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Horse Summit addresses cruelty and neglect

Published: 2/25/2011
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By Michelle Hirshberg

In  January, I had the opportunity to attend the first annual New England Horse Summit, an event sponsored by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the New England Federation of Humane Societies and the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.  The summit was hosted by the MSPCA at Nevins Farm in Methuen, MA.
The purpose of the summit was to create an environment that would attract a group of like-minded people interested in the welfare and rescue of horses in New England.  The MSPCA donated the use of their beautiful dog-training facility and indoor arena, so over 75 people could attend. 

The group consisted of animal control officers, humane agents, several rescue group representatives, veterinarians and state horse alliances, such as Maine Equine Welfare Alliance from throughout New England.  I attended as a MEWA representative along with Michelle Melaragno, MEWA’s Chair.
The first day was made up of a series of scheduled presentations.  After the initial registration and introductions, veterinarian Rebecca Remillard gave a very informative presentation on Re-feeding Neglected Horses.
She discussed in detail how important it is to understand what is going on metabolically when feeding a starved horse. Many things must be taken into consideration before beginning a re-feeding program.  A physical exam should be performed to determine BCS (body condition score), body weight, condition of teeth, feet, age and reproductive status.  
Some questions one must ask:
Are there any concurrent metabolic diseases such as Cushing’s disease, diabetes, parasitic infestation, or respiratory conditions?
 Are there signs of diarrhea or skin problems?
Is water available? A horse cannot eat if he has no access to water.  
If a horse’s BCS is below 2.5, it is essential to introduce food very carefully. Grain should not be fed and hay should be fed in very small amounts in several feedings a day.  In 3-5 days without food, a horse’s bowel tissue becomes thin and could rupture if too much food is introduced too quickly. Re-feeding syndrome is a metabolic tightrope and should be done under the direction of a veterinarian for those who are inexperienced.
The next presentation was a lecture and hands-on training given by Roger Lauze, the Equine Rescue & Training Coordinator for the MSPCA Equine Center.
The Body Condition Scoring System was developed by Don Henneke 25 years ago at Texas A & M University. The system is a 10 level evaluation which allows a horse’s body condition to be assessed by examining six areas of the body where fat tends to accumulate.  These areas are the neck, the withers, the crease along the spine, the tail head and the area just behind the shoulder.   Level 1 would indicate extremely thin and level 10 would indicate positively obese.  The system is invaluable in that it provides professionals and individual horse owners the ability to evaluate a horse objectively.
Roger Lauze also gave an entertaining and informative presentation on the Equine Ambulance Program at the MSPCA. The program was founded in 1868 and has evolved into one of the finest services in equine emergency response and rescue.  We watched and even participated in a demonstration on how to place a downed horse on a rescue glide and move the glide and horse into a trailer.
The horse on the glide was plastic and weighed about 600 pounds, but we got the idea!
Two of the MSPCA’s law enforcement agents spoke about some of their investigative experiences when responding to complaints.  They stressed how important it is to stay neutral and non-combative when dealing with negligent horse owners.  The goal is to make an attempt to work with people initially, because in some cases, education is more effective than confrontation.
Unfortunately, people can refuse to allow an agent access to their property, making it necessary for Animal Welfare to step in, causing huge delays.  When dealing with starvation and neglect cases, time is of the essence.
The summit was educational and inspiring.  It was fantastic to be in a room full of passionate people who are committed to helping horses in need. I have so much respect for people who have essentially made it their life’s work and sacrificed so much.   I will try to do whatever I can to make a difference…even if it’s just one horse at a time.

The last presentation on Starting a Horse Foster Care Program was given by Melissa Ghareeb, Manager of the MSPCA Equine & Farm Animal Center. She discussed the MSPCA’s procedures and requirements for those seeking to foster horses.  Fostering is always a great option as it frees up space at the society for the horses that are in need of rehabilitation and allows some of the healthier, adoptable horses to have some one-on-one attention.  
The second day was a round table discussion of about 50 invited participants.  Some of the topics presented for discussion were Options for Handling Large Seizures, Senior Horses, Euthanasia and Body Removal Options and a general Wrap-Up session.  
The biggest hurdle that horse rescuers and welfare employees are facing is state governments have no money in the budget to be able to provide for homeless, abused and neglected horses.  State agents don’t have the ability to seize animals if there are no facilities and money to support them.  Something has to change at a government level so that agents can do their jobs.
The summit was educational and inspiring.  It was fantastic to be in a room full of passionate people who are committed to helping horses in need. I have so much respect for people who have essentially made it their life’s work and sacrificed so much.   I will try to do whatever I can to make a difference…even if it’s just one horse at a time.


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2/25/2011 Dr, Rebecca Gimenez
Thank you for a GREAT article and I am so proud to see Nevins Farm and the other partners working on education and setting up those partnerships that are so important to this effort. THANKS NICKER NEWS FOR THE ARTICLE!!!!!
2/25/2011 Ann
Thanks very much for the write up about the horse summit. I was so sorry that I was unable to make it. I had planned on going but something came up at the rescue last minute. Sounds like good stuff!
2/26/2011 Julie Kenney
Thanks to both Michelle's for attending this horse summit and a big thank you to Michelle H. for the very informative article. Sounds like the summit was very positive and enlightening. What a great addition of information to our new horse advocacy group...MEWA. Education is definitely key to reducing the neglectful and abusive situations that Maine's horses find themselves in. Wonderful job!!
2/28/2011 Katie L.
Thank you, Michelle, for such a great article! I'm so happy that MEWA was able to attend!
3/4/2011 Linda
Very interesting article. I do hope in the future there will be a place to take seized horses and large animals. Humane agents hands are pretty much tied if there is no place to take them.
1/23/2013 Denise
I just realized that Alexis Ingraham has a facebook page named " New England Pets and Livestock for sale & trade"I am appalled that she can do this.She should not be allowed to have ANYTHING to do with horses!

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