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Owner: Unknown passerby poisoned horse with toxic plant

Tevis Cup finisher euthanized after ingesting oleander
By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn equestrian David Putnam is blaming a deadly plant for the poisoning death of his horse. The 14-year-old Arabian – Putnam’s mount as a 2006 Tevis Cup finisher – was euthanized Monday after first showing signs Friday of being poisoned by oleander leaves. Oleander is a poisonous shrub. Putnam said he spent several days this month and $7,000 to rid the 1.75-acre property he lives on of the highly toxic evergreen. Oleander is one of the most toxic plants in the world, with even small amounts chewed or ingested proving fatal. While Putnam said the Foresthill Road property in Auburn was clear of oleander, a well-meaning passerby may have fed Phoenix leaves from a branch that wasn’t on the property. Kathy Scogna, who lives on the property with Putnam, discovered a chewed oleander branch near the fence. “We went over everything and found the branch Sunday,” Putnam said. Putnam said he soon after put up signs warning people walking along the rural road near the lip of the American River Canyon not to feed anything to his surviving 11-year-old Arabian Kontagion. A spokesman for the University of California, Davis Large Animal Clinic said the horse had been euthanized Monday and that results of a toxicology exam would likely be available later this week. Putnam said he and Phoenix had put in more than 10,000 miles on the trail over the 10 years they had been together. A horseshoer, musician and experienced trail rider, Putnam said he said goodbye to his horse with an impromptu song on Monday morning. He had discovered the horse in trouble on Friday. Its resting heart rate is about 36 beats per minute and it was pumping at 100, he said. Putnam said he has no reason to believe the poisoning was anything other than accidental. “It can take just four or five leaves to kill a horse,” he said. “It gets you in the gut when we had just gone over the pastures with tweezers and had picked the property clean. We had taken up every stick and every leaf.”