Wheat Festival facing possible horse ban

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Wellington, Kan. -- Horses have been a part of Wellington's annual Wheat Festival parade for as long as anyone there can remember.

But after a woman and child were bucked off in last week's parade festival leaders are forced to consider banning horses from future parades.

"How do we protect the public and continue to put on a good event?" is a question posed by Wellington Chamber of Commerce Shelley Hansel to the chamber board Tuesday afternoon.

Chelsea Easterly was riding a horse named Indian which she says is an experienced parade horse. The 21 year old was riding with her fiancé's four year old son Aiden.

Easterly says everything was going well until something spooked the horse. She says, "He just started bucking and pitching. So I got about four bucks in before I couldn't hold on to him (Aiden) anymore because he was grabbing a hold of me. And once I grabbed a hold of him, I just grabbed him and twisted as fast as I could and then he landed on top of me."

Easterly took the brunt of the fall injuring her head and hip. The parade was stopped so EMS could tend to her and take her to the hospital. Easterly says she's better now.

Aiden wasn't injured. In fact, Easterly says, "Even before I was on the stretcher he wanted to get back on the horse by himself and finish the parade himself."

But the chamber has to consider liability and safety issues as it moves forward thinking about next year's festival parade.

Hansel says, "Let's remember, I think, the grace of God kept Chelsea and that young man are safe. But if she were severely injured or worse case, if she would have been killed, I'm not sure the reaction would be the same. So we all have to remember this was a very fortunate situation. And fortunately we have the opportunity to talk about it and make some necessary positive changes to make sure everyone who enjoys the Kansas Wheat Festival is going to be safe. "

The Kansas Wheat Festival committee will meet next week to discuss parade safety issues.

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