Images like this one, heavily circulated on social media last week, prompted animal lovers to contact the DOA for action. By the time Cayman 27 cameras arrived Monday (4 June), the DOA was already on the scene inspecting the horse.
Later in the week another photo showing the same horse at another location near Dump Road triggered outrage.
Police got involved Saturday afternoon, when an officer observed the horse in apparent poor health and without access to clean water. The officer made arrangements to have the horse trailered to the Equestrian Centre.
Cayman 27 met with Mary Alberga of the Equestrian Centre Sunday morning, before the horse was turned over to the DOA.
Ms. Alberga told Cayman 27 she believes the horse should have been taken into custody when it was observed by DOA Monday.
“What the public wants to see yes, is the DOA respond, yes, the DOA investigate, but in the meantime, something needs to be done with the animal. Do not let the animal stand there and suffer while you investigate, because your investigation might take weeks,” said Ms. Alberga.
Ms. Alberga took temporary possession of the horse Saturday at request of police.
“It has obviously suffered over many many months to get into that shape, it is not an overnight thing and it will not get better overnight,” she said Sunday.
In addition to its poor physical condition, she said the horse picked up a bad habit known as wind-sucking or cribbing.
“It holds on to the fence and it sucks air into his stomach, and it does it over and over again, and it becomes a habit which is very very hard to break, and is, a lot of that, number one, is caused by boredom, not being able to eat, and graze in the manner that horse is supposed to graze in,” said Ms. Alberga.
“A lot of these animals once they start doing that, they release endorphins from their brain so it kind of gives them a natural high,” said DOA Senior Veterinary Officer Dr. Kanyuira Gikonyo.
Dr. Gikonyo presented another take on the wind sucking behavior. He told Cayman 27 the wind-sucking, not lack of access to food, is to blame for the horse’s poor condition.
“My observation on this particular animal or that, that’s a horse had issues with constant wind-sucking and cribbing, and in my professional opinion this actually directly contributed to this horse’s loss of condition,” said Dr. Gikonyo.
He questioned why the owner’s other horse is not in similar poor condition.
“The herd mate generally speaking in my objective and professional assessment is not suffering the same thing this horse is. So my question is, if this person is neglecting to feed the animal, why is it that only one of the two animals is having an issue?” said Dr. Gikonyo.
Dr. Gikonyo told Cayman 27 he recommends behaviour modification for the wind-sucking habit, work on the horse’s teeth, and increasing the number of calories in the animal’s diet.
“The animal is in general good health as far as the heartbeat, and what we would call the normals, or the vitals, that is temperature, respiration, heart rate, those type of things like that,” said Dr. Gikonyo.
Ms. Alberga forwarded Cayman 27 an independent veterinary assessment performed Monday by Dr. Joyce Follows. In it, Dr. Follows describes the animal as severely underweight with severe muscle atrophy, but eating normally. Her conclusion: severe malnutrition and starvation with no sign of other illness.