Horse Health

HBO Cancels LUCK after Third Horse Death

Story by by Matt Goldberg of

HBO Shows Compassion by Shutting Down Production

HBO has canceled David Milch and Michael Mann‘s horse-racing drama Luck after the third death of a horse this season.  The show had been picked up for a second season and filming was underway, but on Tuesday a horse was injured when she “reared, flipped over backwards, and struck her head on the ground.”  The on-set veterinarian determined that humane euthanasia was appropriate.  Two horses were injured and euthanized during the first season, so apparently HBO was operating on the “Three Dead Horses and You’re Out” rule.

While HBO probably renewed Luck due to its cost and star prestige (the show stars Dustin Hoffman), it wasn’t turning into a breakout hit the size of Boardwalk Empire or Game of Thrones.  This isn’t to say that HBO would have gone on in spite of the horse deaths had Luck been a bigger hit, but I don’t think any of the network executives are going to be upset at losing an expensive show that had soft ratings.  Hit the jump for a statement from the network.

Here’s HBO’s statement on canceling Luck [via THR]:

“It is with heartbreak that executive producers David Milch and Michael Mann together with HBO have decided to cease all future production on the series LUCK.

Safety is always of paramount concern. We maintained the highest safety standards throughout production, higher in fact than any protocols existing in horseracing anywhere with many fewer incidents than occur in racing or than befall horses normally in barns at night or pastures. While we maintained the highest safety standards possible, accidents unfortunately happen and it is impossible to guarantee they won’t in the future. Accordingly, we have reached this difficult decision.

We are immensely proud of this series, the writing, the acting, the filmmaking, the celebration of the culture of horses, and everyone involved in its creation.”

17 replies »

  1. I t is great to hear that HBO has compassion for the horses, I am very proud of them for canceling,it is a shame it didnt work out for the series, all and all it is all about safety, just like for people safety should always rule for the horses also…………….. !!!!!


    • Well, I guess I am pessamistic. They were probably using cheaper horses and it was less expensive to euthanize them than pay for operation and long term care. The Showtime “I believe) a reality show of REAL jockeys didn’t hae any deaths . At least none were publisized. It was a good series.


  2. I am very confused about this situation and I don’t have much respect for the American Humane Assoc (they oversee animals in media productions [I think]).

    Let me be clear that I am not unclear or confused about needless deaths of animals, BUT…I don’t understand why they have three dead horses from this production.

    And how many equines died in racing or competition in the same period?….or sent to slaughter?

    Was the set death needless? I don’t know. I do know the equines rounded up by BLM and those other equines, including wild equines sent to slaughter certainly were and are needless.


  3. Denise,
    That is just how I felt. So many horses die on the track everyday and no one says nothing. Over a 100,000 die each year for nothing in slaughter houses. So what’s the deal? If 3 horses died during the filming of this series multiply that for 3 that probably die each day on the tracks or out the back door. Its all just so crazy.
    After the first day of the series when the horse broke down I couldn’t watch it anymore. Too real but then. . .


    • Lynette:

      I have been thinking about the cunnumdrum (sp?) about the cancellation of “Luck”. I don’t know anything about the equines used, the handlers and I do know something about American Humane (posers!!!!!!!)

      On the other hand, with the likes of the situations with Barbaro and Eight Belles, these animals were WELL CARED FOR and loved what they were bred for.

      Everything dies….it’s all about why and when.

      I should say horse racing is something I long for in the purest venue. What the public and gaming whores (to include breeders and venues) have created is way, way different than the game I want.

      p.s. the death was the final whack on “Luck” because it just wasn’t getting the ratings. On the other hand, it showed the truth about racing currently in the US. And it ain’t pretty.


      • I was hoping that LUCK would show the real horse racing industry including its most horribleness but I did not want art to represent life. The horses dieing in the filming is only a small part of what real happens to horses in the racing industry. I love horses and I love to see them run. But running to their death is not what I want to see. The racing industry cares little for these animals. Of course, not all those in racing, but I’m sure that most only look to the next race as to where or when the horse will be done racing and end up who knows where. IF and thats a BIG IF, the racing industry would take care of their castoffs and improve their breeding for stronger not lesser bone mass and start racing the horses later in their lives so their bones could harden then I would be for racing. But when money takes over for caring I don’t think any of those will happen. But until improvements are made to the sport I cannot support it. I care too much about horses to support an industry where it is all about the money and the suffering of the animals is not taken in consideration.


