Monday, September 26, 2011

Equine Policy Reform Starts at Home

The Horse | Racing Breakdowns Could Lead to Veterinarian Policy Reform

This article from today's The Horse RSS feed is an important one, so I'm reposting it here.  It might be one of the best things to come out of all the sad track disasters of the past few years.  In this case, the disaster befell a filly--Langfurs Answer--whose leg broke during morning training at Penn National Race Course in PA.  The poor animal had to wait an hour to be euthanized because no vet could be found on the grounds to do the deed.

Not that euthanasia is a pretty thing, and it's hard to think about even when it's not your horse.  But there are moments when it is the best alternative, and in those moments quick action is a must.  

Possibly the most horrific thing I've ever seen happen to a horse was not at the track, but at a local show.  It was held at the Sussex County Fairgrounds, and we were there early watching and waiting our turn.  As I recall, it was the first in a series of rated shows that would be held annually from thence forward, so there was a lot of excitement surrounding it.  

The first classes were young horses being shown in halter for points, and one of the first classes was won by a lovely Palomino yearling named Obviously I'm Gold or something like that.  He was gorgeous and he did his breeder/owner proud.  When his class was over, she put him in the big six-horse straight-load trailer, hung some hay for him, tied his head, and walked away out the side personnel-escape door.  He called after her, then made a scramble over the half-wall in front of him.  Head tied, he got hung up, and his efforts to free himself cost him his back leg.  It was almost completely amputated by the edge of the wall.  Several of us hurried to cut the tie holding him, and one of us was successful.  He came tumbling out and stood calling and bleeding.

That's not the bad part.  The owner falling to her knees in front of him, sobbing hysterically was bad, but that wasn't the bad part either.  The bad part came when the other partners in his ownership could not be reached and the insurance company would not allow him to be euthed until they had all the permissions necessary.  His leg was splinted and he was given a bale of hay to chew on ...all...day...long.  That was the bad part.  

The moral of this story?  There are more policy changes that need to be made.  In this case the vet was right there and ready to do what was necessary, but the insurance company held up the process.  The insurance company was following their own policy, and the bottom line there was the owners.

I'm sure that little guy was worth a bunch of money, and I'm sure the partners wanted to get their investment back, but at what cost?

I've written before about the wisdom of having insurance on your horse, particularly if s/he is of great value, but if the result of that caution and bottom-line focus is pain and anguish for an animal who didn't do anything to deserve it, then perhaps a new focus needs to be found.  Whoever came up with the "replacement value" thing in the mortality clause of the policies we carry probably didn't think ahead to this kind of outcome. 

Zip, worth approximately $20 today,
assuming I could pay someone to take him.
As with everything in the horse biz, the valuation aspect is a two-edged sword.  When horses have no monetary value to their owners, their care seems to become less important.  When they have too much value, this sort of craziness ensues.  We need a middle road that takes into account that horses are living creatures that can be dollar-valued today and financially worthless tomorrow.  

I'm looking out the window at my lovely Zip who is waiting for the vet to come and figure out what he did to his right foreleg in the pasture yesterday, just when I'd planned on riding him.  We were just getting back to work when the storms hit and the ring went under water.  It's been a couple of weeks since Lake Friedman appeared at one end, and it's almost gone now, so we (I) were excited about getting back into the program.  With one foreleg out of commission, ain't much riding going to happen.  Does that reduce his value significantly?  Sure, and if I'd wanted to sell him, yesterday would have been a much better day than today for that.  Oh well.  

You don't buy a horse believing he'll never get sick or suffer an injury just like you don't get married without that "sickness and health" stipulation, and you don't have kids without the chance that one will get in with a bad crowd and wind up a Tea Bag Republican.  Stuff happens.  It's my opinion that we need to suck it up a little better and do what needs to be done when it needs doing. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

brinkka2011 says: Thenk you very much