The Nassau County SPCA is investigating the death of a carriage horse who collapsed while on a film set in Old Bethpage.
The 22-year-old horse died June 28 during the filming of the HBO period drama "The Gilded Age” at Old Bethpage Village Restoration.
The horse collapsed during filming, which had started 15 minutes after a one-hour rest period during a scene involving a carriage and two passengers, HBO officials said. HBO halted filming immediately while tending to the horse and production stopped for the day, officials said.
SPCA investigators were called and the horse's remains were being sent to veterinarians at Cornell University for a necropsy to determine a cause of death, SPCA president Gary Rogers said.
HBO officials said in a statement that a veterinarian’s preliminary findings said the horse appeared to have died of natural causes. SPCA investigators have not issued any preliminary report or said whether there was any visible trauma.
HBO officials said horse wranglers and a veterinarian confirmed the horse had not shown any signs of discomfort during filming. Temperatures were in the 70s and the horse was not overworked or overheated, officials said.
“The safety and well-being of animals on all our productions is a top priority, and the producers of The Gilded Age work with American Humane to ensure full compliance with all safety precautions,” HBO officials said in a statement.
American Humane Society representatives were on the set at the time of the death and interviewed all personnel, HBO officials said.
There are no laws requiring the humane society or experts to inspect animals on site, according to the SPCA. A report by PETA said the horse had a health problems and suffered head trauma and was frothing at the mouth, but Rogers said it was unclear when any trauma took place.
“If the horse died and fell to the ground they can bruise themselves,” Rogers said. “We’re trying to determine if it was caused by the incident or what is the cause of any bruising.”
If any neglect or abuse is found, the SPCA can contact the Nassau County district attorney.
The horse had prior experience on film sets, according to HBO. Rogers said the equine was a retired racehorse. A 22-year-old horse is considered to be a senior animal and it is not uncommon for horses in their 20s to suffer from medical issues, experts say.
PETA representatives called on HBO to cease using horses or other animals during filming any future productions. The animal rights group cited HBO's history, which includes the deaths of three horses at the Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia, California, during filming of the canceled horse racing series "Luck" in 2012.
The animal rights group said the horses who died were arthritic and unfit for be used in the filming. The Santa Anita track has been the site of multiple deaths of active racehorses in recent years.
“PETA is reminding HBO that watchful, compassionate people can be found on every set and is urging it to stop using horses before someone else dies in its productions," PETA senior vice president Kathy Guillermo said in a statement issued following the death of the horse on the "Gilded Age" set.