it to far! Horses are born to run and unfortunately some get injured however this is not the fault of their owners. I know you want all horses to trot and graze on grassy fields all day but this is the real world and some of us love horse racing. Its a beautiful sport. HBO bring back this great show. Excellent writing and direction by Michael Mann sorry it was too real for the extremists

  • MARIA ELENA says:

    Thank you for speaking up for these horses and making a change in the film industry against animal cruelty <3

  • Diana says:

    Thank you, PETA, for all your hard work and determination. Animals–all of them–have only humans to depend upon for their protection against abuse, neglect and death at the hands of other humans. It wasn’t until PETA got involved that they did anything about this :-(. Why would HBO think that a sport which is responsible for the deaths of 800 horses per year ought to be sensationalized on television? Why would they think using real horses rather than using stock footage of actual horse races wouldn’t result in injury and death? They let the creators have free rein (pun fully intended) to do as they wished. Whether or not the producers/creators were knowledgeable about the care and handling of horses, they had a moral responsibility to become knowledgeable and to insure the safety and well being of everyone involved in every aspect of their production–both human and animal. Tragic indeed, all the way around.

  • Ket says:

    Savalyn, while I agree that the handlers and staff should have plenty of culpability for the deaths of those horses, I think it’s disingenuous to say that the producers shouldn’t be held accountable as well. Signing on as a producer means that you are agreeing to take ultimate responsibility, good AND bad, for whatever happens on the production. If Luck had been a smash hit and nothing bad had happened on the set, it would be the producers, not the handlers and staff, who got the most CREDIT for how well the show performed. Now that the production is embroiled in controversy and tragedy, why shouldn’t those same producers shoulder the most BLAME? Arin, as a fellow (former) horse owner, you are the kind of owner that I feel gives ALL of us a bad name. You freely admit that horse racing is stressful and hard for even the young horses, yet you see nothing wrong with Luck’s crew forcing older horses who are past their prime to do something that is difficult for even young, well-conditioned horses? Equating what happened to these horses to “breaking a leg or developing colic in the pasture,” is PAST ridiculous and excuses NOTHING. My grandmother could catch pneumonia sitting at home and knitting, that doesn’t mean I’m going to send her out in her nightgown during a blizzard. Is the fact that “the owners know what they are getting in to,” supposed to make it BETTER? Any owner that KNOWS that it’s horse is in no shape to be racing and allows it race anyway shouldn’t be allowed to own animals at all, period. Sure, race horses are a business, and like almost ANY business involving living creatures, there needs to be laws to protect the health and safety of the animals involved, as well as to prevent tragedies of the kind that happened here.

  • Stephanie Franks says:

    I am so relieved to hear of the cancelling of “Luck”. Thank you to PETA and all involved in ending this for your ever watchful, protective eyes for those lives that cannot speak or do for themselves!

  • Arin says:

    I am quite disappointed with the cancellation of LUCK! I am a horse owner and owned horses my entire life. Horse racing is a stressful event for a young horse. Those thoroughbreds are started very young which doesn’t give them much time to grow into their bodies. I thought LUCK really showed the truth about horse racing. I support HBO and LUCK, but I don’t support PETA for cancelling the show. A retired race horse can break its leg in the pasture its playing in or colic and die in its stall. You can’t save everyone’s horse. Whether young or retired. Life goes on, the owners also are not to be blamed. They know what they are getting themselves into and they know the consequences of their actions. Whether the horse was retired, drugged or not it doesn’t make it right for you to judge HBO either. Race horses are a business. If you don’t like it don’t watch it. Get over it.

  • SportOfKings_dethroned says:

    Thank you PETA and the whistleblowers for saving more aging/arthritic horses from injury and/or death had this show continued. I am so glad that organizations like PETA, concerned citizens and the internet exist so that the uncaring and greedy will find it increasingly difficult to profit from exploiting other beings. As for that “bottom of the class” vet they hired who approved how those poor old horses were treated – I hope the doctors and attendants at the nursing home give him exactly the same tender loving care that he gave those horses when his “useful” days are over.

  • Bernadette says:

    Never saw the show and am glad I didn’t support it. However, I am an HBO subscriber. Thanks for the input.

  • Savalyn says:

    While I agree that it’s a travesty that these poor horses have suffered a death which they should have been spared in retirement. They producers were likely told by their advisors that everything is normal and fine, do you think the average tv producer has any knowledge of what will cause a horse to breakdown? They hire people for that, if you want to go after anyone, go after the handlers and they staff that should have stopped it and spoke up, this is a film set, not some sort of dictatorial regime. Yes the producers may have place scheduling pressures that made people make wrong decisions, but I doubt they understood the ramifications of their actions, if the horses handlers truly cared for the animals they wouldn’t have let it happen, plain and simple, that is where the blame should lay, the actual people who pushe those horses to the brink, they had te ultimate say, they could have walked off the set, called the authorities, the animal rights activist on set (because there usually is one) all these people failed… That is the travesty.

  • Maria says:

    I am happy that no more horses will be tormented. A veterinarian… really? It is heartbreaking to see that people who should be devoted to the care of animals will behave with such irresponsibility.

  • Diane Boyer says:

    Great job as Rachel wrote that Luck has been cancelled. I adore horses… and all other animals. I hate when cruelty is use against them. Thanks in the name of those that can’t talk !

