I know it is show season and many of you are hauling.
I received this heartbreaking story and I wanted to pass it onward.
From experience, I can recommend Bob Hubbard and Marlene Dodge (805-975-6048). They both run all over the US. Marlene is excellent with wild or hardly handled horses, fyi.
Here is the very sad story, as sent to me.
If you are in any way involved in the horse industry/community, or are against animal abuse, please read & share:
On September 11th, 2015, my horse Ethereal, “Elle”, had to be euthanized after being transported from Ohio to Virginia by Nation-Wide Horse Transportation, a professional shipping company based out of Colorado Springs, CO. My family and I have spent the last eleven months seeking ramifications for Nation-Wide and trying to force the company to take responsibility for their actions. We have hit wall after wall and have been redirected countless times within the legal system, law enforcement agencies, and government regulatory departments. No one has been able to follow through with helping us, so I’m now going to tell this story publicly in the hopes that it can be shared with everyone and no one else will have to go through this nightmare.
We initially contacted Nation-Wide last summer when we knew that we would need to ship Elle from Delaware, OH to Charlottesville, VA in the fall. We had never commercially shipped before, but found Nation-Wide online. If you visit their website, you will notice that they promise they are an “industry leader in providing safe and dependable equine shipping for more than four decades” and that “you can be confident when you ship with Nation-Wide that your horse will be taken good care of”.
Elle was picked up by two drivers the afternoon of Saturday, September 5th, with the promise that she would be in Virginia the following evening. Throughout the weekend, both Nation-Wide’s office and the drivers of the trailer became increasingly difficult to communicate with, leaving us with no idea where our horse was after she did not arrive on Sunday night. When contact was eventually made, we were told that Elle would now be delivered Tuesday morning, much later than had been promised and a long time for her to be on the trailer even if she was being properly cared for. This delay was due to the fact that the trailer had apparently broken down not once, but twice in the 90° weather with the horses onboard the entire time. When my mom spoke to the driver later, she was told that he had also gotten lost several times and was now the only one driving. He claimed it was the trip from hell. None of the horse owners were contacted during this situation and given the chance to intervene or make alternate arrangements for their horses. Had we known, we would’ve done whatever was necessary to get Elle off that trailer. We made contact with one of the drivers several months after what happened, and he had extremely horrible things to say about the company, its owner, and her business practices which showed a blatant disregard for horse care. He abandoned the shipment before it made it all the way back to Colorado Springs because he did not want to be with the company anymore after what had happened.
Elle was delivered Tuesday morning to The Barracks in Charlottesville where I ride on the UVA riding team. The people at The Barracks are some of the kindest, most supportive, knowledgeable horsemen I’ve ever met and I can’t thank them enough for doing everything they could for both Elle and me. As soon as she was unloaded, it was clear to everyone there that she was in very bad shape. Elle was in shock and her heart rate was more than double what it should’ve been. She was severely dehydrated, leading us to believe she hadn’t been given nearly enough water, and she had pneumonia, likely from being unable to cough to clear debris from her lungs because her head had been tied up for so long. At no point had Nation-Wide either noticed or cared that my horse was clearly in distress and decided to seek help for her or contact us. She was taken to Blue Ridge Equine Clinic as soon as possible. I went and saw her as soon as I could and listened to the vets tell me about how the pneumonia was causing hemorrhaging in her lungs, about how the IV fluids were collecting in her chest wall, about how her heart rate just wouldn’t come down. I talked to her and I brushed her and I watched her lie down at the end of my visit when she was just too tired to stand anymore.
On Wednesday my mom drove to Virginia and we went and saw Elle together. Her front feet were bandaged due to lameness that had begun to present itself. Elle was limping, clearly in pain and tired, but wouldn’t lie down because of the stress it put on her feet. She wouldn’t eat and was bleeding from her nostrils. The antibiotics weren’t fighting the pneumonia. By Thursday night, nothing had improved. The lameness had been identified as laminitis that was being caused by the same infection causing the pneumonia. Even in a deeply bedded stall, wearing cushioned ice boots, and with Fentanyl (a severe pain management drug similar to morphine) patches on her legs, Elle was trembling from pain and fatigue. I cannot describe how truly heart-wrenching it is to see your best friend swaying in place because walking even one step is too painful, and how agonizing it is to listen to them struggling to breathe. I could hear the fluid in Elle’s lungs every time I put my head to her neck to hug her. That night the vets put a chest tube in to try to drain some of the fluid. It was the only thing we could still do, and we wanted to give Elle every chance possible.
On Friday morning, September 11th, the laminitis had become too severe and the bones in Elle’s feet were sinking and rotating downward so much as to threaten to push through the bottoms of her hooves. She was in incredible pain and would never be able to recover enough to live even a retired life in a pasture. We made the heartbreaking choice to put Elle down that morning, only a little more than 72 hours after she had gotten off the trailer.
