11 Horses Die in Texas Pasture, Heat and Dehydration Cited

Equipment failure and employee negligence are being blamed for the heat-related deaths of 11 horses in Weatherford, Texas, last week.

Parker County animal control authorities discovered the horses on July 1 after a tipster reported a horse down in a pasture. County Sheriff's Deputies discovered 10 horses dead on the 600-acre property. Another 29 horses were suffering from extreme dehydration. One horse was euthanized on the scene, said Parker County Sheriff Larry Fowler.

No charges have been filed.

The horses, all recipient mares used to carry implanted embryos, were owned by a local breeder and maintained on a leased pasture. None of the mares were in foal.

April Lane, a spokesperson for the horses' owner, said temperatures were above 90 degrees when the horses were left without water after an automatic watering system malfunctioned. The outage went unnoticed because an employee responsible for the horses' care failed to check on them, she said.

The surviving horses were relocated to their owner's main farm. The employee was dismissed.

Dehydration occurs when horses fail to consume enough water to replenish fluids lost through sweat, said Carla S. Sommardahl, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, assistant professor of Equine Medicine & Pathology at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. Severe dehydration can cause colic, seizures, and kidney failure.

"Under normal conditions horses require seven gallons of water daily to maintain normal system functions. In hot weather they generally require more than that," Sommardahl said. "Owners should check and replenish water troughs daily."

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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