The other day on a blog, http://theridinginstructor.net
, I wrote a post about boarding contracts. It was triggered by a recent situation where my daughter took over care at a small boarding stable here, when the owners went out of town. A horse went head to tail down (seizure) and remained that way for at least 8 1/2 to 9 hours. The horse owners refused to get a vet for the horse. The stable owner had no board contract, and the vets will not touch a horse without owner permission. There wasn't much Alisha could do for the horse other than keep it covered and try to comfort it when it thrashed around.
Although the owner was less than 20 minutes away it took him over 2 hours to come to the barn to look at the horse. He left after about 1/2 an hour and some hours later his wife showed up.
The horse had done this before but only for a few hours. Other than seizures they believed the horse had a great quality of life. It's the "other than this" statement that bothered me. I watched this horse thrash around. I saw his eyes roll back into his head while he ground his teeth. Once or twice he tried to get up only to crash into the wall and back to the ground. More than once we thought he was dead and had to watch carefully for breathing.
His owners told us to leave him there, alone.
Now what's wrong with a horse lying down for 8 or 9 hours? I mean people do it all the time. Well horses don't usually lie down for more than parts of an hour. The horse instinctively knows that lying down, it's in its most vulnerable state as a prey animal. But aside from the psychological issues with being down for a long time, there are the physical issues. 9 hours- no water. 9 hours - no passing manure. 9 hours of horse body weight pressing on organs and the cardio vascular system. 9 hours of a stopped digestive system.
In this time the horse didn't even have the benefit of a veterinarian administering fluids. He didn't have the advantage of any medication.
Eventually the horse got up. When Alisha saw him next he was rocking back and forth with his head pressed on the wall. The next day was not too much different. Since the horse got up the owners won't bother with him until it's it's convenient. They'll never see his miserable state while trying to recover, if he can recover. 9 hours down is a long time. And the sad thing is he'll go through this again and again until his poor body gives out. The owner said the horse won't see a vet until they are ready to give him the "needle" and they're not ready.
Is this just a differing philosophy about what's best for the horse, or is it something else? In my conversations with the owners I heard a great deal about what they were going through and how they weren't ready to part with the horse. I heard very little about the horse. Cruelty shows itself in a lot of different ways.
The underlying problem here is the concept of right and wrong. I will never tell someone that they have to adapt to my philosophies regarding horses, that is unless they want to board at my barn or take lessons in my program. But then again there is that moral line of "do you turn your back on suffering". Had this horse continued to suffer without getting up, into the night, I certainly would have called the authorities.
But this is a good example of why stables need to have detailed boarding agreements. There is nothing worse that being forced to watch an animal suffer because the owner is not wise enough to seek help for it. Boarding agreements can spell out what will be done if a horse is sick or injured. A good boarding agreement could ahve made it possible for this horse to have help while he was suffering.