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W., Homeplaces Magazine
|Once per month, this blog will share my insights on the facinating world of the horse business.
Although I will not be taking comments on this blog, your feedback is welcome - email link
Past Cases of the Month are available at this link
The current Case of the Month is available at this link
An older gentleman was examining some classic cars at an auto show in Illinois when he was struck by a polo pony.
The horse had broken loose from a polo match being played on the adjacent field. The older man was severely injured and was rushed to the hospital. He eventually recovered from his many injuries and then sued the polo club who owned both the polo fields. The case went to trial and the verdict went against the polo club. The jury, when polled after the trial, didn’t buy the defense expert’s statements that a simple crime scene tape was sufficient to separate the two events.
Separating two very unrelated events must be divided by at least some sturdy wooden barriers; not cheap plastic tape.
The Friesian stallion in the case had been sold “as is.” The stallion’s hoofs started exuding a rather disgusting “goop.” Later diagnosed as Pemphigus, a common disease in the Friesian horse, the condition can affect the area around the coronary band of the hoof. Unfortunately, it is very hard to treat and while not terminal, the prognosis is not very good.
The purchaser sued claiming fraud but eventually settled for a very small amount after a series of vets explained that Pemphigus is just about impossible to predict.
The fact that Friesian horses are often shown with free, untrimmed fetlocks leads some to point at the large “feathering” as a possible cause.
Stables used as “layup facilities” for horses can seem even more attractive to a horse owner with an ailing animal if there’s an equine swimming pool.
The stable in question had a “tough nut to crack” every month what with all the new costly expenses. Unfortunately, the stable’s owner allowed a very young horse with a runny nose into the barn. The colt had “Strangles,” a common, very contagious ailment in young horses. While “Strangles” is not too much of a problem to a young horse it can be deadly to an older one as in this case.
At the same time the stable owner brought in a ten year old champion rope horse and stabled it next to the contagious youngster. It wasn’t too long before the older horse contracted strangles and almost died.
Aggressive and costly treatment saved the older horse whose owner promptly sued the stable owner claiming he was never warned about the “Strangles” in the horse adjacent to his. The stable’s insurance carrier paid the claim and then dumped the stable from further protection.
Not checking out each new boarding horse cost this stable owner mightily since replacement liability insurance was three times that of his previous policy.
This month’s case found a narcissistic veterinarian refusing to admit he had “obviously” forged pre-race documents concerning the oxygen/blood ratio.
Race horse trainers often use such ratio as a guide to how well the horse will do in the immediate next race.
In an effort to create a “pumped up picture” of his medical prowess, the vet gave a wildly optimistic blood/oxygen ratio on which the trainer based his decision to run the horse.
Because the actual ratio was much lower the horse “broke down” and had to be destroyed.
The whole sad fact could have been avoided if the truth had been told in the first place. The mentally disturbed vet lost his license to practice veterinary medicine.
Case of the Month for May illustrates why the directions given to your veterinarian must be followed.
Our example was a very colicky horse dropped off at the local vet hospital. The horse’s owner clearly recalls giving precise instructions to the veterinarian’s staff to “never restrict the horse by placing a rope over the horse’s back… ”she’ll go nuts.”
The owner then went off to work. After receiving a frantic phone call at work (this was before the cell phone days) the owner raced back to the vet hospital.
The vet, having not been told of the owner’s instruction, had attempted to perform a body cavity centisis where a long needle in inserted into the animals lower body cavity to check for abnormal fluids possibly indicating a rupture.
The horse freaked out and flipped over at the first touch of a restrictive rope on her back, fracturing her skull and dying immediately. Because the owner proved a vet tech had indeed noted the instructions against restricting the horse over its back the vet’s insurance company paid a hefty monetary award.
Needless to say, make sure your vet’s office fully comprehends your instructions if you can’t be present during a necessary procedure. It’s ok to be demanding because, after all, it is YOUR horse!
CASE OF THE MONTH resulted from a penalty by a registration organization claiming the owner of a stallion had altered the horse’s conformation by a procedure to remove areas of fat across the horse’s hips (Apparently a show steward had filed a charge after being tipped off by a disgruntled competing exhibitor).
The stallion’s owner filed suit claiming the organization had defamed the stallion. The suit was for a huge amount of money which was justifiable since the owner was able to prove that in fact, no “fat removing” procedure had ever been implemented.