  • Debbie Snyder says:

    HBO & producers, etc, did “knowingly” put these horses in dangerous situations that would cause them to suffer so greatly and claim their lives. They need to go take a few classes on compassion before they make any more shows. Unfortunatly, there are alot of IDIOTS out there who think watching animals preform dangerous acts is entertainment. I will always support PETA.

  • horsejock says:

    Brad, get real! The producers and Hoffman’s agent were told and told and told that the horses were old, lame, had to be drugged up, and DENIED it until they could DENY it no longer due to HUGE evidence they were LYING. They need to go to jail for cruelty to animals which, in America, as in most of the world, is ILLEGAL.

  • Barbara M says:

    Keep pressing for criminal charges againist the guilty parties that are responsible for these horses death’s. Horrible.

  • K C says:

    David Milch, Michael Mann, and HBO- the almighty buck was too important, right? You couldn’t resist the urge to be greedy moneygrubbers. As for Dustin Hoffman, shame on that jerk. If he is so desperate and greedy that he would get involved with this racket, he should retire. Anything for money. These people make me sick.

  • Jacqueline says:

    Just one more example of what horse racing is all about.

  • keri Jones says:

    Thank-you PETA for what you do. Thank-you whistler blower. HBO you should be ashamed for letting this go on under your watch.

  • Marin says:

    YAY! I was telling everyone about the horrors behind the upcoming show and now I’m so happy that HBO has decided to cancel before any more horses suffered.

  • Brad says:

    Ladies- while acknowledging your position, I have to respectfully disagree. ‘Luck’ and its producers did not in any way knowingly put any animals in harms way- I love America, believe me, I do; but the amount of litigation and protesting that goes on makes it hard to imagine we accomplish anything– the show was extremely well done by extremely talented individuals (the horses included)… Very sad to see it go–thats all I wanted to say-

  • Rainy says:

    That is SICK. I personally am slightly afraid of horses, due to a bad experience with them when I was younger, but even I feel sorry for those poor animals. Only sick, evil people would force a horse to do that. Shame on you, HBO!

  • mike says:

    As a horse lover and owner, I’m very upset. Why did the owners of these horses, knowing how they were going to be used, allow this to happen? Racing twice in a day? OMG. These weren’t race horses, they were pets,

  • Sarah says:

    The deaths of the FIRST two horses I find extremely troubling, and I question why those particular horses were selected for the filming considering that they appeared to be pre-disposed to issues that would have put them at a higher risk. However, it should be noted that the THIRD horse suffered a freak accident that was not racing-related; and the horse was not, in fact, involved in a scene when the accident occured. He was being led back to his stall, reared up, fell over, and lost his balance. I’ve seen horses at liberty do that in a field.

  • Rachel Brockl says:

    It looks like “Luck” has been cancelled. Thanks PETA!!

  • cheryll says:

    How horrible that three horses died for the entertainment of so called civilized people. Isn’t there enough cruelty in this world without HBO killing animals.

  • SusanC says:

    BOYCOTT HBO until “Luck” has been permanently cancelled. Animals should never be put at risk for the sake of a tv show. There are 3 dead horses..for what? For entertainment!?! BOYCOTT HBO and inundate them with emails, letters, calls. I am so disgusted.

  • Irene Leggett says:

    All that is uppermost in the fil maker’s mind is money, money, money. The horse’s welfare is at the bottom of a very long list. Shame on all involved. For the record, THREE horses died yesterday in the UK on the first day of the Cheltenham Races.

  • Shirley Holman says:

    We have got to stop treating animals as if they’re expendable items merely here for our entertainment/profit. No way would I ever watch this disgusting show!

  • Christine says:

    this just shows how money hungry people like that really are

  • drturf says:

    Having owned thoroughbreds for over 26 years, it surprises me that the producers of this show could not find suitable race horses for this purpose and had to rely on retired animals who had not trained for years and/or had serious medical conditions. Trust me, there are plenty of racehorses which have pleasant dispositions, are physically sound,but just not able to make the grade in competitive racing. The producers are obviously negligent.

  • Mimi says:

    Someone asked me what they can do to help animals like these horses when something like this happens on TV. I told him boycott the show, don’t watch it. The power from shows like this one comes from viewers you and me, when ratings decline the shows are cancelled. I told him write to the producers, actors expressing your comments why you feel this is cruel…Most important tell everyone you know about this particular show why they should not watch it and they will tell their friends and so on and so on………….

  • yvonne says:

    Unglaublich das es geduldet wird, dass Tiere bei Dreharbeiten sterben!!!!!!

  • Vanessa says:

    This is just cruel 🙁

  • KAREN says:

    Where was the person supervising the animal protection? This person should be fined and fired. This show should be pulled OFF the air anyway. Why do we need to glorify an already cruel sport. The owners and trainers of these horses are shameful exploiters who will sacrifice their own animals for a buck.

  • keri Jones says:

    What can we do to address this sickening event? This is so upsetting.

  • Shay says:

    I am cancelling HBO today. I have emailed HBO and my cable provider. Please do something to prevent further unnecessary deaths.

  • Rachel Brockl says:

    Wow, I am absolutely appalled that HBO producers are not taking responsibility for this outrageous behavior or putting a stop to it. Their actions are shameful and an obvious disregard for animal and human life. There is no excuse for treating animals like this and something needs to be done. I will be promoting HBO’s mistreatment of animals and stopping people from watching “Luck,” because obviously it is very unlucky for innocent equines.

  • NoelleBG says:

    Something needs to be done. They need to be stopped. How many more horses need to die before we do something? We should boycott or sign petitions so filming will stop!!!!!!!!!! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.