LAURINBURG — Photographs depicting the improvement in health and overall condition of 11 horses since they were seized by animal control from Alexander Goode’s farm in April were among the principal evidence presented on Wednesday in Scotland County District Court as the state mounted a case to convict Goode on 11 counts of cruelty to animals.
The seven witnesses called forward by Assistant District Attorney Ashley Wellman spent a total of more than four hours on the stand in front of District Court Judge Amanda Wilson. Those included two veterinarians, Scotland County animal control officer Marc Brown, and a neighbor and mail carrier familiar with Goode’s horses.
The 11 horses were seized from Goode’s property on Windy Hill Road in Gibson on April 24, after Brown received a complaint about horses who had been contained on a trailer since the previous day.
Upon entering Goode’s property, Brown discovered three horses tied without food or water in a livestock trailer. He also found eight horses in a paddock to the rear of the house. No food or clean water was available for the horses in the paddock, who all appeared to be in various stages of starvation.
“There was no vegetation, no hay anywhere in the paddock at all that I could see,” Brown said.
“They were thin, I saw they had rain rot, were not very well groomed, hooves overgrown,” he said. “From the thinness of the horses, emaciation, and especially the one laying down, I was really concerned about it because it probably needed immediate vet care.”
The only food located on the property, Scotland County Sheriff’s Office Major Rodney Tucker testified, was a few handfuls of what appeared to be corn flake cereal in a pan outside of the horses’ enclosure.
Wellman passed forward photos of thin horses, empty feed troughs, rickety fencing — from which horses regularly escaped — and green water as state’s evidence. Brown and veterinarian Laura Kellam, an assistant professor at St. Andrews University, testified that the water available to the horses had been contaminated by algae growth.
Goode’s attorney, public defender Laraque Stewart, asked if clover or grass could not turn the horses’ saliva green and thus discolor the water.
“When they’re eating it, it can,” Brown replied, noting that he did not observe green grass or clover in the horses’ enclosure.
According to Kellam, all but one of the horses seized were severely underweight, ranging from body scales of 1.5 to 3.5 on the standardized 1-9 scale used to gauge equine body condition. Kellam defined the ideal range as 4.5 to 6.5.
Kellam described one of the horses found on the trailer as a body condition of 5. That horse is one of two who Goode claims he did not own, but was holding as lien on monies owed to him by an acquaintance.
A young horse called Lighting was the most debilitated of the 11, said Kellam, who assessed his body score as 1.5.
“The shoulder joints are protruding on both sides, he has absolutely no muscle mass in the pectoral region,” she indicated in a photo taken on the day of the seizure, which depicted the ease with which a hand could be wrapped around the horse’s shoulders, hips, and spine, where bone was covered only by layers of hair and skin.
Another young horse had outgrown a halter left on his head for an extended period of time, causing indentations in his skull, and a miniature horse had sustained an eye injury.
Examination revealed that many of the horses seized from Goode’s property had sand lodged in their large colon. According to Kellam, the horses could have ingested sand while attempting to satisfy a reflex to graze.
“Horses are grazers, so even though there was no good grass, they’re going to have that muzzle on the ground pushing and looking for anything they can get,” she said.
In addition to emaciation, Kellam testified that most of the horses showed signs of anemia, dehydration, and lice infestation. Some also had skin abrasions from competing with the other horses for limited food in a small area.
“A good rule of thumb for most horsemen is one horse per one acre,” said Kellam. “To have eight horses on a quarter to a third to a half acre is quite congested.”
In the three months since being removed from Goode’s care, the horses have gained an average of two body condition scores at foster farms, Kellam said.
Kellam testified that Goode’s stallion Buddy appeared to be well-fed in 2012, when she was called by Highway Patrol after he and another horse were hit by a car while Goode was riding them near Walmart after dark.
Wellman also called veterinarian Lisa Kivett of Southern Pines as an expert witness. Since April 25, Kivett has provided veterinary care for two pregnant mares seized from Goode’s property, both of which have since foaled.
“The mare was obviously not feeling very well: her head was hanging very low and she was mostly interested in getting away from us,” Kivett said of the paint mare, Peggy, during her initial evaluation.
Both mares had a body score of 2.5, with poor hoof and coat condition. While Peggy was clearly pregnant at the time of the seizure, the pregnancy of a second mare was discovered during a palpation to investigate the source of abdominal pain.
The mares’ emaciation prevented them from devoting calories to producing milk for their foals, so each foal’s diet was supplemented with three to four liters of commercial milk substitute daily.
When asked to estimate how much Goode had been feeding his horses, Kivett could not provide a precise answer.
“I think it’s impossible to quantify other than to say it was grossly inadequate,” she said.
Stewart is expected to present witnesses for Goode’s defense in a continuation of the trial on Aug. 11.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.