SJC Sheriff’s Deputies Rescue Emaciated Horses Prior to Winter Storm


On 12/17/2012 San Juan County Sheriff’s Deputies were called to a residence on County Road 2929 after a concerned citizen reported four sick horses were located on the property. Upon arrival to the property deputies were able to observe four Sorrel Geldings in two separate corrals on the southwest and east sides of the property. The corral floors were located locations that did not enable water to drain from them. Deputies stated that the Geldings appeared to be very skinny and malnourished, with their ribs and the points of their hips visible.

San Juan County Sheriff’s Office Animal Control Officer Connie Jordan advised that there was no evidence the horses had been fed within the last 24 to 48 hours. “I could see mud in the horses’ mouths, this indicates that they have been licking the ground in search for any type of nourishment.” Jordan also stated that if the horses were left in the wet soggy corrals overnight they would very likely die or needlessly suffer.

New Mexico Brand Inspector Vicky Roberts advised that all four horses scored a one on a scale used by livestock inspectors called the Henneke national scale. The Henneke System is an objective evaluation of a horse’s body condition. Developed in 1983 by Don R. Henneke, Ph.D. it is based on both visual appraisal and palpable fat cover of the six major points of the horse that are most responsive to changes in body fat.

The chart covers six major parts of the horse; neck; withers, (where the neck ends and the back begins) the shoulder area; ribs, loins, and the tailhead area. The chart rates the horses on a scale of 1 to 9. A score of 1 is considered poor or emaciated with no body fat.

A horse that is rated a 1 on the Henneke Chart is often described as a walking skeleton and is in real danger of dying. Courts in the United States have upheld the seizure of such horses by law enforcement citing exigent circumstances, meaning there was a very strong possibility the horse would die unless immediate action was taken. Horse veterinarians consider a body score of between 4 and 7 as acceptable. A 5 is considered ideal.

Deputies obtained a search warrant and seized the four horses. They were each found to be three to four hundred pounds under weight and losing fur. They were taken to a local veterinarian for treatment where they remain now until they are determined healthy enough to release. Upon their release they will be taken to the Four Corners Equine Rescue for continued care and treatment.