Thursday, October 21, 2010

Overgrown Hind Hooves Gone Very Bad: Cruelty Case Video Used in Court to Impose Sentence on Horse Owner

I guess this video doesn't need any explanation. The mare was probably confined in a stall, although I don't know that for a fact, and may even have been born with bilateral hind limb flexural deformity.

This video was provided by World Horse Welfare, formerly the International League for the Protection of Horses. As a result of this prosecution, the owner was banned from keeping horses for ten years, and ordered to pay almost £10,000 in costs and compensation. They ordered that six other horses be removed from the owner's care.

When Mr Barnes of World Horse Welfare and the RSPCA Inspector first saw the mare in the video, named Florence, she was barely able to walk. A veterinarian who examined her decided that so much damage had been done that she could not be saved, and she was put to sleep.

The court magistrates watched video footage of Florence after she had been removed from the owner's premises, possibly the same footage shown here. They heard veterinary evidence that the horse’s feet had been in a bad state for most of its life.

After the hearing Ted Barnes said: “I have found this case extremely upsetting. Years of experience haven’t hardened me to this prolonged neglect to Florence. This horse did not deserve to live most of her life with her feet in this condition. This is something I have never seen before, and neither had the veterinary surgeon who dealt with it.“

The video was apparently shot when the mare had been heavily medicated so that she could walk at all and was probably on her way to be euthanized.

This video is horrifying but I was just as horrified a few weeks ago in Kentucky at the International Equestrian Festival. At an excellent seminar on foal deformities by Dr. Ric Redden, he showed case after case of foals and adult horses with problems as bad as this horse that are brought to him to be "fixed".

One can only wonder what happens to the ones that are never brought forward for treatment or that don't respond to treatment. In spite of the literature and expertise available to them, many breeders never admit that a foal needs expert help until it is too late, if they admit it at all. Some, like this owner, simply hide the evidence in a back stall, hoping no one will see and that the horse will miraculously improve.

There are many ethical questions about keeping animals alive: are they in pain? do they enjoy a quality of life that is suitable? The same questions have come up with horses that have received amputation surgery or that have simply survived severe laminitis rather than recovered from it.

Veterinary ethics is just beginning to explore the issues surrounding chronically lame horses and the ethics of who lives and who dies in the first weeks of life, but the emotions and psychology of horse owners may be a more complex aspect of trying to help young horses with hoof and limb problems than learning medical, surgical or mechanical treatments.

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. Please, no use without permission. You only need to ask. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site,, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to
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