Valentine, a six year old horse, collapsed on a 16-mile trek off a mountain last fall. Wranglers from Swift Creek Outfitters were leading a train of horses out of a base camp for hunting and fishing excursions, racing against a winter storm. When the mare lay down and couldn’t get up, they left her there in order to get the other horses down. When the owner, B.J. Hill, went back for her the next day, she was gone. They searched for several days but she had vanished. After the snow began to fall there was no way to trace her.
Six weeks later, Valentine was spotted by a worker grooming snow trails in the Bridger-Teton National Forest spotted Valentine and called the U.S. Forest Service. Hill, his son and a park worker were able to lead Valentine home through the deep snow, using a snowmobile — it took 9 hours to bring her out.
Valentine came through the ordeal just fine. She didn’t even need veterinary care. But her story has sparked a lot of debate. Some people feel that not enough was done to find her. Some people think that she should have been humanely destroyed when she collapsed — although Hill said the men leading the horse train had no fire arms — rather than be left to deal with the harsh conditions and the predators. Swift Creek Outfitters is now being investigated for the incident, although there has never been a complaint against them in the past for the care of their horses.
Honestly, I’m not sure what else they could have done. Since there was no obvious cause for the mare’s collapse, euthanizing her (even if they had the means to do so) seems an extreme response. I also understand why they left. Certainly, putting the rest of the horses at risk (and the wranglers) would have been a worse choice.
The fact that Valentine came through the tough winter conditions in such good shape reminds me that horses are pretty good at dealing with winter conditions. Just because my horses are wrapped up in blankets when it snows doesn’t mean that they would freeze to death without one.
What do you think was the right thing to do in this situation?