Friday, March 28, 2008

Ripoffs and Rascals

I've had this percolating in the back of my mind for quite a while, but wasn't sure how to address the issue. The events of the last week have prompted me to go forward, as a cautionary tale for horse owners here.

Yes this is horse related, so feel free skip this if the subject bores you ;)

A little background....I have boarded my horses at a variety of places over the years, and have operated two different boarding places. I've had them in local Disney barns, to backyards with tarps and boards for shelter when needed, but most situations were in the middle with adequate care and some facilties to use-arena, round pen, or trails nearby, etc. Since I don't show, I sometimes ended up the odd owner out in a place full of competitors, but generally speaking if there was genuine cause to do so-my horses got moved. Like most owners, I paid fairly close attention to my horses.....but there would be periods where I could not get out-and trusted the owner/operator to take care of them for me.

Over the course of this winter, I have heard of situations where the care provided does not even meet the minimum state or Boro standard, never mind what the owner thought they were getting. I have two such horses in my care right now......recovering nicely.

And I will have another shortly who is in even worse shape.

In both cases, the owner(s) paid board regularly but due to circumstances, were unable to closely monitor the horses. They believed the BO when they called to check on them, and were confident that the horses were in good condition and being decently fed. Well, I am here to tell you that a horse that is a condition score 3 to 4, is NOT being decently fed. A horse that is critically dehydrated is NOT being properly cared for. A horse that has open wounds from an unknown source has NOT been handled properly as far as herd management. And we won't even go there about discovering that another person used a horse trailer that does not belong to them, eh?

Last week a previous boarded called me, very very upset about their horse. They had dropped by to pay board (BO not home) and saw the horse. They wanted the horse moved asap, did I have space? Yes, I can make space, and then ensued a rather frustrating week trying to find someone to haul (my trailer is blocked and I can't get to it) for a reasonable amount. The owner was so upset that I even made a driveby myself-I was sick to my stomach to realize that I could see ribs all the way down from over 100 foot away. I knew this horse inside and out, it had been with me for a year. I know the metabolism, the character, what the horse needs to be healthy.

So yesterday it all comes together-I thought. Found someone to move the horse, figured out where to put her on my end, and plans were made to haul around 6pm.

You won't believe what happened next-stay tuned...I will relate the rest later today in this thread as a comment........


suvalley said...

So....we had everything arranged. A good friend was hauling out of compassion for the horse and owner. I knew what I needed to do to make room so the horse could have a stall. Plans were set to meet at my place about 6pm.

Along around 2pm, I got a call from the head of the statewide rescue group. We had a productive conversation about the hay they needed, and I casually asked what all was going on-was their phone still ringing a lot with horses in distress? Whereupon he happened to mention a name I was familiar with.....

It seems this person runs a very small "boarding" operation. She took in the horse from my place in September....the horse was a solid condition score 5.5 to 6 when she left. Back in February sometime, the local AC became involved when it was learned that a horse had died on the property. They visited, and found this horse in very bad condition. They followed their normal procedures-which is to allow the caretaker the opportunity to correct the situation. She was ordered to get a veterinarian, and to improve the horses' weight.

This was unknown to the owner, mind you.

Fast forward to yesteday....I discover that the horse has been impounded the day before. AC made a follow up visit and the horse had not improved and may have lost even more weight. A quick phone call to the officer involved and I learn that yes the mare has been impounded.

She weighed 860 pounds on the Boro scale, and is a condition score 1.5 to 2. The officer is not sure what the real story is, because of course the "caretaker" spouted off a pack of lies about the horse-including a co-owner which does not exist.

In tears, I call the owner and relay the information as best I can. Everyone is shocked to say the least!

So the upshot is this: Perhaps by 3 this afternoon the owner will be able to put any questions the AC officer has to rest. And maybe they will let the horse go without forcing the innocent owner to pay a whopping impound fee too.

So think about these facts:

The horse left my care a CS 5.5 to 6

Six months later she is critically emaciated, weighing only 860 pounds-she was likely about 1075 to 1100 in mid September.

The owner has faithfully paid board all winter.

The caretaker has 1000s of dollars of unpaid fines with AC, due to other brushes with them over horses getting loose, etc.

Another horse died on the property sometime over the winter.

And most telling of all?

The caretaker sent someone over the owners house to collect the board..........

...........the day AFTER the horse was impounded.

Lori said...

Yet, I have seen this happen in the past here in these parts. I suppose there was no boarding contract, probably all verbal.
Although the stable owner should be hung for not providing proper care I have to ask why the horse owner did not visually/physically check on the horse before 6 months had passed? Was this person out of state?
I don't know what this person was paying for board but if it was under $180 per month you can figure that the horse was not being cared for properly.

With hay prices being upwards of $450 per ton or more we will probably be seeing more carcasses showing up as the snow melts. Disgusting!

suvalley said...

Lori, the owner is disabled, and sometime back in late January (I think?) she was in a nasty car wreck on brake light hill (ER). A few weeks ago she got a cancer diagnosis on top of that. Suffice to say that the owner has been rather wrapped up in health issues.

The board was paid each month, $300.

Word late yesterday is that AC will release the horse to the owner, but wants to wait until next Wednesday to verify the weight gain on the Boro scales. Of course they want the owner to pay for board during that period of $30 a day. I am hoping the owner will be able to work that out-that's cash needed for a vet!

And btw, the days of $450 a ton hay are pretty much done :( More like $500 plus.

Lori said...

What a conglomerate of horrible circumstances for the horse owner. I would at the very least take it (the boarding facility) to small claims. Especially since the AC can verify a good portion of the facts.

When I mentioned hay prices at $450 I was allowing for base pricing on the cost of crappy stuff. Since that is what usually gets fed in these types of circumstances.

L said...

What a horrible story!

On another note, thinking about hay at $500 a ton - that equals $0.25 per pound. Gag... Oh well.

suvalley said...

We have such a small community here, we really do.

Someone mentioned to me a while back about a couple horses getting loose and being impounded. Come to find out, the two horses were from the same place-and the BO did not bother to inform the owner, either!

They have since, of course, moved on to better quarters.

Which means, the BO had at least six head to start with-two boarders that moved out, the mare that was impounded, one that died, which leaves a "pony" and a mutt stud of some sort still there.

My big fear is that the mare that was impounded and that is coming to my place this week-might be bred. I have no idea what the owners are going to do, all I can hope is that she didn't take due to being starved-and that she wasn't covered last fall sometime.

*crosses fingers*

My hub has never seen a horse this bad....I am already working out on paper the recovery diet-down the pound and ounce. I am a tad apprehensive that she may have developed some sort of underlying issue during her time away.

And from here on out, I will be taking photos of the horses in my care-just in case.