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Welfare of the Horse Committee Report

2008 AERC Equine Fatality Report

There were seven equine fatalities at or after AERC rides in the 2008 season. One fatality included in this chart was suffered due to complications incurred after a ride at the end of the 2008 season, but the horse did not succumb to those complications until 2009.

Date Reg. Distance Breed Sex Age Equine Mi. Rider Mi. Died Apparent Cause Post-Mortem?
11/3/07 W 50 Arabian mare 10 2,120 22,650 2 months septicemia yes
4/26/08 SE 50 Quarab gelding 11 890 3,055 that day impaction no
7/4/08 MT 50 Arabian gelding 7 270 6,350 next day non-specific colic no
8/15/08 MW 50 Arabian gelding 9 510 150 that day colic/related trauma yes
9/20/08 W 100 Arabian gelding 19 675 175 next day unknown no
9/20/08 W 100 Arabian gelding 6 350 5 days septic joint/accidental trauma yes
11/28/08 W 50 Arabian gelding 13 1,605 2,900 next day pre-existing disorder/colic yes

As with the charts for the previous six years, there are no glaring reasons why most of these horses died. One very tragic case was of a horse who finished a 100 mile ride and was injured at the trailer that night, causing an irreparable joint injury. Accidents are always possible even with the most diligent care, and can effect our partners at any time.

While all fatalities in 2008 occurred in horses entered in 50 and 100 mile rides, that is not the case with other years, and in our opinion does not reflect a trend of any sort. Experienced riders and horses seem to be affected at the same relative rate as the inexperienced.

Again, colic, or non specific belly pain, is the initial symptom that most of these horses experience. One key issue that the Welfare of the Horse Committee would like to continue to stress is that riders need to be vigilant in their observations, sensitive in their intuition and to seek immediate help if things do not appear to be 'right' with their horse. The small belly discomfort that your horse got over at home with a little walking, could become a life threatening colic in the face of even slight dehydration and physical stress that occurs at rides. Immediate aggressive treatment could have made a difference to those horses listed on this chart, that did not have that advantage.

Riders are urged to educate themselves to the signs and treatment of colic and to be prepared to employ the treatment vet at a ride, and to ship their horse to a clinic, should those signs appear. The cost of surgery is understandably prohibitive to most owners, but most of these cases will recover with good supportive medicine. This is an expense all of us should be willing to shoulder for our partners.

About half of the horses who died at or after rides, were subject to a post-mortem exam. The Veterinary Committee has available a refund up to $300 to any rider who loses a horse and has a necropsy performed. While it is understandable that such a procedure at an emotional time can be difficult to an owner, it is crucial to the understanding of why and how these horses die, and could help to prevent such losses in the future. We have heard from owners who have had a necropsy done, that while it was a difficult decision, it provided some relief and closure to them at a later date.

The Welfare of the Horse Committee wishes express our heartfelt condolences to those riders who have experienced the loss of their equine partner, and our pledge that we will continue to investigate and learn from these losses in the hope of preventing further fatalities.

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