October 12th, 2008

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

They say we’re a nation of animal lovers. Sometimes it’s easier to deal with people, after all, we are usually masters of our own actions, effects & therefore destiny, we have choices.

I was on patrol one night shift when I got a call to a report of a horse running down the road. This was not unusual, particularly in the more rural areas. Horses get out of their fields all the time either through gates left open by irresponsible walkers, or through holes in fences the owners are too busy, lazy or tight to repair.

The particular horse got out onto the main road. This road is unlit & carries traffic across the whole police force area. It’s not unusual for cars to be travelling at 90mph or faster, particularly at night when most of us bobbies are tucked up in some lay-by somewhere.

As I got into the area where the horse had been reported I could see ahead that all was not well.

There were a couple of cars stationary in the middle of the road with their hazards on. Another car had left the road & was perched precariously on a ledge at the side of the road.

As I got closer I saw the horse lying down on all fours, I say lying, lying in the same way that a horse would end up if you kicked all it’s legs away from it. It was trying to get up, its feet scrabbling around on the tarmac like it was on an ice rink.

The reason it couldn’t get up was because one of its front legs had snapped in two, the lower leg hanging on to the upper leg by some tendons & skin.

There was an almighty gash from its neck down to it’s stomach, not dissimilar to the incision you’d see down some one’s chest if they were lying on a mortuary slab.

The car, now on the ledge, had struck the horse & swerved off the road. The driover’s door was hanging over a 20 foot drop to a river bed below. If the driver had exited the car by that door he’d have dropped like a stone.

As the car mounted the offside verge, before coming to a stop, it had somehow struck a metal sign pole. The sign had disappeared into the night but the pole had come through the grill, missed the engine block & come up through the bulkhead into the space where the passenger – if there’d been one – would have been sitting. I breathed a sigh of praise that there wasn’t a passenger, I’ve seen people with long hard things sticking out of them in RTCs and it’s not very pleasant.

The driver was still in the car. He was fine, all things considered. Had he not been in shock I;m sure he’d have gotten out of the car & not been found for a while. He owned a local restaurant & I recognised him straight away. Fortunately for his wife, she’d been taken ill & hadn’t come to the restaurant that day, otherwise she’d have been killed.

The horse must have been in absolute agony. I never know whether they feel pain the same way as we do nor whether they understand what has happened to them & why they can’t get up, maybe everything is just instinct. It wasn’t nice to watch & there was nothing anyone could do, save whacking it round the head with a shovel. If it had been a rabbit or a fox then maybe, but a horse?

I called up on the radio & asked them to send the firearms unit down to put it out of its misery. This, apparently, didn’t fit any profiles so was declined after a few minutes of control room enquiries.

What abut one of the local game keepers, can’t we get one of them down with a rifle or shotgun? No.

We had to wait for a vet to attend from the other side of the nearest town. It was a long 40 minutes but thankfully the horse passed away before the vet arrived.

It was eventually dragged by a metal cable onto the back of a car recovery truck & taken away. I have no idea where the garage took it, I wasn’t that interested by then.

Every time I saw the restaurant owner after that he commented on how thankful he was for the British weather which had goven his wife a cold that day.

I never met the owner of the horse.

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4 comments

  1. Girl*Next*Door says:

    As you say, thank God his wife wasn’t in the car that day.

    I can with almost 100% certainty say that after reading reports of how horses deal with severe pain & having had experience of losing a horse in the same way (attempted theft rather than poor keeping) they don’t feel pain like we do. The adrenaline & instincts kick in which is why on racecourses, you will sometimes see horses struggle up after a fall & attempt to start running again with severely injured legs. They just don’t feel it.

    As for them knowing what’s happened, I guess you can never tell. I’m guessing that blind panic sets in before any thought of what may have happened does.

    If similar ever happens again; try getting in touch with the local hunt (if you have one close enough & if it is possible) to end the animal’s suffering. The kennel man will very often come out to shoot & dispose. Although the disposal comes down to the wishes of the owner I guess.
    There are simple ways of calming panicked & frightened horses but I shan’t go into them here, this’ll turn into the longest comment in history otherwise!

    October 13th, 2008 at 05:52

  2. 19 says:

    I have no idea where you work 200 but I guess the control room staff haven’t read the ACPO manual on police use of firearms which is fairly clear on the matter, which is essentially that police can use firearms to destroy animals. I know we do it on a fairly regular basis, though it’s usually raging pitbulls rather than injured horses

    October 13th, 2008 at 11:25

  3. 200 says:

    19, one thing you need to bare in mind about my blog is that I talk about incidents both current & from any time over my 30 year career.

    This particular one was from around the time we used to take cutlasses out with us on night shifts! I have no idea how old the ACPO policy is in this regard, I was a mere frontline-grunt at the time.

    October 13th, 2008 at 17:12

  4. Tony F says:

    Poor horse. I know of a couple of incidents where animals were deliberately let out onto roads or railways. A friend had their horses let out onto the A1, I suspect this may have been russeling gone wrong, never the less, much excitement for all concerned. Only by good luck no one was injured. Another incident was cattle let out onto a railway.Not a pretty sight.

    Just out of interest, did the incident with the horse tick any of the current target boxes?

    October 13th, 2008 at 19:03

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