Good for PETA they showed those horses who cares.http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/ ... 3717.story
Polo horses diePBSO and state investigations launched in deaths of 21 horses in Wellington
At least 21 polo horses have died after being struck by a mysterious ailment just before competition at the U.S. Open polo tournament in Wellington.
By Brian Haas and Missy Diaz | SunSentinel.com
4:51 PM EDT, April 20, 2009
WELLINGTON - State investigators think 21 polo horses that died Sunday were likely stricken by "an adverse drug reaction or toxicity" that led to their rapid demise.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office launched parallel law enforcement investigations of the horses' deaths today as scientists and veterinarians try to figure out what killed them.
"Because of the very rapid onset of sickness and death, state officials suspect these deaths were a result of an adverse drug reaction or toxicity," said Terrence McElroy, spokesman for the state agency, in a written statement. "At this time, there is no evidence that these horses were affected with an infectious or contagious disease."
The Sheriff's Office assigned two detectives to conduct a parallel death investigation. He said investigators have already talked to veterinarians who worked on the horses and they hope to speak with the horses' owner.
"Any time something of this magnitude happens, we want to find out what happened," said Capt. Greg Richter, in charge of the Sheriff's Office's Wellington district. "There's no indication of foul play at this point."
Meanwhile, scientists and veterinarians are testing samples of food, vitamins, supplements and hay to see what killed the 21 horses in Wellington during the last 24 hours. And the horses' corpses have arrived at two sites for necropsies: 15 at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville and the rest at a state laboratory in Kissimmee.
The horses arrived at the International Polo Club Palm Beach field about 2 p.m. Sunday. Less than an hour later they fell ill and Dr. Scott Swerdlin, a veterinarian with the Palm Beach Equine Clinic, was summoned. More than a dozen local vets and vet technicians dropped everything and came to the field. They administered intensive therapy, including IV lines and fluids, and treated the horses for shock. The animals showed signs of pulmonary edema, which means fluid accumulated in their lungs, and cardiogenic shock, Swerdlin said.
"There was no pain, they were just disoriented," Swerdlin said.
Each of the horses, all between 10 and 11 years old, was valued at about $100,000, polo club spokesman Tim O'Connor said.
Twelve or 13 horses died on the field and another was later euthanized at Swerdlin's Wellington clinic. The others died at Lechuza Caracas' barn, where there are about 85 horses. Some bouquets were left outside the Lechuza property on Monday.
Sarah Carey, a spokeswoman for the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, said the school has received 15 of the horses and will perform necropsies on eight of them. She said the other seven aren't insured and horse owners can only recoup insurance if necropsies are performed.
A full-scale investigation by the U.S. Polo Association, the sport's governing body, is expected to open today.
The deaths have fueled speculation in Wellington, a village well-known for being extremely horse-friendly. Though there have been numerous reports of mass horse deaths, few have felled so many of the animals so quickly.
Equestrian enthusiasts and officials were quick to dismiss the possibility that the horses could have been poisoned by someone. Swerdlin said there was "zero possibility" of foul play.
He thinks the likely culprit is food or shots. There are regulations against doping, but vitamins and IV fluids are permitted.
"You're not going to make a horse faster by something you give," he said.
It would take at least 10 years to rebuild a barn of Lechuza Caracas' caliber, he said: "These were some of the best horses in the world."
Though the polo tournament will continue on Wednesday, Lechuza Caracas has pulled out, said John Wash, president of club operations for the International Polo Club Palm Beach. Other teams had offered to provide the mourning team with horses, but they declined.
Wash said everyone is concerned about the effect the incident will have on polo.
"It won't just be the polo scene in Wellington," Wash said. "I think it will affect the polo scene worldwide."
While testing for performance-enhancing drugs is not routine in the International Polo Club, it's not a concern for players or owners, according to Don Dufresne, a Wellington lawyer who specializes in equine law.
"I have never experienced anybody doping horses," he said. "I could make an argument that there are no regulations because it's a self-policing situation. There's no benefit in hurting the sport or hurting the horses."
Unlike in horse racing, there's no financial incentive to dope polo horses. And any speculation that Lechuza Caracas' horses may have been intentionally harmed is probably more fiction than fact, he said.
"The likelihood of somebody going in and injecting 21 or 80 horses and not being detected is so slim and remote, in my opinion," Dufresne said.
Dufresene, who is also the immediate past president of the Palm Beach County Sports Commission and a member of the U.S. Polo Association, said: "The initial findings of adverse reaction or toxicity wouldn't surprise me since it was limited to one group of horses. The question is, were all those horses injected with the same stuff?"
"I don't see where it could hurt in any way if there's criminal wrongdoing and they have reason to believe there's been criminal wrongdoing," he said.
The sense of camaraderie on the field during Sunday's tragedy was heartwarming, he said.
"The community rallied around the situation with probably 100 volunteers," Dufresne said. "Over every horse were three to five people triaging. The reality is that the polo community is much more like a family."
Brian Haas can be reached at bhaas@SunSentinel.com