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Owner of horses seized in Lincoln seeks return of stallion

Humane Society says if horse is given back, it will be gelded
By: Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal Features Editor
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A man who had seven horses seized from his Lincoln home due to their apparent neglect hopes to regain possession of his stallion. However, a Humane Society of the Sierra Foothills officer has said that if the horse is returned, it will be gelded.

Humane Officer Rosemary Frieborn said the horses that formerly belonged to Bob Trocha have been recovering well and gaining weight since their March 2 seizure from his property. Of the seven horses taken, one, a 36-year-old mare named CheChe, was euthanized, a decision Trocha said he agreed with in a March 5 administrative hearing.

During that hearing, Jo McCormack heard testimony from Trocha, Frieborn and Humane Officer Curt Ransom, determining that the seizure of the horses was appropriate.

“I would say they were a couple hundred pounds underweight, some of them,” Frieborn said.

Trocha, who works as a farrier, hay deliverer and personal trainer, said his horses started losing weight in December because the hay he was using didn’t have the right protein levels. While he admitted that funds were low due to a slowdown in work, and that he had cut back on their feeding in recent weeks, he said when he got his tax return he immediately bought hay for his horses, along with supplemental feed pellets for two horses in particular, and that when the Humane Society officers visited his property the first time he was dropping off another 80 bales of hay for his horses.

Trocha said veterinarian Gary Stangeland visited his 11 remaining horses not long after the seizure, and they now have properly trimmed hooves, have received dental care and worming and are on a special diet to gain weight. He questioned the high price tag administered by the Humane Society for the seized horses, well over what he paid for 11 horses’ care.

Trocha said the bill for Stangeland’s visit came to $275. He was charged $1,500 for veterinary care for the horses seized, he said. The stallion, which Trocha has not signed over, is costing him $15 a day for board and $15 a day for extra feed, along with other charges for floor shavings and hoof trimming. Trocha also balked at the $85-per-horse charge for transporting the seven seized animals 10 miles to where they are being kept and the $78 flu vaccination for his stallion, which he said he could have bought himself for less than $20 at a feed store.

“They charged me $2,300 for the six horses that they had for just the three days,” Trocha said, “which is just highway robbery. That’s just insane.”

Trocha said he has paid one 14-day installment for the stallion, and has received another 14-day bill in addition to the initial charges. He has been informed that if he doesn’t pay the bill for the initial seizure by the end of the month, a lien will be placed on his property, and that if he doesn’t pay the second installment on the stallion, the horse will be considered seized.

The reason for the high costs, Frieborn said, is that the seized horses required extensive veterinary care in addition to their board. The horses have received hoof trimmings, vaccinations and dental work, and have been eating a high-calorie diet that includes hay, grain and supplements. Some have been treated for “rain rot,” a condition in which horses standing in wet conditions develop a fungus on their coat.

Five of the six horses Trocha signed over to the Humane Society are available for adoption, Frieborn said. An anonymous donor has offered to match donations for their care – along with care for two other ponies rescued in a different case – up to $1,000. The cost to care for the seven horses, Frieborn said, has hit $8,000.

“A couple of them would be good trail horses,” she said. “Some of them would make a good pasture pet for a pal. They’re very nice animals, very nice horses.”

The sixth horse, a 10-year-old stallion, was the only one Trocha did not sign over to the Humane Society. Trocha was fined a total of $3,260 for the removal of all seven horses, medical care and board, but did not incur costs for the horses he signed over after that. Now, every 14 days, Trocha will be billed for the cost to care for the stallion, which will remain his until he stops paying or signs the stallion over to the Humane Society, or until the Humane Society determines whether the horse will be returned to Trocha.

Trocha wishes to take back possession of his stallion, but objects to the Humane Society’s opinion that, if it is returned to him, it will be gelded.

“He’s worth a lot of money,” Trocha said. “If I were to sign him over and just give him up, I lose the potential of selling him and making money from him.”

The horse also holds sentimental value for Trocha, whose wife, Tegan, died in a car accident four years ago. The stallion, he said, was her horse.

Frieborn said the fate of the stallion has yet to be decided, as he still requires medical care, but that once he’s back to good body condition, the Humane Society must be certain that he will be cared for if given back to Trocha. If not, she said, one option would be to send the horse to a barn to be under somebody else’s care. But if the stallion is returned to Trocha, she said “We’ll go to the mat on requiring the horse to be gelded.”

“A stallion in a barn full of mares is, in our opinion, inhumane,” Frieborn said. “To see this animal and his level of arousal – he’s going to hurt himself. He’s absolutely going to hurt himself.”

The Humane Society can make the decision to geld the stallion, Frieborn said, and if Trocha objects, the matter will be decided in another administrative hearing.

Trocha said he does object to the possible gelding, and said he was frustrated with how difficult it has been to file a formal complaint, which he has yet to do. He also disagreed with Frieborn’s statement that keeping the horse a stallion is inhumane, saying that he has raised stallions since he was 18 years old and knows how to take care of them. 

“He was not ostracized,” Trocha said. “He was in a pen separated from other horses, but he did get contact with other horses, he did get exercise, he did get out on a regular basis.”

 

Stangeland confirmed that he did examine the remaining 11 horses on Trocha’s property. In addition to worming the horses and “floating” their teeth to remove sharp edges, he and Trocha discussed the animals' diet and how to better utilize their feed.

“I think with the horses that are there, he’s pretty well on track,” Stangeland said. “All of the horses that I dealt with were easy to work with.”

 

Reach Krissi Khokhobashvili at krissi@@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter, @AuburnJournalAE.

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Help is available

Humane Society of the Sierra Foothills Officer Rosemary Frieborn said that while the society can’t offer financial assistance to horse owners struggling with the rising costs of food and medical care in a down economy, there is help out there in the form of nonprofit agencies and reduced-cost clinics.

Horse Plus Humane Society in Oroville offers the SAFE Fund (Saving Animals from Endangerment), which is used for animal surrender sites and rescuing abandoned animals. The society also has a fund to help with euthanization and a gelding program that covers $125 of the cost, leaving $25-$75 for the owners to pay. Visit www.horsehumane.org or call (877) 588-4677.

CareCredit offers special financing and low payments for veterinary care, and Frieborn said she sees many veterinary clinics in the area that accept that. Visit www.carecredit.com/vetmed.

For more information about the Humane Society of the Sierra Foothills, visit www.animalplace.com.