Nation-Wide did not contact us at all during or after this happened until we made contact with them several months later by filing a complaint with a government department. They have denied any blame or wrongdoing whatsoever. The company was only willing to give us $1000 in exchange for signing a non-disclosure agreement that would have kept me from doing exactly what I’m doing right now. That money would’ve been a token amount compared to Elle’s value, the vet bills we accrued, and the suffering they caused. Since Elle’s death, we have discovered internet stories of many other horses that have been injured during transport by Nation-Wide, including horses on the same trip as Elle. She was not the first, nor the last. I regret everyday that I didn’t search for these stories beforehand.
PLEASE SHARE this post. I don’t want any more horses to be at risk, or any other people to have to lose their best friends and teammates. Do not use Nation-Wide Horse Transport. I don’t know why anyone would be so cruel and hateful as to treat animals like this, but I’d like to try and make sure they don’t have the chance to do it anymore. Even if you don’t share, I’d like to thank you for reading this and acknowledging what happened. Elle was a sweet, beautiful, talented animal that I loved so so much and was lucky to spend four years with, and I miss her every single day.
Lindsey Decker, Pam Decker
Our ranch had a similar experience with Bob Hubbard years ago!!!! I will NEVER use them again after our 5 horses got lost on a trip from CA to TX for a National Horse Show. Their driver was not in contact with them for over 30 hours! No explanation! And our horses arrived under weight, weary, sick and poop up past their ankles! Two had shipping fever and one came down with laminitis. His show career was over! So yeah, I’d NEVER use them again, I don’t care how long it’s been….We NEVER got compensated for it or any explanation other than they didn’t know where the driver was for a few days.
I e-mailed the CORRECT company in Colorado after reading this story because I was outraged and this is what they responded to me:
“As a general policy Nation-Wide Horse Transportation has chosen to not respond to public posts about its services, finding the process not to be a productive way to resolve disputes. However, the recent Facebook post by Pam Decker is so misleading that we have no choice but to set the record straight. The number of people willing to rush to judgment based on something they read on the internet is astounding and deeply disappointing.
NW is a family owned business. We are horse owners and horse lovers. That is why we own and operate a company that transports horses across the country. Sometimes, illnesses, even serious illnesses, are symptomatic of the uniqueness of the animals being transported, not symptomatic of any improper care or transportation by NW. That is certainly true in this case.
The most important point to address is the accusation that Nation-Wide contributed to Elle’s death. That is untrue. Elle’s medical records show clearly that she was infected with a bacterial pneumonia pathogen called streptococcus zooepidemicus. Streptococcus zooepidemicus is the most frequently isolated opportunistic pathogen of horses and is commonly associated with inflammatory airway disease in Thoroughbreds, like what Elle developed. The infection is described as “opportunistic” because this bacterium is found in healthy horses but becomes the source of a secondary bacterial respiratory infection when a viral disease has impaired the horse’s defense mechanism. Here, Elle contracted a viral infection which, according to an expert veterinarian, Jordan Lewis, DVM, of Palm Beach Equine Medical Center in Wellington, FL, progresses into pneumonia in one horse out of every 15-20 that contracts shipping fever. Elle’s viral infection was followed by the bacterial infection that caused pneumonia.
It is almost certain that Elle was infected with that pathogen at the time she was picked up, but her symptoms were subclinical. It was impossible to tell she was carrying the pathogen because there were no symptoms as both viral infections and pneumonia require some incubation time. The very short duration of the trip means it is scientifically unlikely that there was enough incubation time for Elle to have contracted an illness while in transit and then show strong symptoms upon delivery.
It is unlikely Elle acquired the infection on the trailer since no other horses exhibited symptoms. The illness progressed during the trip, but was not noticeable until after she was delivered. The drivers checked on Elle all the time as we have no incentive to deliver sick horses. Throughout the trip, the drivers fed and watered Elle and ensured she was not showing any symptoms of illness or distress. All horses in our care are fed and watered on a regular and frequent basis. Claims to the contrary are patently and demonstrably false. On this particular trip, the lead driver went the extra step to use supplementary electrolytes to keep the horses hydrated due the warm weather. The lead driver on this specific trip has successfully delivered scores of horses over the last three years. He is a hardworking family man who loves animals and would never neglect horses that are under his care.
Much was made of the duration of this trip. The truck was never lost, it did have to detour around a restricted access bridge that did not allow for trucks and that took additional time. Records prove that. The trip was scheduled to take a bit more than 1 ½ days. It stretched to a bit more than 2 ½ days. This duration is easily within the normal range for cross county horse transportation using this type of semi-tractor trailer equipment. The delay was out of our control as an emergency repair had to be made to the trailer brakes that delayed the trip approximately a day. Our office call and email logs show that notification of the delay was given to Deckers as were daily updates. In fact, the lead driver also personally called Pam Decker but found her unreceptive and unwilling to listen and understand the uncertainly of the situation of not knowing precisely how long the mechanic would take to complete the repair. We communicated with the Deckers regularly and have evidence to prove it. Their claims to the contrary are not true.