The lesson learned is to always be alert to your horse’s conformation especially when doing a pre purchase examination. Veterinary medicine has progressed to new levels only dreamed of a few years ago.
The case of the month involved a rather destitute horse trainer who talked his way into a boarding stable after convincing the stable’s owner that he alone would be able to attract many more horses to the boarding stable.
Unfortunately the stable’s owner didn’t get around to verifying the trainer’s line of BS until the trainer himself owed close to $40,000.00 in boarding and facility charges. The stable’s owner finally got rid of the “trainer” but never did collect on the overdue fees.
The lesson learned is that simply believing every word spoken by the “smooth talker” can lead to a financial nightmare. I’ve used the late President Reagan’s statement…”Trust but verify” before and it’s so very appropriate in this instance.
The case of the month for August, 2011 involved a veterinarian who was examining a Belgium Warmblood dressage horse. The vet, however, failed to close the stall door while drawing a sample of blood.
Apparently thinking the horse presented no escapee tendencies the doctor failed to close the stall door. The mare promptly ran out the stall door and made it halfway across the street in front of the stable and was hit by a cement truck; she died instantly.
The lesson learned is to always watch out for your horse when being examined by the vet. Even the inexperienced observer could have seen a bad situation developing when the stall door was not securely locked.
What a sad lesson was learned by simply not controlling one of God’s most beautiful creatures who was only acting in a normal way.
The value of race horses is determined by so many factors. Among them is the horse’s ability to negotiate a grass or turf footing. Not all horses are good on the “turf.” Some folks joke that the grass must “tickle” the horse’s feet.
Anyway, the horse in this case was super and I was asked to perform an appraisal for the defense, (You’ll see why the defense’s lawyers didn’t care that much for my high but very truthful assessment of the horse’s value).
During a $500,000.00 allowance race at a prominent Florida track the horse in question broke down on the poorly maintained grass backstretch. The horse was euthanized causing the subsequent suit.
The old adage, “To thine own self be true” resulted in my accurate and justified appraisal of $750,000.00 based on its super racing background and future. The insurance company wrote the check to the plaintiffs, as I instructed, with no further questions leaving the defense attorneys very unhappy.
NAES was asked to perform an appraisal and performance assessment of an amateur-owner jumper. The horse had been sold to a budding “superstar” but after several small shows began stopping out. She had no trainer to help her learn.
The frustrated rider, having never had a trainer to instruct her, sued the previous owner who had ridden the animal to numerous championships. That’s when NAES got called in by the defense team.
Part of my evaluation of a “problem” animal is figuring out if there were any physical ailments: the veterinarian said “none.” on her report. Having been a trainer and judge for many years I then found previous performance videos showing that the horse was very good with the old owner.
After looking at videos of the plaintiff where the horse went very well at the beginning and then went poorly, it was evident to me that the plaintiff rode so badly that she “taught” the horse to stop.
The plaintiff dropped the suit after my deposition showed beyond doubt, that the horse was fine until “screwed up” by the new owner.
The lesson is to always have a competent professional help in your purchases.
Horse appraisals are often performed in an adversarial atmosphere; that is, the results of the appraisal are used in a divorce action or similar competition at law.
The horse in question was a high level jumper and focal point of the original partnership document. The two parties, in a misguided effort to save money problem was a very poorly prepared contract which included a wacko method of determining value at contract’s end.
The case in question is rare in that both parties agreed to have NAES value the horse in question and actually agreed on the final valuation.
Thankfully with agreement on the horse’s value settled the case settled with just the small stuff to be argued over plus both sides could split the appraisal fee, too.
The contract was not prepared by legal counsel highlighting why such contracts must be prepared by an attorney.
This case represented a dispute between two owners of a very successful amateur-owner jumping horse. The dissolution of their partnership had entered a rather testy period which is when I was asked to value the horse.
Appraisals are generally paid for by either of the parties in a legal dispute. I was fortunate in this case that I was able to convince both sides that it really made sense and cost less to perform just one appraisal.
Since both sides were relatively close as to what each side thought the price of the amateur-owner jumping horse was worth, they both agreed, albeit with a modest amount of grumbling.
I explained that no matter which side retained me, the final appraisal amount was the same anyway. Their invoice was agreeably paid.
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