Horse in ditch was ‘exhausted,’ court told

A horse found in a South Langley ditch was in poor condition, former vet's trial told.

The veterinarian who examined an emaciated former racehorse after it landed in a Langley ditch in December of 2008 said the chances of recovery were not good, even if “Buddy” had been taken to a veterinary hospital as he suggested.

Dr. Antonio Cruz, a veterinary surgeon who specializes in treating horses, was testifying Monday at the Surrey Provincial Court trial of Mark Marohn, a former Langley veterinarian who was charged with causing an animal to be in distress and failing to provide “necessaries” for an animal after an RCMP officer said the underweight horse was being used by Marohn to tow his car out of a ditch.

Called by the SPCA to assist with the extraction of a horse from a ditch, Cruz said he arrived at the scene to find a crowd of people, including police and fire officials.

“Obviously there was something going on beyond a horse in a ditch,” he said.

Buddy was lying on his right side in the ditch, a few metres north of a blue car that was “almost” off the road, Cruz said.

The former racehorse was covered in a blanket.

On removing the blanket, Cruz said he observed Buddy had lost a “significant” amount of weight.

“The horse was in poor body condition,” Cruz said.

Its ribs were showing, its neck was thin, the neck bones were prominent and muscles that should have been convex were concave, Cruz said.

On a scale from one to nine, where one is extremely emaciated and nine is extremely overweight, the horse was a “one or a two,” Cruz testified.

The horse’s heart was beating at twice the normal rate, he was hyperventilating and his body temperature was below normal, enough to be considered “hypothermic.”

Buddy was trying to eat grass without raising his head and wasn’t trying to stand.

“He wasn’t really making any effort to get up,” Cruz said.

“As a general rule, horses do not like to be lying down.”

He said Buddy appeared “exhausted.”

Before the fire department lifted the horse from the ditch using a sling and a tow truck, Cruz said he sedated Buddy at the request of the firefighters.

Once Buddy was on solid ground, Cruz and the other people at the scene spent two-and-a-half hours trying and failing to get him to stand up.

“The horse would not make efforts with the rear end particularly,” Cruz said.

He said he discussed transporting Buddy to his veterinary hospital with the SPCA officer at the scene, but conceded it likely wouldn’t have made much difference.

“The potential outcome for the horse was guarded to poor,” he said.

Instead, Buddy was euthanized at the scene.

“The decision was made by the SPCA constable to humanely destroy the horse,” Cruz said.

He could not diagnose exactly what caused the emaciated condition of the horse, saying it could be anything from “inappropriate intake or malnutrition,” cancer or chronic infection.

“In your opinion, was the horse suffering?” Crown prosecutor Liane O’Grady asked.

“Yes,” Cruz replied.

Asked by O’Grady if the horse could have moved the car if he’d been wearing a proper harness, Cruz said he was unable to say.

Marohn tried to challenge Cruz’s credentials as an expert witness, saying the witness was a specialist in surgery, not internal medicine for horses, but Judge Reginald Harris ruled that the doctor had sufficient experience in all areas of treating horses to qualify.

The trial was expected to continue today (Tuesday).

The trial of Marohn’s estranged wife Carol Schoyen-Marohn, who is charged with the same offences in connection with the Dec 2008 incident, is scheduled begin on Sept. 26 of this year.

Schoyen-Marohn’s trial had to be postponed because she suffered a stroke.