Why I Have Always Been So Leary About Shipping My Horses…
Happy Saturday. I’m sharing a post that I read with tremendous despair and sadness on FB. I feel compelled and my moral obligation to share this young lady’s horrific and tragic story with others with the hope that this knowledge may prevent yet another horse from injury – or worse, death. I think most of us horse lovers and owners know what it’s like to lose a horse you love. I know I do.
While sharing Lindsey’s story won’t bring her precious and beloved, Elle back, maybe it will in some way help another horse lover/horse owner and their horse down the road – I sure hope so…
“If you are in any way involved in the horse industry/community, or are against animal abuse, please read & share:
On September 11th, 2015, my horse Ethereal, “Elle”, had to be euthanized after being transported from Ohio to Virginia by Nation-Wide Horse Transportation, a professional shipping company based out of Colorado Springs, CO. My family and I have spent the last eleven months seeking ramifications for Nation-Wide and trying to force the company to take responsibility for their actions. We have hit wall after wall and have been redirected countless times within the legal system, law enforcement agencies, and government regulatory departments. No one has been able to follow through with helping us, so I’m now going to tell this story publicly in the hopes that it can be shared with everyone and no one else will have to go through this nightmare.
We initially contacted Nation-Wide last summer when we knew that we would need to ship Elle from Delaware, OH to Charlottesville, VA in the fall. We had never commercially shipped before, but found Nation-Wide online. If you visit their website, you will notice that they promise they are an “industry leader in providing safe and dependable equine shipping for more than four decades” and that “you can be confident when you ship with Nation-Wide that your horse will be taken good care of”.
Elle was picked up by two drivers the afternoon of Saturday, September 5th, with the promise that she would be in Virginia the following evening. Throughout the weekend, both Nation-Wide’s office and the drivers of the trailer became increasingly difficult to communicate with, leaving us with no idea where our horse was after she did not arrive on Sunday night. When contact was eventually made, we were told that Elle would now be delivered Tuesday morning, much later than had been promised and a long time for her to be on the trailer even if she was being properly cared for. This delay was due to the fact that the trailer had apparently broken down not once, but twice in the 90° weather with the horses onboard the entire time.
When my mom spoke to the driver later, she was told that he had also gotten lost several times and was now the only one driving. He claimed it was the trip from hell. None of the horse owners were contacted during this situation and given the chance to intervene or make alternate arrangements for their horses. Had we known, we would’ve done whatever was necessary to get Elle off that trailer. We made contact with one of the drivers several months after what happened, and he had extremely horrible things to say about the company, its owner, and her business practices which showed a blatant disregard for horse care. He abandoned the shipment before it made it all the way back to Colorado Springs because he did not want to be with the company anymore after what had happened.
Elle was delivered Tuesday morning to The Barracks in Charlottesville where I ride on the UVA riding team. The people at The Barracks are some of the kindest, most supportive, knowledgeable horsemen I’ve ever met and I can’t thank them enough for doing everything they could for both Elle and me. As soon as she was unloaded, it was clear to everyone there that she was in very bad shape. Elle was in shock and her heart rate was more than double what it should’ve been. She was severely dehydrated, leading us to believe she hadn’t been given nearly enough water, and she had pneumonia, likely from being unable to cough to clear debris from her lungs because her head had been tied up for so long. At no point had Nation-Wide either noticed or cared that my horse was clearly in distress and decided to seek help for her or contact us. She was taken to Blue Ridge Equine Clinic as soon as possible. I went and saw her as soon as I could and listened to the vets tell me about how the pneumonia was causing hemorrhaging in her lungs, about how the IV fluids were collecting in her chest wall, about how her heart rate just wouldn’t come down. I talked to her and I brushed her and I watched her lie down at the end of my visit when she was just too tired to stand anymore.
On Wednesday, my mom drove to Virginia and we went and saw Elle together. Her front feet were bandaged due to lameness that had begun to present itself. Elle was limping, clearly in pain and tired, but wouldn’t lie down because of the stress it put on her feet. She wouldn’t eat and was bleeding from her nostrils. The antibiotics weren’t fighting the pneumonia. By Thursday night, nothing had improved. The lameness had been identified as laminitis that was being caused by the same infection causing the pneumonia. Even in a deeply bedded stall, wearing cushioned ice boots, and with Fentanyl (a severe pain management drug similar to morphine) patches on her legs, Elle was trembling from pain and fatigue. I cannot describe how truly heart-wrenching it is to see your best friend swaying in place because walking even one step is too painful, and how agonizing it is to listen to them struggling to breathe. I could hear the fluid in Elle’s lungs every time I put my head to her neck to hug her. That night the vets put a chest tube in to try to drain some of the fluid. It was the only thing we could still do, and we wanted to give Elle every chance possible.
On Friday morning, September 11th, the laminitis had become too severe and the bones in Elle’s feet were sinking and rotating downward so much as to threaten to push through the bottoms of her hooves. She was in incredible pain and would never be able to recover enough to live even a retired life in a pasture. We made the heartbreaking choice to put Elle down that morning, only a little more than 72 hours after she had gotten off the trailer.
Nation-Wide did not contact us at all during or after this happened until we made contact with them several months later by filing a complaint with a government department. They have denied any blame or wrongdoing whatsoever. The company was only willing to give us $1000 in exchange for signing a non-disclosure agreement that would have kept me from doing exactly what I’m doing right now. That money would’ve been a token amount compared to Elle’s value, the vet bills we accrued, and the suffering they caused. Since Elle’s death, we have discovered internet stories of many other horses that have been injured during transport by Nation-Wide, including horses on the same trip as Elle. She was not the first, nor the last. I regret everyday that I didn’t search for these stories beforehand.
PLEASE SHARE this post. I don’t want any more horses to be at risk, or any other people to have to lose their best friends and teammates. Do not use Nation-Wide Horse Transport. I don’t know why anyone would be so cruel and hateful as to treat animals like this, but I’d like to try and make sure they don’t have the chance to do it anymore. Even if you don’t share, I’d like to thank you for reading this and acknowledging what happened. Elle was a sweet, beautiful, talented animal that I loved so so much and was lucky to spend four years with, and I miss her every single day.”
I shipped a horse once (key word, “once”) long distance. After that horrible experience, we decided that we would never ship again – unless one of us was the driver. We were lucky; we got our beloved horse back alive albeit somewhat mentally “fried” from the ghastly trip. All we can do as horse care-givers is to research, research, research before we put our horses’ fate in the hands of another. Sadly though, even when we’ve exercised due diligence and conducted all of that research, there are no guarantees.
I pray there will come about some sort of justice – vindication for Lindey’s loss. I hope you will share this blog post so that others become more aware of Lindsey’s story. Kudos to Lindsey and her family for bringing this story to the forefront. No doubt, doing so is extremely challenging and painful for them in hopes of helping another…
All of this said, we know for a fact there are many responsible, knowledgeable, experienced and ethical shippers out there in the horse world who always keep the horses’ health and well-being as their top priority and who consistently strive for excellence for their customers. After all, our horses are indeed far more than ‘precious cargo’ and are absolutely irreplacable…
Below is the link to the television news broadcast:
The Team At HappyHorseOfAmerica.com
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