Local vet aids in rescue of abused horse

Published 3:02 pm Friday, November 8, 2013

For many owners of livestock in the Butler County area, finding an animal bleeding to death is one of the scariest scenarios imaginable.

But for one Hayneville family, that nightmare became a reality.

Farm owner Coral Smith came home late one Thursday evening to find Ruby, her prized red chocolate quarter horse, mane-less and bleeding from a series of stab wounds to the neck and chest.

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Perhaps most terrifying of all is that Smith has no idea who could’ve done it, or why.

“We got the first piece of property at the first of May, and we’ve only been living here since Aug. 16,” Smith said. “We’re a small farm and we’re kind of new to this, but this has shaken our family to the very core of our existence.”

That was when the Smith family contacted Dr. Josh Gardner of Clay Hill Animal Clinic in Greenville, who quickly assessed the situation, triaged the horse and carried her off to the proper facilities for treatment.

“Honestly, when someone calls me and tells me that an animal has been injured, I usually get there and find that it was done on a barbed wire fence or a piece of tin on the corner of the barn and there’s no foul play involved,” Gardner said. “But in this case, it was pretty obvious there was foul play involved. All of the wounds were about an inch and a quarter, which was consistent with one weapon that was stabbed into the horse repetitively and, to top it all off, the mane had been cut, but not with something that you would normally use to cut hair so that it would look even.”

Though the mane’s removal didn’t do any harm to Ruby, it effectively tipped Gardner off that this particular case was far more than a situation of accidental trauma.

Gardner predicts that she will make a full recovery despite the severity of Ruby’s wounds, though the difference between life and death for the mare might’ve been only one-fourth of an inch — the difference between Ruby’s completely severed jugular vein and the carotid artery, which supplies the brain with blood.

“(Gardner) didn’t know us from Adam’s housecat,” Smith said. “It was nearly 10 p.m. before he called another client and went and borrowed a horse trailer and took our mare to his animal hospital. He was like a horse angel that night.”

Gardner said that Ruby’s compliant and easy-going nature has helped the healing process, though it was probably that same kind nature that worked against her when her attackers approached.

“I’m sure this one came up to whoever it was, wanting a treat or someone to pet her,” Gardner said. “And in my mind, that made it even worse that they would take a horse so gentle that she’d let you do anything, got her and then stab her eight or 10 times. It takes a pretty disturbed individual, for sure.”

And while acts of seemingly random violence are nearly impossible to prevent completely, Gardner added that there are preventative measures that can be taken.

“Just keep an eye out on your horses and make sure that they’re OK a couple of times a day, in the morning and at night, so that if something does happen you catch it pretty early,” Gardner said. “We’ve had livestock deaths increase over the last decade in this county and in the counties surrounding us, so keep padlocks on your gates and other general security measures.”