by Cheryl Borrowdale
MAPLE PARK—By the time the Kane County Sheriff’s deputy arrived to evict Richard and Monica Goshen from their rental home in Maple Park on Jan. 11, one of the Goshens’ horses was dead.
The body of a black filly—perhaps a year old—lay on the floor of the barn, her hair matted and filthy. Two more mares stood nearby, one so emaciated that her ribcage was clearly outlined under her hair and her hip bones jutted out.
And as 18 people, including landlords Henry and Arlona Fredrickson, moved the Goshens’ belongings out of 8N215 McGough Road and alongside the edge of the road—piling everything from chairs to ladders to a Polaris snowmobile into a great stream of debris—Kane County Sheriff’s Deputy Jim Seidelman called Kane County Animal Control and the Hooved Animal Humane Society (HAHS) of Woodstock, Ill., to rescue two more horses.
It was the end of a court-ordered eviction of the Goshens, a lengthy process that started in October 2012 when the Fredricksons began proceedings for non-payment of rent, but it was also the beginning of an Animal Control investigation into potential animal cruelty. No charges have been filed, but Animal Control forwarded the case to the Kane County State’s Attorney in February.
The Goshens moved into the house in Maple Park in September 2011. Richard, who is originally from Red Rock, Texas, calls himself “Tex” and owns a contracting business called Carpentry Plus. A Texas federal court convicted him of conspiracy to manufacture narcotics—methamphetamine—in 2005 and sentenced him to 30 months in prison, with credit for time served, and three years’ probation; the court later extended his probation to ten years.
In a voicemail message, Richard said that no horses had been rescued from his home in Maple Park.
“I have no clue what you’re talking about. I have all my horses, no horses were rescued, and I ride them every day,” he said in the message. Subsequent attempts to contact him were unsuccessful.
Yet according to police, the Goshens originally had six horses on the property, as well as several pigs, a chicken and a peacock, but the couple took three of the horses and the other animals with them. The three horses they left behind—one dead, one emaciated and one in good health—were “strays” that they couldn’t take with them, Richard told Seidelman, according to the police report.
“A case like this, obviously we don’t know what happened,” Lt. Pat Gengler of the Kane County Sheriff’s Office said. “We have a deceased horse, but we don’t know how that horse died, and as police officers, we’re not qualified to determine how it died.”
The filly had been dead for a day or so by the time the eviction began on Jan. 11. Henry Fredrickson said he found the carcass inside his barn, near the automatic watering tank.
“You could tell that it had thrashed around quite a bit at the end,” he said. “It was laying flat on its side; looked very thin. The hair was pretty gruff. The two ladies who came out (from HAHS) for it, they were able to tip it over by themselves. It didn’t weigh a lot.”
The other two horses were in the same barn, Fredrickson said, but there was no food within their reach when he arrived to help evict the Goshens. Two bags of alfalfa feed were in another room, “isolated away from the animals,” he said, and a half-bag of feed was given to the two surviving horses while Seidelman called Animal Control and the HAHS.
Though the dead filly and one of the surviving mares were emaciated, whether the animals were starving or suffering from another health condition is the subject of Animal Control’s investigation. Tom Schlueter, the Kane County Health Department’s public relations officer, said no information about the investigation has been released because the case is ongoing. The State’s Attorney’s office had no comment.
In the days leading up to the eviction, Seidelman made two unannounced visits to the property—one on Jan. 8, the other on Jan. 10. On both occasions, he reported, all six horses were standing in the pasture and eating.
“I saw food in the pasture, and although the two younger horses appeared thin, they were eating,” Seidelman reported. “Richard (Goshen) said that he thought they might have worms or some other medical problem, and they were not gaining weight.”
The dead horse was autopsied by veterinarian Jane Davis on behalf of Animal Control, though she said she was not authorized to release the results. Both surviving horses were immediately evaluated by a different veterinarian when they arrived at the HAHS facility in Woodstock.
“One of the horses was in very bad condition,” said Tracy McGonigle, executive director of the HAHS. “Our vet scored her as a 1.5 on a 9-point body condition scale, and that scale goes from 1, (which is) extremely emaciated or near death, to 9, (which is) overweight. The horse was weak, and she actually was pretty friendly. She’s a nice horse.”
The other surviving horse scored a 4 on the body condition scale—a score of 5 is the ideal weight for a horse—and McGonigle said it was clear that at least one of the animals had access to food.
Though McGonigle said that it didn’t appear that the thinner horse had received “adequate nutrition,” she cautioned that several health conditions can cause horses to lose weight or have difficulty eating.
“Starvation is a rule-out diagnosis,” she said. “Blood tests have to rule out any underlying diseases, like cancer, that may cause problems. It appears she just wasn’t given adequate food, but you can’t just look at a horse and say, ‘Oh, that’s why.’”
Blood tests performed by HAHS veterinarians ruled out cancer and other illnesses, McGonigle said, though the horse did have mild leukocytosis, a white blood cell count above the normal range, which she said was frequently a sign of an inflammatory response to an infection or to emotional stress. The tests also showed the horse was slightly dehydrated and had low glucose levels. The mare also had a significant heart murmur, something that McGonigle said was sometimes found in animals with poor nutrition.
“So far, it doesn’t look like there was anything underlying. It just appears that she wasn’t getting enough food,” McGonigle said.
The horse, which has been on a refeeding program since it arrived at the HAHS facility, is now out of the acute danger period, she said.
“She’s been gaining weight, and (is) double blanketed because of this (cold) weather,” McGonigle said. “She’s still in danger, but she’s not in an acute danger period any more. Usually, I really get scared about seven days after we start refeeding them, because you lose a lot of them at that point because it taxes the organs a lot. But so far, so good.”
She expects both animals to be fully rehabilitated and eventually adopted, though it may take up to a year before the weaker of the two is healthy enough.
The HAHS regularly takes in horses suffering from starvation and is currently caring for 58 horses, McGonigle said. She estimates that food and basic veterinary care for each horse costs $3,292 annually. Those costs are why the HAHS has seen an increase in the number of cases since the recession began.
“The hay prices, people who may not know how to properly care for horses, the economy, people losing jobs and not being able to afford horses, all of these contribute,” McGonigle said. “I am purchasing hay right now for $7 a bale, and a horse eats a bale a day. The average cost of caring for a horse is $737 a year, and that’s just the basics—trimming their hooves every six to eight weeks, worming and deworming them, etc. That doesn’t include the cost of food.”
The HAHS accepts donations to help fund their care of abandoned and rescued horses. Anyone interested in donating, volunteering at their facility or adopting a rescued horse can visit www.hahs.org for more information.