The Junkyard Horse
By Leslie Potter
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
If you're plugged into equestrian social media, you may have heard about Sugar, a 33- or 34-year-old (reports vary) horse in the town of Mattawan, Michigan. She is known to locals and her facebook fans as The Mattawan Junkyard Horse because, well, she lives in a junkyard.
She's in the news because of a largely Internet-based uproar about her condition. The sheriff's office receives a half-dozen phone calls about her every week. Take a look at the photos in this article on mlive.com, especially the second one. She's not just average-old-horse skinny. You could teach a pretty thorough anatomy lesson on this mare. And the giant swelling on her cheek? Probably an abscessed tooth. In the article, the horse's owner says he's going to have the vet out to look at it. Photos posted to Sugar's facebook fan page show the abscess was there (and huge) as far back as May 30.
With all the complaints, what is local law enforcement doing about it? Nothing, really, according to the mlive.com article.
"On a visit earlier this month, (Sgt. David) Walker said the horse was well-taken care of and had shelter in the back of the salvage yard, a trough full of water and plenty of food.
'It was eating like crazy,' Walker said."
I've no doubt she was eating like crazy. Wouldn't you if you were starving? But what is she eating, and why is it not putting any meat on her bones? Maybe she's got parasites. Maybe it looks like she's eating, but she's dropping more than she's consuming. Maybe whatever the "food" is isn't actually nourishing to horses.
I'm sure this horse's owner, who is 80 years old and has owned the mare for nearly twenty years, truly does care about her. I don't think he set out to mistreat her. But here's a skeletal equine, living behind a strand of barbed wire in an area full of old farm equipment and other junk, with an enormous abscess on her face that has been there for more than a month without being checked by a vet. You don't have to be an expert on horses to know that this is not okay.
The aged equine and her aged owner have their supporters, though. Here is part of a comment left on a previous mlive.com article about Sugar.
"So many things have drastically changed in the small town of Mattawan. I am not impressed with all the changes including urban sprawl…Sugar standing in that junk yard brings peace to so many of us who have lived here for decades. We moved out here for peace and quite [sic]. It was wonderful in the beginning being such a small town, with one horse. Thank God and her care takers for keeping her alive for so long. Some of us older folks really need to see her there standing out front so we can remember the good ole days before all the people, traffic, ordinances."
I don't know about anybody else, but seeing a skinny horse in a junk yard doesn't bring me peace. Quite the opposite, in fact.
What do you think? Is this a clear case of neglect, or is the fact that Sugar has lived to age 34 proof that she is being cared for well enough?
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