Early on the morning of May 26, Kristen Williams and her daughter, Katie, arrived at a barn on the grounds of the Devon Horse Show, where elite competitors in full dress have entertained spectators for the last century on Philadelphia’s Main Line.
Ms. Williams had paid thousands of dollars to lease a pony for Katie to ride in a hunter competition, a 12th birthday present. Soon after arriving, their trainer left to administer an injection to a nearby pony, Humble, that Katie’s friend, also celebrating her 12th birthday, was scheduled to ride shortly.
Moments later, with Ms. Williams and her daughter watching, Humble collapsed and died. The death of a supposedly fit pony about to carry a young rider over hurdles was worrisome by itself, but circumstances surrounding the death made it even more so.
In the three days before Humble died, he had been scheduled to receive 15 separate drug treatments, including anti-inflammatories, corticosteroids, and muscle relaxants, according to his medication chart.
“The average horse that walks in my clinic here doesn’t get anything like that,” said Dr. Kent Allen, chairman of both the veterinary and the drugs and medications committees of the United States Equestrian Federation, the sport’s nonprofit governing body. “It gets a diagnosis and then gets a very specific, appropriate treatment.”
Read the full investigative report on drugs in the horse show industry at The New York Times.
A version of this article appeared in print on December 28, 2012, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Sudden Death of Show Pony Clouds Image of Elite Pursuit.
Horse Authority (formerly Rate My Horse PRO) broke the news regarding Humble’s death at the 2012 Devon Horse Show. Our team led with exclusive reports for months, which included the circumstances that led up to and after the pony Humble’s death.
Humble’s death led to a criminal investigation of Georgia horse trainer Elizabeth Mandarino (Vogt) of Amber Hill Farm, although charges were never brought in the case.
As Americans, we enjoy rights that are so familiar that we often take them for granted. We also sometimes forget that every freedom we enjoy has negative by-products. This is perhaps most true when it comes to the right to free speech.
Guaranteed under the First Amendment, free speech ensures that we can express opinions that might be unpopular, particularly about those in authority.
Voltaire said, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
Free speech is a cornerstone of democracy, but it sometimes gets messy.
Also protected in the 45 words of the First Amendment is the right to free press.
We trusted the media to act as the “Fourth Estate.” The media still maintains a crucial role in society, but… the days of a newscaster being the “most trusted man in America” as Walter Cronkite was in the early 70s, have ended. In the information age, the need to get it right has lost in the race to get it fast.
In a market flooded with information, it’s difficult to know what to believe. The internet allows us access to information on every imaginable topic, and even with the narrow interest group of sport horse enthusiasts, a click of the mouse reveals seemingly endless sources of information.
Forums and blogs draw people with common interests together to share information, but how do we, as consumers, separate truth from fiction?
A disgruntled client can easily weigh in on one of many forums and express her displeasure with an equine professional’s training methods. Hiding behind the anonymity of a nondescript screen name, anyone can express opinions that can potentially damage careers.
This is important to remember. The old saying. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” applies to online reviews as people are often more likely to fire off responses when they are angry than to write words of praise when they receive good service.
In no way should we dismiss the internet as a source of information when hiring a trainer, purchasing from a breeder or choosing a veterinarian or farrier, but we must become savvy consumers of what we read online.
Rate My Horse Pro is a source to consider when choosing a boarding facility, trainer or farrier. Unlike blogs and forums, the site requires a small fee to join their community ($5) and the rating categories are extensive.
For example, a trainer might have exemplary teaching skills, but his facility lacks polish; an otherwise skilled farrier might have a habit of canceling appointments; an older barn’s dated appearance could actually be a great home for the family pony due to highly personalized care and a relaxed atmosphere.
Like other online rating systems, professionals are at the mercy of those who rate them. However, Rate My Horse Pro attempts to provide a more complete picture of the professional.
In the age of posts and tweet’s and status updates, it’s more important than ever to gather information from those close to the source, to consult a variety of sources or to use tools that are more likely to provide a comprehensive evaluation.
Equine Wellness – June 2012
Equine Wellness author Kelly Howling offers tips to make finding a horse boarding facility a little easier.
One hint she includes in her article is to check out horseauthority.co, which offers ratings and reviews of boarding stables across North America.
GREEN: The Missing Horseback Rider’s Guide
Keeping Your Money, Sanity, and Joy – November 2011
The horse industry’s source for finding the truth regarding your horse professionals, Rate My Horse PRO, is featured in a recently how-to book published for inexperienced equestrians.
The book, GREEN: The Missing Horseback Rider’s Guide to Keeping Your Money, Sanity, and Joy is a result of one woman’s experiences after years in the industry.
Author Kristine Oakhurst says she likes to focus on insights and lessons that don’t always get a voice. That’s why the former Grand Prix jumper rider recommends horseauthority.co to her readers.
“Rate My Horse PRO is a much-needed tool to help filter out all the garbage you might hear on the “streets” about a professional and/or barn. Gratefully, the site finally shines an accurate light on true horse professionals; it’s like the horse world’s own decoder ring.”
GREEN offers adult riders insight regarding what is a good horse trainer, the ins-and-outs of leasing, buying, and horse showing in a succinct, easy-to-read manual.