      • Lynette:

        I agree completely with you regarding your points on racing…..start at an older age, drug clean-up, more races for older equines, tax incentives for rehoming and older equines and get rid of accelerated depreciation (geesh…like we are talking about tractors!) etc.

        And simple things like a portion of every purse, entry fee and gambling revenue dedicated to those programs.


  4. It’s really a shame, & disgusting, that it took the deaths of 3 horses before they/HBO, canceled this show! I always thought whenever animals were involved in any type of filming, for the big screen or TV/cable, there were on-site veterinarians &/or, other animal experts there to protect the animals from any harm? This matter should have been looked into when the first horse was injured & died. I think all the actors involved should also be more aware, & all should show more compassion & care towards their animal co-stars/actors.


  5. I wanted to add this to my comment, the sport of Thoroughbred racing is beautiful to watch. Seeing any horse running is an absolutely devine, beautiful thing. However, & this is just my opinion, (however maternal it may sound!), I really believe they start running these horses way too soon, way too young. They are worked too hard for their age & for their bone developement. I would compare it to doing the same thing to a human toddler. These horses are over-bred, not nearly as strong as their predecessors/ancestors, nor are they “mature” at the Industries 3 years of age (regardless of when exactly they were born!). Most horse breeds aren’t considered mature until they’re at least 5 yrs. old. Any animal handling needs major patience, calm energy, & self-control on the part of the humans. The animals, however well they may have been cared for, need plenty of rest, breaks, calm reassuring, assertive leadership. The Thoroughbred industry needs to stop over breeding & creating so many “throw away” babies & otherwise perfectly healthy horses.


  6. Valerie, through the years, I have read and observed. I have a very good book that is now out of print. The author really understood Horses and the Horse industry. He always referred to the TWIN DEMONS as SPEED and GREED. He also stated something that I think is very true. There are Horse Enthusiasts and there are Horse Lovers….BIG DIFFERENCE. You might find the true Horse Lover in the stables, as a groom. We see them here, and at Good Rescues and in those who are in the trenches, actively fighting to make things right for Horses.


    • Thanks Louie! I’m pretty sure that would put my family & myself in the “Horse Lovers” catagory! 🙂 What you said is so true, about SPEED & GREED. We all need money to survive, but money is very easily turned into the cause of much evil & greed, for those who can’t control themselves. So many people on the sidelines actually care more about the horses that aren’t even theirs, than the horse-owners do. Even at the stable where we lease a horse for our daughter to ride, I hear all the time, “if it was my horse, I’d do this or that differently”, or,” if it was my horse, I’d call the vet, change his feed, change his tack, change his training, etc., etc.” You can’t really tell someone else how to treat their horse, but too many think of their horse as just another piece of property, instead of the living creature (with a mind of its own & feelings!), that they are. Many involved in the horse-racing industry mass-produce, hoping to find that one in a million, special horse (to benefit them of course!), sort of like a factory assembly line. It’s all so sad. I heard from a very knowledgeable person, that everything our horses do, for us, is completely un-natural, it is all new to them, we are changing their nature to suit ours.


      • There are many changes that horse racing needs like yesterday !!!! They are looking at this and they will change things !!! There are many trainers and owners who really really love their horses and there are some who look at them with dollars signs in their eyes……………………. But the real culprits are the AQHA , these people have been over breeding for years and years they send so many healthy happy horses to slaughter , they give them no chance to survive if they dont meet their criteria they send them to slaughter now this is the core of horror right here in AQHA, these people do this all day everyday ………………. These are the ones that should be addressed immediately !!!!!!!


  7. I look at this in a llittle different light. After the first death, the show was over for me. But I tried one more time, and after viewing I felt like I needed to go take a shower, get a really good breath of fresh air and watch a light hearted show about horses. Absolutely no where did I see any print about how sorry they were that these horses died in the name of entertainment. We heard nothing about their names, their background. The “heartbreak of the producers” is only for the loss of a good series, and name actors whose performances were really not all that good. The whole show was, in my words, slimy.


  8. “We maintained the highest safety standards throughout production…with many fewer incidents…than befall horses normally in barns at night or pastures.”

    BS, BS, BS.

    Shame on them for the treatment of the horses. Shame on them for this line of BS. Shame on them for canceling a show for lack of ratings and saying that it was all about compassion.



  9. Good for HBO. I wish more businesses and media groups would have the courage to do this. So much animal cruelty is driven by greed, and once a harmful event/show is successful, it just similar ones that are more extreme. I hope this is the end of racing shows. Cheers for HBO–they didn’t even have to have tons of complaints to do it!


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