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Re: [RC] When horses die - Heidi Smith

>Her death raises a question that I would like each of you to think about when you're passing judgment on other riders.
>What if my beloved mare had collapsed during a ride? Would you have then labelled me a killer?
No, Brenda, not at all.  Your mare's death is the sort of thing that illustrates why the death rate at rides will never be zero.  I've been around a handful of horse deaths on rides, both as a ride vet and as a rider.  There is a world of difference between the "ticking time bomb" that you describe (and that is very apt), and the rider who rides their horse into the ground and then turns his/her back and callously walks away. 
I had one lady lose a horse at a ride with an aneurysm.  She rode very much like you describe your own career--hadn't done a lot of rides, but had brought her mare along slowly and conservatively.  The morning her horse died, she left camp last, and laughingly commented to me as she went out how she had finally gotten the mare over her pre-ride jitters--the mare was eager and had her ears up, but was heading out at a fast, flat-footed walk.  The mare collapsed only a few miles into the first loop.  All one can do is hug the rider and sit down and weep with them, in such cases.
Of all the horse deaths I've personally seen, only two were caused by uncaring riders who blatantly overrode and abused their horses.  One of those I now know enough to prevent--that rider taught me to recognize her type coming.  And perhaps I've prevented some since, given what I learned from her about having to get tough with the abusers.  She's the one that took advantage of a trusting vet and rode her marginal horse into the ground on the last loop.  I was the vet at the end who had to deal with the horse that was literally dead on his feet.  Neither that vet nor I will ever make the mistake of letting out a marginal horse again, no matter how much pleading and begging the rider does, or how trustworthy we think the rider is.  (That was in 1983.)  The other one I don't know how anyone could have prevented--the young man pulled himself, but was afraid to come back into camp because he was riding his dad's horse, and he was afraid of what his dad would say about him having pulled.  He rode offcourse, and spent an entire day evading search and rescue personnel that were looking for him.  He finally shattered his horse's leg on the top of a rocky mountainside where the horse could not be evacuated in the condition he was in.  One of the ride vets had to make the tortuous journey up there in a jeep and euthanize him.  I hope the door didn't hit either one of these riders on the backsides on their way out--neither one has been back to an AERC event, and I can't say I'll miss them.
But the aneurysms, the freak fractures, the ruptured hidden abscesses, the abdominal tumors--no, one cannot label riders of horses that succumb from such things as "horse killers."  And I'm sure sorry about your mare--having also lost one of my best mares to an aneurysm at home in the pasture, I know how devastating it can be.

[RC] When horses die, B. L. Kossowan