MILWAUKEE - Four Clydesdales broke free of a wagon at the Great Circus Parade Sunday and bolted into the crowd, injuring at least 10 spectators, police said.
One of the Clydesdales stepped on a man's chest, police Lt. Gregory Baur said. The man was hospitalized in good condition Sunday night and others were treated for minor injuries, he said.
"When you've got 8,000 pounds of horses deciding to go traveling on their own, you don't hold on too tight," Baur said of the wagon's driver. "If these four horses had hit this group of people lining the parade route at full speed, I hate to think what would have happened."
Caledonia teen Susan Schlieve was among the throng who watched in horror when two of eight Clydesdales pulling the wagon reared as it was about to turn onto Wisconsin Avenue. A metal ring holding the hitch broke and four of the horses took off.
Schleive, 19, grabbed her camera and started shooting until a relative pulled her away.
"I knew something was happening because it looked kind of scary," she said. "People were starting to stand up, then they just took off."
The Clydesdales ran about a block until the lead horse tripped, slowing the runaways down until they could be caught, Baur said.
"These horses just came charging through the street," said Martin Graham of Milwaukee. "Four of them…running at top speed. I just ran to get out of the way."
Racine resident Lee Roberts and other witnesses said the crowd collapsed in a ripple, hurdling barricades and lawn chairs and running in every direction to escape the charging horses.
"People were screaming and crying and everbody was very frightened," she said. "They were running toward us and were shouting to get out of the way of it."
Roberts was watching the parade with her two children, Hannah, 5, and Benjamin, 9, when the mayhem broke out about a block away from where they were standing.
"It was horrible," Roberts said.
The incident happened at about 4:20 p.m., as the parade was drawing to a close.
Tens of thousands had gathered along the downtown parade route and clapped for the marching drummers, bell-tooting trolleys and antique cars toting Wisconsin politicians and other dignitaries.
"It's a great day and a lot of fun," said Cindi Peterson, who drove from Rockford, Ill., so her son, Neil, 7, could enjoy the spectacle.
"It's the wagons, the animals, the horses, the snakes. We like the clowns," Peterson said.
The parade was led by Grand Marshal Malcolm D. McMillan of Mayville in an antique landau carriage. Other notables included actor Ernest Borgnine, who rode in a horse-drawn carriage with his wife, Tova.
Zealous parade-watchers camped on city sidewalks as early as Friday night, staking out streetside spots with tents and lawn chairs. Thousands of others relied on bleacher seats, tiptoes and other people's shoulders to get a glimpse of the action.
James Erby of Milwaukee came with daughter Kandyce, 4, in tow.
"She's never seen a parade in her life and she wants to see the elephants and the horses," he said. "I'm here to see Mr. Borgnine."
Other crowd pleasers included camels, buffaloes, an 1,800-pound Texas longhorn steer, miniature horses and two 500-pound bears.
The parade featured more than 140 units, including dozens of hand-carved, brightly painted wagons from the State Historical Society's Circus World Museum in Baraboo.
The museum began loaning its wagons to Milwaukee for the parade in 1965. The arrangement stopped in 1973 due to financial constraints and resumed in 1985 with the help of civic donations.
The wagons will return to Baraboo on the Great Circus Train.
The 27-car train is scheduled to leave Milwaukee on Wednesday morning and arrive in Baraboo that night after traveling through Racine, Kenosha, Madison, Janesville and several communities in Illinois. No stops are scheduled.