The sad news of the loss of a horse at AEC brought me to a question.
Who takes care of a horse after it has been put down at a horse trial?
I run a little schooling horse trial. We are an hour away from the
nearest vet hospital so, if a catastrophic accident were ever to
happen at our show to a horse, a likely outcome would be that the
owner would have the local vet put the horse down at our farm.
If the owner did not wish to take the horse home for burial or
cremation, who generally arranges for disposal of the corpse?
We do still have a rendering company in our area whose pickup
charge is modest, but it is not clear how much longer they will
be in business and their pickup schedule is hard to coordinate
with unexpected deaths. Do organizers just accept the expense?
Do owners need to be told they will need to cover this cost (seems
unfeeling given the circumstances)? Is there some good arrangement? Hopefully, I never will face this, but...
Difficult subject, but I think it's the owner's responsibility. I certainly wouldn't expect the organizer to pay if anything happened to my horse. It's definitely a good idea to have all the information gathered beforehand, just in case. Most likely the attending vet would be able to help with details also.
At the barn there is a sealed envelope labeled "Dead Horse Details". All the boarders know where it is. It says what to do, who to call, and has the key to the big gate on the road in case they need to get a truck into the pasture. Maybe you could put something like this in the show office. You could even have a compassionate letter already written up so that no one is stuck trying to figure out what to say under stress.
At that point I hope Murphy's Law will kick in and since you are so well prepared, you will NEVER need it!
For a recognized HT you have to have a plan for all this. There might be a protocol on USEA website. Don't have time to look today but if I find something I'll send it to you. It happened at one of our schooling trials. (was not because of exercise or injury) And it is so sad - the owners need someone who can take control and be the steady one. You need to be in charge and go home and cry later.
At a recognized trial I would expect that the organizer would have a list of all the options (at least one of each if available) with phone numbers. I would also appreciate if they offered to make the call once I chose what I wanted. However, I would absolutely expect to pay any associated costs.
When I organized a Rec. HT...we had a plan in place. A vet was on grounds during the event. We had tarps, tractor and a trailer with a winch and otherwise set up to transport a hurt horse. People who knew what to do in place and on the ready. And I had the number of the local rendering company that could take away the body if need be (and called them ahead of time putting them "on call". Luckily...we didn't need to put the plan into action. The rendering company costs were very modest....as an organizer, I would have just paid it. But I'm not sure what "rule" on that really is.
If it was a schooling HT...I would expect similar plans are in place. Unfortunately...most barns have had to deal with this and most BOs have such plans in place and know who to call.
Last edited by bornfreenowexpensive; Sep. 12, 2009 at 05:07 PM.
** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **
Always at upper level events and usually at lower level events we have safety meetings that include the organizer, the vets, medical, TD, PoGJ, in our case the horse ambulance, safety coordinator and course designer. We go through everything from who carries the screens to how the horse ambulance gets to where the horse is to what happens if a horse needs to be euthanized but the owner has to wait for permission from insurance. In our case we are able to bury horses on site and have equipment to do so. We run through every scenario we can think of - this weekend our Advanced and Intermediate horses had to jump up and off the island in the water. We had a dry run with the horse ambulance to work out how an injured horse would be safely extricated off the island. We also cover crowd control, who the official spokesperson is etc. - in short we try to cover every scenario.
It's one of the many behind the scenes things that occur that most competitors aren't aware of.
Pegasusmom is right and she essentially covered it - there are alot of meetings that go on prior to the event to discuss logistics. Make sure also you have ready access to any heavy equipment that might be needed to dismantle a fence, should a horse get stuck in it. A couple other things that I think are important to keep in mind as well: (1) make sure the equine ambulance has directions to the nearest veterinary hospital. Small detail, but critical and surprisingly easy to fall through the cracks. Do not underestimate the unpleasantness of trying to find the vet hospital on back roads with little cell service and a critically injured horse in back. (2) Recognize that the owner/rider may not be in a place to make great decisions - and be as gentle with them as you can. This is a particularly good time to waive any fee associated with not returning the rider's pinney, for example, or not mucking out the stall. Try not to lose any of the horse's paperwork - that dressage test or passport will likely be even more precious than it already is. A note or a kind word can mean alot to them, particularly a day or two after the fact. (3) Remember that your volunteers are likely upset about any accident as well, and be cognizant if they need to go home for the day - you can shift folks around as needed and still take care of the riders left to go (who may understandably be a bit shaky as well). (4) Take care of yourself - no organizer ever wants to lose a horse at their event. After the fact you might meet with your course designer/TD/jump builder/judges or stewards to try to figure out what happened and if there's anything that could be done differently, but often it's just a plain fluke thing, horses being horses.
This is a subject I know more about than I ever would have wanted to know.
The posts above are fantastic and have good and accurate information, but there are a couple of things I'd like to add -- depending on how the horse died, it is quite likely that a necropsy will be needed or called for. In that case, it is necessary to have a plan to send the horse to a facility where that can be performed. I met with some folks back in June of 2008 and learned a lot about how this process could be improved. As an organizer, it is information that it would be really good to have.
I agree wholeheartedly with GS about things belonging to the horse. We've also made sure to save the horses shoes and perhaps some mane and tail hair to give to the owner -- or more frequently to the owner's family member. The owner may be too distraught to deal with it then, but if later they wish they had it, there is no way to get it back if it is not saved at that time. I've had several very cooperative farriers be more than happy to help with this.
The debrief, as mentioned by GS above, is invaluable. You learn from every incident, and while you hope it is information you will never need again, it is best to collect it, just in case.
Again, I hope no one here ever needs this info but it is good to have.