Pam Decker never spoke with the lead driver about her concerns or even called the office to let us know that Elle had been euthanized. Instead she passed along information learned from a terminated employee, the subordinate driver, who did not successfully complete his second trip. He did not learn the processes and procedures for the horses and most certainly could not have explained them or rendered a valid opinion of them to Deckers. She was informed in writing that the subordinate driver had been terminated because he was belligerent to Port Of Entry personnel, something we do not tolerate. But, rather than speak with the lead driver who had years of experience and knowledge about Elle as she was transported, she instead chose to use the subordinate driver’s false, misleading and incomplete statements to get social media attention, impugn the reputation of the hard working lead driver who did everything in his power to take good care of Elle and attack the reputation a company that has successfully moved tens of thousands of horses over a period of decades. Ms. Decker knew he was totally inexperienced and was an unreliable source of information, but she chose to rely on him rather than facts from the lead driver.
The Decker’s efforts to seek ramifications against NW through various means have resulted in no action against us because we complied in all respects with our legal duties and customary standards of care for transporting horses. We always do. Had we not been in complete compliance, one of the Deckers’ complaints or inquiries would have resulted in regulatory or other action against NW. The Deckers are not being ignored or stonewalled, no one is taking action against NW because there is no reason they can take action when NW did nothing wrong.
The American legal system allows both parties to a dispute to make sure decisions are made based upon all of the evidence from both parties, not just what one party says. Both parties are allowed an equal opportunity for justice. NW is saddened by the fact that so many people have rushed to judgment against it and us, its owners and employees, based just on what one person wrote, without ever learning all of the facts concerning Elle’s shipment. No one should make such determinations until they have a complete and accurate understanding of everything that is important to know as it is manifestly unfair to rush to judgment without knowing all important information.
Contrary to their claims, we never offered any money to hush them. We did, in good faith, accept exactly what the Deckers themselves asked for to compensate for their loss of Elle in an email they sent to us on April 19, 2016, only to have the Deckers then renege on their own terms and refuse what they had just offered and we agreed to.
We are very sorry for the Deckers’ loss of Elle, something we stated to them in an email to Pam Decker on January 27, 2016, when we were first notified of the loss, and again by a letter on March 24, 2016. Contrary to the Decker’s assertion that we have not been communicating, we have communicated with the Deckers since January and we have always been communicative, respectful, and sympathetic.
We thank our many thousands of customers who know we provide the best horse transportation in the industry and who have been loyal over the many years we have owned and operated our company. We ask for continued support as we address this matter with the Deckers so that everyone will know that we always operate in an ethical manner which is above reproach and that our top priority is the health of the horses we transport.
We ask that anyone who passed along the Deckers’ misleading post also passes along this response which is supported by evidence not insupportable false accusations.”
Yes! I am a member and I’ve written about FOA. Thank you for forwarding!
Dawn, I’m sharing this with Elaine Nash, founder of Fleet of Angels (an online network of horse transporters for horses to/from rescues, needing transport due to evacuation, etc). Elaine is an angel in her own right, and knows, or knows about, most of the haulers in the country. She has a huge following and network of resources, and if this story hasn’t yet hit her inbox, I’m confident she’ll do whatever is possible to prevent another nightmare like this.
What a nightmare this must have been for the horse and her family. I’m very sorry for their heartbreak. Thank you for sharing this.
I think these stories carry good reason to initiate legal actions against the d-carriers. A safe transit was promised and expected, and paid for. There are good grounds for litigation. this litigation could well be undertaken without up front legal costs. those actions should be explored immediately with legal firms regularly handling such cases. Until this reaction is taken by horseowners, there will be no improvement in the services rendered. Contact equestrian entities who can give assistance in finding the right attorneys to prosecute such strong cases. Obert Undem, retired attorney at law.
What else can be done?
I am so sorry for what happened to Elle. I had a similar experience (with a different company I found through Uship) trailering from Massachusetts to Michigan. My horse got loaded on the trailer and when the driver pulled away and got less than a mile before discovering a flat tire. Rather than call me to let me know and reloading in the morning, my horse sat on the trailer overnight. The 24 hour trip turned into a 85 hour trip. I specifically asked that she not be on the trailer alone because she stressed out. She arrived alone, severely dehydrated and 200 pounds underweight from when she got on. She was also an EPM horse. The company knew that up front, that she had special needs and assured me they handled special needs horses all the time. During the time she was on the trailer, I, too, was unable to reach the driver, the company, the dispatcher. They didn’t return my calls, they didn’t return my calls after. It was clear from the stable she arrived at that she hadn’t been given any water during the trip nor had she eaten any hay. No one noticed, no one cared.