I am heartbroken to even be saying this, but I think it is a message that needs to be heard.
I’m beyond sad and devastated to report that the lovely older gentleman, a retired event horse with an extremely impressive career, will not be joining my herd here in Texas. Halloween night I received a phone call around 10:00 PM, the type of call no one ever wants to get. A little over an hour after being picked up from his temporary barn in Florida, it was discovered that he had gone down in the trailer. Details were unclear, but I was told he did not survive. I cannot say much about the incident, other than according to necropsy results, he was down for almost an hour. He likely died of a mixture of shock and exhaustion from struggling.
Needless to say, this is a horrible way to go. I cannot fathom what happened there that resulted in him going down, and how it went unnoticed. The situation was further worsened by the fact that no veterinarian attended to him, nor was I called, only the barn owner of the barn he had been picked up from. To add insult to injury, he was left on the side of a rural road after passing away, and I had to call the sheriff in Florida to go confirm he was in fact deceased.
I am sharing this story as a warning. These haulers were professional haulers with a nice website, excellent reviews on UShip (they were not booked through UShip, but I did google them and read reviews there), and excellent phone manners. I inquired as to their hauling experience, type of trailer used, etc. They seemed extremely professional, and a client of the barn owner at which the horse was residing in Florida had used them previously without incident. This just goes to prove that you just do not know how people will respond in a crisis. This tragic situation was handled about as poorly as possible, and I truly, in my heart, believe it was completely preventable, starting with noticing a horse was down and struggling as they drove. I completely understand, as all horse owners do, that “things happen” with horses, and it is possible that the outcome would have been the same. However, the pain and suffering endured by the horse could have been prevented. Calls could have been made. And leaving him on the side of the road… honestly, there just are no words for that.
My heart just breaks for his previous owners. Hindsight being 20/20, I’ve gone over every detail. What could I have done? At this point, I’m left with a very strong feeling of ‘no good deed goes unpunished.’ These haulers were not just “some dude with a trailer” and were not particularly cheap. They claimed to have insurance, but were not a “big name” hauler. Would any of that mattered? In the end, it comes down to the human element. Someone should have noticed there was a problem. Someone should have called me or his owner in Georgia, and someone should have called a vet immediately. Someone should have stayed with him until arrangements were made. None of that happened. That is a human element - a lack of experience, compassion, common sense, and professionalism. You are not hauling boxes of widgets, this is a live animal. Someone’s pet, someone’s friend.
The sad part of all this is that the next time someone says “I have a horse here that needs a home”, I will hesitate. I have space in my pasture, but not in my heart. My willingness to help has been replaced by mistrust and sadness. This is going to take a long, long time to get over. My sincerest, most heartfelt condolences to his previous owners. I would do anything in the world to reverse this situation. I know that it is not my “fault”, but I hate that I played any role at all. You trust people. You trust what they say and go on faith that they’ll care for your horse like you would. Everything seemed so legitimate, in fact only one negative review and it was regarding a horse being dropped off late, which isn’t exactly unusual in horse hauling. You just never, ever know.
Based on how I personally feel about this incident, having never even met him beyond pictures and video, I cannot fathom how his owners of 13 years must be feeling. This is not how any of us envisioned his end. As I told his owners, I knew I would likely be the one to say goodbye to him, I just did not have any idea it would be so soon.
I’m so sorry, Pete. I’m sorry for how scared you must have felt. I’m sorry that the drivers I entrusted with your care did not notice your distress. I am sorry for your “mothers” in Georgia who felt as helpless as I did Friday night. I hope you know that you were loved, even from Texas. I’m sorry you didn’t get to meet your pasture-pet-for-life buddy, Sky. You would have liked her, she’s pretty spunky. She would have told you that you were in a good place, which she knows since she’s been with me most of her life, and when I was told to give up on her, I didn’t. I’m sorry for all the missed fun we were going to have, and I’m sorry you never got to enjoy your hard earned retirement years. I’m sorry you worked your entire life, and I’m so sorry that, in the end, people let you down. I’m sorry your new blanket arrived yesterday. I was hoping you wouldn’t have to wear it long, and would get fat on all the grass, and I’d have to order you the next size up. I’m sorry you’ll never see the pasture we finished fencing just for you, so you’d have the “good grass” and some nice trees. I’m sorry I had to cancel your SmartPak yesterday, since even though you were tough and passed a soundness exam, I thought a joint supplement might help you out. I’m sorry for your last moments, and I’m sorry that they left you on the side of the road by yourself. I’m sorry that instead of introducing you to your new home yesterday, I was waiting on necropsy results. I’m just sorry, buddy.
RIP my big bay friend. You deserved better.
Full Story on Rate My Horse PRO
I sincerely hope that nothing like this ever happens to any of you. The hauling industry is almost completely unregulated, and almost anyone can call themselves a horse hauler. It is so easy to be fooled. I have paired with Rate My Horse PRO in an effort to make some long term good come of this tragedy. They would like to build a section of the website devoted entirely to horse hauling, which will not only check haulers for DOT compliance and insurance, but also allow consumers to review their experiences. A common practice when something “bad happens” is that these haulers just change their company name and keep on going… RMHP will tie new company names to old ones, so any bad reviews cannot just be swept under the rug. The hauler involved with Pete has already taken their website and FB pages down, which just goes to prove they just immediately go into “cover up” mode. There needs to be a non biased place that horse owners can research haulers that is just not all sunshine and roses. Unfortunately, big high traffic websites are extremely expensive, and RMHP relies completely on sponsorship. They have not asked us for money, ever, and have been 100% supportive of us through this difficult situation.
HOW YOU CAN HELP… even $5 helps, and every single penny will go to RMHP to assist in getting this new section built. I really hope that some long term good comes from this awful situation, and I save someone else, and their horse, from all this heartbreak.
Pete’s Fund for Rate My Horse PRO