Okay, first off, I want to say that I have been around horses and mules my entire life and I understand that sometimes you have to be firm with them. There are probably some bleeding heart animal rights activists that would say that I am cruel because; yes, I do give my horses a pop on the shoulder, side, or hip when they misbehave. And yes, I do make them work hard for their feed. BUT, I have never seen anything like this before.
I was just looking around the web and came across this. It is a very long story.
This is Tessa's story:
A few months before she turned three, I was contacted by a friend on a mules group and she gave me the name of a trainer here in Missouri that she knew of and was sending her young mule to. He was an older man and was an experienced mule trainer and Missouri Foxtrotter trainer. I was very interested and when I called his house, he wasn't there but his family told me to contact his nephew, who was the main trainer and owned the barn where they trained. He was also a farrier so I thought I'd hit the jackpot. I asked around and found out that two other friends knew this trainer, had used him and said he was good, he would put a lot of time on her and the area was rugged but she would have a lot of different types of trail experience but to know he didn't leave them setting around the barn and she would be worked so I should put some extra weight on her to start, which I did.
The agreement was for one month for TJ and just to get him started lightly. When we came to pick him up, we would talk about where Tessa was in her training and decide if she needed more time, not just because she could be more of a challenge but because she was more mature and ready for more training and I wanted her polished for show by someone who knew how to train for show.
We talked by phone at least every week and he told me the first week they were having some problems with Tessa on the trail. I asked him if I should come pick her up and his response was very appropriate. He stated "Oh no mam, my wife's uncle has a lot of experience with mules and we'll just back up and start over at the barn and figure her out." Everything he said was comforting and made me feel even more that I had made the right choice. I called at least every week for an update and I began to feel she was not coming along as well as she should and when I asked about specifics he just assured me they were going slow and she would be fine then he would change the subject to go on and on about how good TJ was and they were riding him everywhere from the first couple of days.
I felt a twinge of concern off and on about Tessa but I told the trainer that if she was not working well with him I would bring her home when we picked up TJ and I would work with her ground work more and give her more time, I didn't have to show her or even ride her yet, we had many years ahead of us to get it right.
It wasn't until a couple of days before time to pick them up that I got a call from the trainer that Tessa had stopped in the road away from the house and wouldn't move so they had to drag her a bit to get her out of the road and home. Her heels were bleeding but she was okay. I was ready to go get her then but he asked if we could wait a week to come as he had to go to a big trail ride as the farrier there and he wanted to spend time with us when we came. The next week, he called again and said Tessa was down and wouldn't get up. He said he talked with his vet and she had "tied up". The vet would be out but not until morning and she was okay but wouldn't stay up on her feet. I'd heard that term but not familiar with it and when I read up on it I couldn't believe this could be possible. He called the next morning and said his vet didn't need to come out, he had given her some pain medicine and antibiotic shots and she was up again and that he had called his vet and told him he didn't need to come see her. We were there, as planned, the next morning and there was a "lot" of people there at the barn but my eyes could only focus on the small heap of mule laying in the far end of the barn. I had begun to feel some anxiety as we arrived but I was not prepared for what I found.
These photos were taken by me the first couple of days after getting her home. She was thin, filthy, had sand and had sawdust embedded in her wounds. These were taken after washing her and treating the wounds with all I had on hand at the time, some scarlet oil. And, yes, once we had her safe at home and did what she needed I called our local sheriffs office and reported her abuse. A deputy came out to make the report and you could see the horror in his young face. He told me they had just had training regarding animal abuse but they didn't include anything like this but he had contact numbers for the state investigators from the Missouri Humane Society and would contact them to begin the investigation. In the meantime, we started vet care and my vet was coming out the next morning, the earliest they could be here.
Warning!! The following photos are VERY GRAPHIC.
If you are squeamish, I advise you to go no farther.
Unfortunately, Tessa had to be put down. Tessa had developed a severe and chronic case of Laminitis. The treatment would have been a year of costly and painful surgeries with a poor chance for a good outcome and after the past three weeks of pain medication, her body was beginning to show signs that she would not tolerate much more treatment. That same day, she was humanely euthanized to end her pain and suffering.
This is a good reminder that when you send your beloved companion to a trainer, it is always a good idea to see them often or have a trusted friend go by and check on them.