Saturday, August 1, 2009

Another day, another psycho

Horses Poisoned at Stables

Please read the story, especially if you are local to Rancho Santa Fe, California, or may have any idea who had a grudge against the Tomlins. 23 horses were very deliberately poisoned - oleander leaves were mixed with tasty apples and carrots and hand fed to them.

Wow. Just when I think I've seen the worst, somebody comes up with a more extreme case to show me how truly evil people can be. What I think is most upsetting about this case is that you know it wasn't about the horses at all. This will turn out to be some fired stall cleaner or someone who had a business or personal dispute with one of the Tomlins. Maybe one of them has an angry ex. It's hard to imagine it's a horseperson but it might very well be - it took some knowledge to know how toxic oleander is to horses. Of course, maybe it is just some nut who enjoys watching animals suffer, but I kind of doubt it because they didn't get to watch here. That kind of person steals the animal first, like that horrible boy in Florida who was killing cats.

These horses are fortunate in that the Tomlins were able to afford immediate and excellent vet care. At this point it looks like all will survive.

It scares me that someone who could do something like this is involved in horses, just as it scares me every time one of the scandals where horses are killed for insurance breaks. I cannot fathom being involved with horses and not loving them...not wanting to protect them and care for them but instead maliciously ending (or attempting to end) their lives for personal gain or maybe even just for revenge. I just don't even get how people like that wind up being involved with horses. I like to assume we're all, as Mugwump calls us, members of the horsaii...pretty much born with a love of horses and the desire to always have them in our lives.

Anyway, it's a short post today but I just had to put it up and ask you all to read it. If you know anything about this case, please call the police. It is very disturbing to me that the criminal here may not get identified and punished.

UPDATE: There is a $10,000 reward to find the person who did this. So if you know, there's darn good money in coming forward - do the right thing!


"I had to write about this since I'm familiar with Rancho Santa Fe, though I am not familiar with this particular farm. That whole area is filled with large horse properties.

First, I'm glad they acted quickly, it looks like those horses will be OK. Rockridge appears to be a boarding and/or training facility for Saddlebred show horses.

It could be intentional poisoning, but it could have been someone who wanted to give the pretty horsies a snack and grabbed leaves from a conveniently at-hand bush, which in that neighbord probably was an Oleander.

Oleander is planted everywhere here because it needs little or no water when established. It is used almost exclusively as a hedge plant in Rancho Santa Fe because the properties are huge and in drought times water is strictly rationed, so if you want a privacy hedge it has to be something that will live if you don't water it. I think Oleander is the only plant that meets the criteria. Many streets in that area are literally walled with the stuff.

Accidental poisoning is not uncommon because oleander is everywhere and many people haven't got a clue that oleander is poisonous.

Conscientious horse owners will identify the plants on their property and remove any poisonous ones from areas their horses will be in or near. On horse properties oleanders usually are limited to the road-side hedge, with a gap wide enough to drive a truck through between the hedge and the pasture fence. They remove it from areas where the horses might be able to get to it. I've seen Oleander and other poisonous plants in stable yards, I think this is really dangerous. Some horses will snatch a bite out of any plant they can reach.

It could be intentional poisoning. If their intent was to kill the horses, there are much more effective methods than oleander leaves. It takes quite a few leaves to kill a horse, and they don't really like the taste of oleander much, so many horses won't eat the stuff. Fortunately.

The other possibility is that someone snuck in to give treats to the pretty horsies. Usually when people do this they bring apples or carrots, but I've caught well-meaning people trying to feed all sorts of inappropriate things to my horses. I had to make a "carrots only" rule for lovely people who have a reason to be at the barn and feel compelled to give my horses treats. I figure carrots are safe, I know someone who gave their horse a 5 gallon bucket of carrots every day and the horse was fine.

If somebody wanted to make a tasty salad for horsies, apples and carrots and leaves might seem a good recipe, and if you're looking for leaves, oleander bushes are available. This could have been the act of a misguided but well-meaning person. This does lead us back to the rule that nobody should be feeding anything to anyone else's horses without permission. But I know from experience that a lot of people seem to be unware of this rule, or perhaps they prefer to ignore it. You either have to remove them from your property, or firmly enforce the "carrots only" rule.

It could have been some kids pulling a prank? If it was someone who wanted revenge, they wouldn't have given the stuff to all the horses, since they're owned by a bunch of different people; and they would have used something more effective.

I'm glad they're putting in surveillance. I have no idea who did this, or why, but hopefully increased security will prevent it from happening again. With what is going on, everyone should have security.


"Thank you so much for posting the story. With such a large reward somebody is bound to come forward. I know there were three horses hospitalized (one of which was an older horse) but I haven't heard anything else regarding them... hopefully no news is good news. Totally agree with hanging whoever is responsible, but not before we stuff 'em full of oleander!"

"Anyone who lives in California--horse person or not--should be very aware of how poisonous oleander is to a whole lot of species, not just horses. The plant used to be the "divider" between lanes of Highway 99, California's version of an Interstate. It THRIVES on car and truck exhaust and there were thousands of closely planted oleanders at least 10 feet high that went for MILES up the central valleys of the state.

When it is pruned or removed, the instructions are very clear: Wear gloves. Do NOT touch your face at any time during the pruning or removal of oleander.

Wear long sleeves.

THROW AWAY the gloves and thoroughly clean ALL the tools and clothing, shoes, everything. In fact, throw away everything you can, rather than clean it. The best removal method is using a tractor with a chain. Pull the plant out by the roots.

And when you're burning the brush, DO NOT BREATHE THE SMOKE.

Oleander is nasty stuff but as I said it is very hardy and the "bush of choice" for those who want a privacy hedge with a bit of color.

My neighbor across the street has two small grandsons living with her and she had planted oleander in her back yard long before she realized her
home would become "extended family central." She has hired a kid (her word) to take out the brush and I told her to tell him to be extra careful AND make sure he gets all the leaves, stems, buds, everything.

The good thing about oleander versus horses is, the leaves are very bitter, so most horses won't eat it. The juice is deadly, too, so if a horse bites into the leaf, the animal can get very sick.

I hope they catch the rat bastards, too."