Many thanks to Barnmice member Geoff Tucker, DVM for sharing this very important lesson.
Marie was the wife of Frank, the most respected horseman in town, and by default she was the expert on everything to do with horses. When she started her own boarding business I was delighted to be asked to do the veterinary work for her.
Over the next year or two, I had become a steady visitor in Frank and Marie's kitchen sharing coffee and stories. I was still "wet behind the ears" according to Frank who at first did not like me. It took all of those years and plenty of visits to the barn before I had enough credibility with this couple to be listened to. The scoffs Frank gave me were important to my development as a person able to stand up to horse owners and tell them what they needed to hear.
It was with this tempering by Frank in his kitchen that prepared me to mention to his wife that she was making a mistake in her horse management. I had vaccinated her two retired horses and noticed they were wearing hind shoes. "Marie," I said with a straight forward tone, "Your horses have hind shoes on and they are turned out together."
"Yes they are. Why?"
Confused by the fact that she and her husband held such a high position in the local horsemen's world, I blankly said what I thought she already knew. "Marie, hind shoes kill other horses." She countered, "How on Earth can they do that?"
"Marie," I replied in a lecturing tone, "if I made a fist and hit you in the face, I certainly would hurt you, correct?" She nodded yes. "Then if I slipped on a pair of brass knuckles and hit you with the same force, I not only could break your jaw, but I could kill you."
Marie blinked and with an incredulous look on her face said, "Come on Geoff. This old mare has been turned out with that old gelding for 13 years and that has never happened. Don't be ridiculous."
I pleaded my case a little more and was dismissed with a change in subject.
Not more than a month later I received a call with a sobbing voice. "Geoff, It's Marie." Gulps of air and distinct sounds of crying caused me to reply, "I'm on my way."
Marie met me at the front of the barn with red, swollen eyes. As I comforted her she said, "Geoff, you were right." I still did not know what was wrong, but whatever it was, the outcome was not going to be good. "What was I right about?" I asked.
"The gelding kicked my mare, the mare he has known and been turned out with for 13 years. Geoff, her leg is shattered." My heart sank as I knew she was right. Her hind leg between her hock and stifle had a complete break with many small pieces. No more words were said as I went to the truck to get the euthanasia injection.
I gave Marie a hug and left. We never talked about that day again. I still visited her and Frank in their kitchen for coffee and small talk but the happiness and lightness in the air could never be found. Maybe the loss of the mare affected her more than I had thought. After all, she owned her for 18 years. But one day less than a year later she packed up her things and left for Virginia. She was never seen again except the day she returned for the funeral of Frank who had died 3 months after she left from a broken heart.
Was there a connection between the death of her horse and the cascade of events afterwards? I will never know. But I do know that the senseless death of horses with shattered bones is preventable. As I drove home that day I prayed for every horse owner to become aware of the irrefutable law that horses should never be turned out with other horses wearing hind shoes.