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Bailey's final moments

by Tony Mangan
| November 12, 2010 8:00 PM

We recently received an emergency call about a horse that was down with what the caller believed was colic. We responded immediately and went to the location. As I approached, the horse lying there on the bare ground, he lifted his head a bit to regard a stranger. He rolled slightly to a more upright position and for a brief moment tried to resemble his former formidable self. We regarded his skeletal frame, swollen belly and pathetic eyes and the truth was shown to each of us, even though words were not spoken.

The man who owned him showed me a picture of Bailey when he first brought him home, just about five months earlier. Although the horse looked slightly better and was standing in the photo, he was light years from where he should have been. Bailey's surroundings told us the story of the ignorance and neglect which had brought Bailey to this day. No blanket covered the freezing horse. A makeshift shelter did little to prevent the rain from drenching him. Knowing how critical it is to get a horse about to colic up off the ground, we worked diligently to get Bailey to a standing position. Try as we did, we could not get him up but even in his frail condition, he thrashed around and we stepped back, out of range of his badly overgrown hooves.

The vet arrived 15 minutes after we did, and she immediately administered banamine, electrolytes and other nutrients which would hopefully give him energy so that he might stand. We saw Bailey's eyes begin to clear and open a bit wider and although he could not get up, he seemed more alert. We covered him over with materials in the yard - carpet padding, and an old horse blanket. The vet had a good strong halter, which we hoped would help us to get Bailey on his feet. The vet began her examination and determined that the horse was suffering from hypothermia and starvation, and these were the true reasons why he could not stand. There were no signs of colic. With a body temperature of 98 degrees, virtually no fat on his bones, and debilitating weakness, he had no chance of survival. The owner agreed and said he wanted the horse put down. When he realized there would be a fee for this service, he said he would just shoot the horse himself. At this juncture, Panhandle Equine Rescue offered to compensate the vet for the euthanasia.

The vials were filled and Bailey received the merciful elixir into his neck. The poor creature was too weak even to exhale a last breath. He simply stopped being. The thick red trickle that issued from his neck was the only evidence of his overwhelming agony. Our hearts broke as we witnessed this scenario, but our solace was in knowing that no one would ever be the cause of Bailey's suffering again. The dismal dankness of the day was of no consequence to him now.

This story begs the question about tomorrow and all the tomorrows that will follow. It challenges us to ask, what went wrong? This situation had been brought to the attention of the authorities after the neglect had been reported on two previous occasions. But, because of weak laws, lack of knowledge and motivation, or the negligent withholding of adequate care, Bailey suffered and died needlessly. Positive steps need to be taken to prevent this ugly story from repeating itself. One of these is education for those who wish to own horses. Panhandle Equine Rescue Inc. is currently in the planning stages of a program which will offer critical instruction to potential and existing horse owners. We are working with our outstanding veterinarians and will begin by holding quarterly telephone conferences which will feature discussions of basic and advanced equine health care issues.

The man who owned Bailey knew nothing about horses. He picked up his two horses for "free." They were malnourished and tragically thin and he thought if he simply fed them they would be fine. He could ill-afford to give those two horses what they needed to survive. Five months later there was only the slightest difference in their appearance and it never occurred to him that things were going wrong. Bailey's pasture-mate has less than a 50 percent chance of surviving the winter. Please visit www.northidahohorserescue.com. Our goal is to bring greater understanding of problems and proposed solutions. We will post and e-mail details of upcoming educational and informative events such as the horse health seminars followed by Q & A sessions with our vets.

Please consider becoming a member of Panhandle Equine Rescue, Inc. Help us help them. Tony Mangan is a retired small business owner. He was born and raised in New York and didn't own a horse until he was 65, when he adopted a mustang and trained her from scratch. He has a love of horses since childhood and is living his dreams in Spirit Lake while volunteering as President of Panhandle Equine Rescue Inc. In a small way saving abused animals is payback for all the joy he has gotten from horses.

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